If I could put my finger on the most overused word in my store, it would be “need”. I hear it every single day, and it is never used correctly. “Need” is defined as “to be in want” or “to require.” It’s simple but always misused. The word has a connotation of importance to it. When you say you need something, you are required to have it; you have to have it. To the Shopper, however, this is not always the case, as “need” is constantly downplayed to something along the lines of “I’m required to have this for my studies, but only if it’s not too expensive.” At that point, “need” becomes “nah,” and I commence with the eye-rolling.
More often than not, I’ll get a phone call looking for a product of which they are in need, or they’ll wander into the shop needing something immediately, only to have them either not collect said item or put it back and not purchase it because they deem it not worthy of the price. If you truly needed the item, you would have picked it up ASAP and purchased it regardless of price.
Now, I get it; people want the best bargain they can find. I can’t blame them for that, but it’s not like they’re getting gouged here and can find these items for half the price we sell them. So, what gives? Why does this keep happening? Here’s my theory.
Part of it is based on circumstances. The bottom line is, and I cannot stress this enough, aviation is expensive. All of it. From training, to maintenance, to management, to ownership, it’s all fucking expensive. Many people come into this field with incredible misconceptions, and they’re shocked when they understand the truth: Everything in aviation is expensive. If you cannot afford to do it, or arrange funding to do it, DON’T DO IT. Aside from instructor fees and plane rental fees and class fees, there’s always supplies to buy.
The other part of it is ego. The Shopper always thinks he can get a better deal elsewhere, and thanks to places like Amazon, that’s often the case. Here’s the bottom line with that though: You may find a better price, but you’ll have to still pay for shipping and then you have to wait for it to arrive. Want it there sooner? Well, then you’ll pay even more. At that point, I want you to stop and think about just how good of a deal you got online and whether or not, all things considered, it’s still worth all that. Or you could come to my store, buy it for our price, and take it home today where you can begin to use it. The choice is the Shopper’s.
Honestly, we don’t give a crap which way you go. We’re just annoyed by the semantics of it all. Don’t come in saying you “need” something only to turn around and not buy it for one reason or another. Why does that get under our skin? Well, we’re taught certain skills as customer service agents, among which is to assist the customer as best we can and with relative urgency. So, when a customer comes in throwing around the word “need”, it signals to us that help should be given because the customer is seeking an item of importance.
Here’s an example. What’s the difference here: “I need a sectional chart for Chicago,” and “I’m looking for a sectional chart for Chicago.” Which sounds more urgent? While both sound equal in requiring an employee’s attention, the use of “need” clearly elevates it. There is the indication that the shopper requires this item for their life to function properly (in this case, for them to be able to fly around the Chicago area without potentially getting fined by the FAA or busted by an examiner on a check ride). Now, if they turn up their nose at the price, and decline to purchase the chart, then you know they’ve lied to you about it. They didn’t need it after all.
And maybe that’s what really annoys me about the use of the word, similarly to how people get annoyed about using “literally” and “figuratively” interchangeably. (If Merriam-Webster says it’s fine, I can deal.) If you tell me you need something, and then you don’t purchase that something, you didn’t need it, so why say that at all? Don’t corner yourself into something and then not do it. It’s grating, disingenuous, and wasteful. All it does is make us want to help you less, because now, we know that you don’t mean what you say, or know what words mean, for that matter. It does one thing for us: It helps cement in our minds that you will not provide us with a good experience.
We don’t forget the customers who give us bad experiences. When we see them coming, we know to brace for the worst. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and if you’re just going to squander that and give us the runaround, that’s what we’ll expect from that point forward. Why should we look at it any other way? Should we be optimistic that it was an aberration and look forward to helping you in the future? Probably, but we’ve all been broken and jaded by a history of customers like you (and much, much worse) that there is no hope for you. Is that a bad attitude to have? Yeah, it is, but we don’t let it affect us; in fact, you’ll never even know the difference. Because we are, after all, professionals. So, choose your words wisely, for they will be used against you in the court of retail public opinion.
-The Retail Explorer