Miserable staff... grotty goods... no wonder stores fail

Revealed at last – the retailers' anti-customer service manual we all suspected was under the counter

Woolworths is in administration, MFI looks doomed, Currys and PC World have reported record losses... is this, we wonder, nature's way of sending retailers a message about the way they deal with customers? Is it mere coincidence that the chains that are most in trouble are those offering shoppers the least pleasant experience on the high street?

No. Extensive investigations by this newspaper have established that many stores have been using an under-the-counter, anti-customer service manual whose existence has long been suspected, but never proved. Instead of telling staff how to make stores friendly, helpful places, this document – produced by head office accountants – shows how to run them on the cheap for the management's convenience, not ours.

A copy of this manual, hitherto circulated only in the higher reaches of British retailing, has been obtained by The Independent on Sunday. Here is an edited extract:

* Recruit only staff who know nothing about the products on sale. This not only saves the cost of training, but means you can recruit ignoramuses, who are cheaper. Applicants who appear to be catatonic at interview should be hired on the spot.

* Encourage staff to talk to each other rather than serve customers. This will force customers to serve themselves, and so buy the wrong item. Research has shown that 17.6 per cent of customers who buy the wrong thing are too embarrassed to return it, and will, instead, come back to the store to buy yet another item. Result: more sales for less work.

* Make sure very few tills are manned. Punters will have to queue for longer, but so what? The longer they're there, the more time they have to pick up the high-margin items near the check-outs.

* In women's clothing stores, buy in the same quantity of every size. It's easier for head office, y'know. Of course it means that common sizes sell out within days, leaving only size 6s and 18s, but what the hell.

* In electrical and photographic stores, don't sell a product, sell its extended warranty – for the big, fat juicy mark-up. And, with very gullible punters, you can try selling them just the warranty. Some are so keen to spend they'll never even notice. Kerrr-bloody-ching!!

* If they look desperate enough, sign them up for a store card: at an interest rate of around 30 per cent, and debt collectors queuing up to put on the squeeze, we can't go wrong if the punters buy with "prat's plastic". Suckers!

* Constantly and loudly announce special offers. This will annoy discerning shoppers, but you don't want them anyway. What you're after is the soap opera ad-break fodder who'll buy what they're told to. "Ding dong! In Lingerie, we have a three-for-two offer on Moldovan nightdresses... Ding dong! Down in Kitchens, we're selling electric tea-bag dispensers at just£69.95."

* In hip men's clothing stores, pump up the music. This will disguise the inarticulacy of the very few sales staff, who've all been out on the lash and are incapable of more than a surly look.

* In DIY stores, arrange products so customers have to walk nearly every aisle to find what they want. Philips screwdrivers, say, should be placed the maximum distance from screws. Paint should be well away from brushes. That way, punters get to walk past loads of things they don't want but might just pick up, if only to break their journey.

* Stock up in November with loads of useless gift tat. Big margins. Very big margins. So what if you ruin millions of Christmas mornings when people expecting a thoughtful present get some over-packaged, low-grade toiletries? We're here to help ourselves, not them.

* In department stores, get rid of those over made-up women on cosmetic counters. They might look attractive, but they know too much. Some of them even think their job is to help the customer. Get 'em out before they contaminate the rest of the staff.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project