Need; or, Inigo Montoya Calls B.S.

Beautiful inigo montoya meme Demystifying Chicken Picking Fretboard Anatomy

It’s because they don’t know what it means.

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

Do You. Understand the Words. That Are Coming Out of My Mouth?

Ah, Chris Tucker, you were a king in the 90s.

Anyway, I thought after the last post that I should elaborate more on how language is no barrier at all in how we conduct business here. I will get the one exception out of the way immediately, though: I do have foreigners who do not speak English well, if at all, come into the shop from time to time. Often, they’ll come in with a friend or family member to help out, but it’s still difficult.

The language barrier has led to many problems throughout history; retail is no exception. Once we get beyond that, though, we’re all just people, and many of the foreigners I deal with who have issues with English are very pleasant and courteous.

Then there are the flight students…

The flight students are the bane of my existence, the source of the majority of my problems. Most of them (I’d say around 90%) are foreign students who train here and then return to fly in their home countries. Admittance to this flight school seems to be a little as answering “yes” to the question, “Can you pay the tuition?” I wish I were exaggerating. If they had to pass a test to get into the school or meet any other requirements, they might not be as completely useless in my store as they are.

The other week, I had a visit from one of my more despised regulars. If you’ve been following my twitter for any length of time, you’ve seen him mentioned. He is a chore. Every time he comes in, I can expect to have to repeat myself on every explanation at least twice, usually more. I have come to refer to him by the name “Big Boss” because he always calls me that. I don’t know why, but he does every time. If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, then you know how much we love pet names from our customers. (If you haven’t worked in the service industry, we don’t like pet names. Not at all.)

When he came in on this particular time, he could sense my frustration with him not listening to me. So, he said to me, “You have to be patient with me. English is not my first language.”


Here is why this is just an excuse to cover for his own laziness. These flight students, despite coming from other countries, speak English decently to excellently. They can read it well. They can comprehend it well. So well, in fact, that they can receive instruction in English, read highly technical textbooks in English, and take FAA-administered type rating examinations in English. If you can do that, ESL is not a hindrance; it becomes a scapegoat.

He asks me questions constantly, and I provide as simple of an answer as I can. He just doesn’t listen. For example, one time, he brought up a package of sheet protectors that are made to fit a kneeboard. (A kneeboard is essentially a trapper-keeper for pilots. It’s a small binder strapped to the pilot’s leg that keeps important information available at a moment’s notice. Usually, they come in four- and seven-ring configurations.) The packaging makes it clear what the product is and how it is used.

“So, are these the sleeves for the kneeboard?” he asks.


“And you can put pages in it?”


“And how do I put it into the kneeboard?” asks the man who uses a kneeboard every day he’s in an airplane.

“If your kneeboard has them, you put rings in holes in the spines and then those rings go through the holes in the sleeves.” At this point, I can’t believe I’m having to explain to a grown man how binders work.

“Oh, I see, I see. And you can put any pages in there?”

“Anything that will fit in them, yeah.”

“Will it fit approach plates?”

Considering that they’re made for them, yeah. “Yes.”

“Okay, okay, I see, I see.”

This is how all of our conversations go. I spend way too much time explaining simple products that not only explain themselves on the packaging, but are also used by him and his fellow student pilots every single day.

This is not a language barrier; this is laziness. This is him looking around his world and seeing very little. He wanders in the dark waiting for someone to shine the flashlight around for him. I have a great deal of patience and understanding for someone who legitimately struggles with language, but if you use that as an excuse, as a crutch, for your indolence. This is a dangerous excuse for anyone, let alone a student pilot.

To add more fuel to this fire is the fact that his best friend at the flight school is another notorious regular at my shop: Minivan Moron, named so because he drives a minivan and is a moron. Minivan Moron once came to my shop three days in a row because he, apparently, couldn’t figure out how to work scissors to trim down a checklist that was just about a quarter inch too wide for the kneeboard sleeves he had. Three. Days. In. A. Row. That is the company Big Boss keeps. These are men in their late thirties or early forties. It blows me away constantly.

It all boils down to the perception that the majority of my customers, who are grown adults, come into my store expecting to be taken by the hand and led through this tiny store, which I personally set up with ease of navigation in mind, and they will use anything to excuse their laziness. Most of them can’t even find a chart in an alphabetized grouping. Hell, most of them don’t even know what area they’re flying in. I don’t care if you are a foreigner. When I travel, I know where the hell I am in the world. It’s just good to know.

They constantly amaze me. That is why I study them.

-The Retail Explorer