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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game