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



Always say “yes”. It makes a sale and moves them along sooner.

If there’s one item that causes me more headaches than any other, it would be the pilot uniform shirts. “Bane of my existence” really doesn’t begin to describe my loathing for this particular item. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked! It boils down to two basic aspects: 1. There are way too many varieties, and 2. The sizing always causes issues. I. Hate. Dealing. With. These. Shirts.

No one ever knows what they want, and no one ever knows what size they wear. And don’t get me wrong: I absolutely get it. If you’ve never worn an actual dress shirt, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. For those of you who haven’t, here’s a crash course. All of our shirts are by neck size, at half inch increments, unless they’re long sleeved shirts, which are both by neck size, but at one inch increments at the half inch, and sleeve length. There are three different styles, which have slightly different features and fits. Also, they’re available in tall sizes and tapered, but not both, and not in long sleeved. Confused? So am I.

When a customer asks about shirts in the store, my first question is always: “Short or long sleeved?” It really helps narrow it down more than you’d expect. Then comes the big question that never gets a straight answer: “Which size?” Deer in the headlights 90% of the time, and that’s no exaggeration. Really, in my experience, that’s par for the course with any item in my shop. Normally, the answer I receive is a prolonged “uhhhh…” but occasionally I’ll get some interesting ones. The other week, I had a customer come in looking for a shirt. I asked him which size he needed. His response? “My size.” Shoot me in the face with a bazooka. Please.

The eventual answer I get is, “I don’t know.” That’s fine, so I simplify: “What size do you normally wear in shirts? (Small, medium, etc.)” When you get an “uhhh” there, then you can begin worrying about that person and their ability to function properly as a human being. When you know the general shirt size, you can narrow it down from there. It just becomes a trial and error situation.

Minivan Moron was my most recent fly-in-the-ointment. He came in one week to try on some shirts and order a bunch of them. After going in circles for a few minutes, we finally land at a size 18.5. (He’s a big dude.) However, he feels the 18.5 is too baggy (because it is; that’s a lot of fabric), and the neck of the 18 is just a little bit too tight. So, we suggest the 18.5 tapered. We order them, and he returns to try them on. He thinks the tapered ones are too short (they’re half an inch shorter than the regular cut), and he’s worried about having to tuck in his tail all the time, while I’m honestly seeing no contest between tucking in my shirt constantly and looking like a fucking blimp all day long, but whatever, they’re not my shirts, and I no longer gave a crap.

So, we ordered the eleven shirts and told him that if they were here by Friday, they’d be waiting here for him to pick up on Sunday. Spoiler alert: They didn’t arrive by Friday. Come to find out Monday morning, he had raised a stink, saying he had an appointment with me for Sunday and a whole bunch of other nonsense. Go figure.

The bottom line is I get more trouble from these shirts, and I get more pushback from customers here than on anything else in the store. I mean, what do I know? I just stare at them all day and fit people in them and fold them (Oh, god, the folding!) and repackage them. Every. Single. Day.

What do I know? I just work here.

-The Retail Explorer


The Longest Checkout 5.4Originally, I planned to title this post “Prejudice” and joke about how I’m prejudiced against customers, but I decided that was in bad taste to go to such a place for a joke (and an admittedly bad one, at that), so I’ll just get to the real root of this post’s sentiment right off the bat. I know I’m a condescending ass, but I like to think I’m a bit more considerate than that. Anyway…

I don’t care who you are, what you look like, whenever you first walk into my store, I will always assume you’re an idiot. I’m sorry if that comes off as a shitty attitude (which, I’ll admit it, it is), but this is a self-preservation mechanism that most shopkeepers develop over time. Far too often, we assume that any given customer is an intelligent being capable of navigating this world with ability and ease, only to be stricken completely wrong. For years, I was shocked when that happened, and sometimes, I still am.

So, why do we just go to this base assumption of a lack of intellect? I mean, this person drove here, so they have enough skill to pass a driving test. (Yes, yes, I know that our driving requirements are not that strict here, but it’s operating a complex machine while multitasking, so I think that’s worth noting.) Going beyond that, they were able to figure out our location, and they were able to get food for themselves, and they were able to dress themselves. That’s a quality skill set right there (even if it is setting the bar low, but then again, this is dear customer we’re talking about here). The bottom line is: they’re capable.

