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
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living