If you’ve read anything on this blog about my time working retail, you know I’m harder on my customers than most. This isn’t a store that sells general goods, like groceries or DVDs; this is a store that caters to people who do something where rigorous standards required and applied to them on a daily basis, and I can’t emphasize this enough: They. Want. To. Fly. You. Around. In. Airplanes. That’s why they get extra scrutiny. They want to be airline pilots, which is why I get concerned when they can’t even figure out which chart is for the Albuquerque area, despite the facts that they are 1. labeled as such and 2. come at the start of the frigging alphabet.

I really don’t think I’m wrong in being concerned with that. A private pilot’s license will cost you around $11,000.00 and will take you around three to four months to achieve, and that’s just so you can putter around in a little Cessna. To fly the big jets, you’re talking years of training, thousands of flight hours, and well over $50,000.00. That’s an enormous commitment. It requires incredible diligence and fortitude to get up to that upper rung of the aviation world. So, you cloud imagine my shock when I hear them be confused by which oral exam guide is the correct one for their particular flight test, despite the fact that those are extremely well labelled and straightforward.

More troubling still is the large percentage of shoppers who cannot for the life of them read price tags or basic signage. From hours of operation to sale signs, so much of it goes unread or outright ignored, despite the their being read as their exclusive reason for existence. My absolute favorite (or is that “most loathed”) moment is when a shopper yanks on the locked door of a shop with a sign that reads “CLOSED”.

I still remember one morning pulling up to the shop about ten minutes before opening. Seeing as it didn’t take but a few minutes to run through my opening procedures (and the fact that I wouldn’t get paid for anything more than that), I never showed up earlier. On that morning, I watched a customer walk up to the door, yank on it, then stand there dumbfounded. As I walked up, he approached me and said, “There you are! I have been waiting for you for a while! I was wanting to buy something but I didn’t know when you opened!” I politely informed him that we did not open until ten. “Well, how was I supposed to know that?!” I then pointed out that we had a sign on the door outlining our hours of operation. “Oh.”

Honestly, I find that to be a bit amusing, but the great bane of my existence will forever remain: “How much is this?” Did you even look? I get it that sometimes, products get mispriced or missed altogether, but when they’re on there, they’re on there.

I’ve touched on the reasons behind this before. Often it just boils down to laziness. Whatever it is, I’m not getting into it here. The main problem is that it happens often enough to the point that I just gave up. It was far easier to assume they could do nothing and knew nothing. If they want to be treated like children, I was going to do it. Part of me still refuses to hand-hold fully capable adults like they’re toddlers through an area designed to make their experience as simple as possible. However, assuming I will have to do that with everyone who walks into the shop lessens the impact when that assumption becomes the reality. Then there’s the added pleasant surprise when it turns out that they actually are capable adults.

There’s no problem with asking for help. Sometimes, things are laid out differently from what you would expect to be the logical footprint. Sometimes, stores are so massive that it’s difficult to figure out where something should be found. That’s okay. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is the shopper who enters a shop, takes a look around, spiritually throws up their hands, and gives up all hope of doing anything on their own. If you’re unable to flip a product over and look for a price tag, if you’re unable to figure out when we close, if you’re unable to read a package, I am perfectly happy treating you like the lost, helpless toddler you’ve shown yourself to be.

Shopping is not difficult. It can be challenging, yes, but not difficult. There are people whose entire job it is to study the interactions of customers with their stores and how they can improve their layouts and policies to better help customer shopping experiences. Customer service and sales reps are there to make it easier, as well. But as I’ve said before, I assume that they will be able to do nothing. I assume that you will be difficult, that you will be lazy, that you will be useless, because I’d much rather not waste my time and cut to the chase or be pleasantly surprised. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh or anything, but that’s how I’ve been twisted by years of dealing with the laziness of a customer base that really shouldn’t be lazy or aloof. I’ve been warped. I’ve been jaded. I’ve been broken. Now, I just assume it’s going to be a rough time from the moment you leave your car. It’s just easier that way.

-The Retail Explorer