Open Letter to Designers in Retail: Get Off Your High Horse

I have always known that I don’t quite fit in with the typical interior design crowd.  We have common interests, obviously, but there’s a snobbery there that’s difficult for me to stomach. I’ve always wondered if there are some courses offered in design schools that teach you to relate to people in a way that purposely condescends.  The seems particularly common in designers who work in retail establishments. I know this may be a generalization, but I’ve had several personal experiences lately that lend credence to my seemingly sweeping judgment.  If this is you, I’m calling you out on it.

 

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Stop sizing up a potential customer by the clothes they are wearing into your store.

Just because she isn’t carrying a designer handbag doesn’t mean she isn’t willing to fork out a few thousand dollars on a great sofa.  You are likely missing valuable sales when you treat a client differently based on what she is wearing or what car she drives up in.  I shopped with a lawyer once who spent $20,000 in furniture one afternoon in a pair of sweatpants and a Disneyworld t-shirt. I am fairly certain that if I weren’t with her, she wouldn’t have gotten the attention other well-heeled shoppers would have.

Women-with-handbag image via

 

Stop bad-mouthing customers among yourselves.  

Many who walk into your store don’t know your unwritten “rules.” I realize you work on commission, but many people don’t understand that they should only speak to or ask questions to ONE sales person in your store. They aren’t stupid, they just don’t know the unspoken etiquette if they are not in the design profession themselves.  If they speak to more than one sales person, don’t be rude and chastise them – just explain how things work nicely, like “Arleen is the designer that will be working with you – she will be able to help you with anything you need, let me grab her for you, ok?” And maybe you could muster a kind smile when you say it.

I recently met a client at a local furniture store. She got there about five minutes before I did. While waiting on me to arrive, my client got an ugly EARFUL from several of the catty designers who were ripping on a customer who had just left the store.  Apparently, that customer had the NERVE to ask more than one person for help while in the store!  The on-staff designers also made the assumption that the person probably wouldn’t even make a purchase because, well, did you see the shoes she was wearing? Guess what, you pompous jerks?  MY CLIENT HEARD YOU. And was utterly disgusted.  It left such a bad taste in her mouth, she told me she will never buy anything from your store again.

devil_wears_prada_the_2006_4604_wallpaper Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada

 

Stop being so overbearing and pushy.

Some furniture stores have TOO MANY sales associates or onsite designers.  You can be like a scary, pretentious hoard of buzzards, swooping in on nervous customers.  Then the pushing begins. Pushing the customer to buy the most expensive options the store has to offer, with obvious little concern for their budget or desires. Pushing for the upsale, for the add-on, to the point that you completely overwhelm your helpless prey customer until she either submits or runs terrified into the parking lot. Shopping for big ticket items can be intimidating for anyone, and you are just making it worse when you obviously care more about your commission than you do your customer’s satisfaction.

buzzards-008

 

 

Stop treating your potential customers like they are inferior to you.

Why do you think it’s ok to look down your noses at the people who are putting money in your pocket? I don’t understand where the bitterness comes from. Drop the fake-y, high-and-mighty attitude and just try to be a nice person.  Your insincerity is showing, and it’s not pretty.

arrogant_blog-shutterstock_84193237

via

As many of you know, I’ve been doing a renovation in my own home recently.  I had to purchase many items for our new bathroom, so I made a list and headed to the Retailer-I-Shall-Not-Name.  I wanted to experience this retailer like my clients might, so I decided not to inform them of who I was or that I was an interior decorator at all.  I was just a customer, like all other customers that walk in their door.  An in-house designer greeted me, and I told her what I was looking for.  She was nice enough, but not terribly helpful when what she showed me wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  I always try to offer solutions to my clients problems, and this person didn’t seem to know how to do that.  Oh well, I kinda know what I’m doing, so I kept looking and searching until I was able to make some decisions.

I placed my order and was told it would be delivered to my home within 48 hours.  When it had not arrived by the following week, I called the store and spoke with the designer.  She told me it had been delivered and the boxes had been placed in the back beside the pool.  The bad news?  I DON’T HAVE A POOL. Ok, it had been delivered to the wrong address. Everyone makes mistakes, no biggie. When it was finally delivered to the right house (mine) and I opened all the packaging, I saw that the gold faucets and fixtures I had purchased looked more like rose gold, which was NOT the look I was going for and didn’t match the golder light fixture I based the whole design around (which I also purchased from the same store).

2014-12-04 13.05.49

 

I called and said I wanted to bring them back in and change them for something that would work better with the light fixture, but the designer said she couldn’t fit me in that day.  I told her I needed to make my decision quickly, since the shipment sat for five days beside someone else’s pool and my contractor couldn’t move forward.  She said to come ahead, but she wasn’t sure how she could help me.

It would take way too long to explain all the details of what happened next, but let me just say that the designer who made commission from the several thousand dollars of product I purchased offered no help in finding a better alternative for the bath fixtures. She was obviously irritated with me and told me I just needed to go with what I had because there wasn’t a better option if I wanted to stick with that light fixture. When I found a much more expensive alternative that was the perfect complement to my lighting, she told me they were special order and would take 45 days to get in.  Then I saw her turn to a store associate and ROLL HER EYES.  I literally watched her ROLL HER EYES.

lady mary eyeroll.gif

 

She obviously didn’t think I was serious about purchasing the much upgraded faucet in the finish I really wanted.  And she didn’t want to take the time to help me solve my problem. I was so upset, I walked away and tried to figure out what I was going to do on my own.  Reading the small print on the higher-end faucets, I discovered that some of them might be in stock if they are checked individually.  When I couldn’t find my designer, I had to enlist the help of someone else to help me, who found one in stock.  I thanked the other sales associate profusely for her help.  I left after ordering a much more expensive faucet and an additional hanging light fixture to finish out the whole design, but with the determination that I would NOT bring my clients into this particular retailer going forward.  And then I cried in the parking lot.

 hi-end faucetmy expensive faucet in just the right finish

 

Designers working in retail should treat their customers – ALL their customers – with respect. Catty gossip, condescension,and eye-rolling is unacceptable behavior.  Get off your high horse and try being kind and helpful to the people who put money in your pocket. You are not better than your customers, so JUST STOP.

You know where I like to do business?  Where people are nice to me.  Do you know the stores I choose to take my clients to again and again?  The ones who are nice to both of us.  That’s pretty much top priority to me. Just so you know.

 

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Laura Ingalls Gunn
5 years ago

I too have had this same experience EVEN though I have a degree in interior design. I LIKE shopping at discount stores. I like clients who have budgets. To me I look at it as a challenge and it is SO wonderful when I give them the house of their dreams through DIY, sales, and second hand treasures.
When I encounter such people I just think, “People like to tear down others when they themselves feel small.”

Ksenia Valentine
Ksenia Valentine
5 years ago

I am so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. My recommendation to you is Not to leave like that, and write an email or letter to the Corporate offices of that store explaining what had happened and mentioning that designer’s name. I hope you remembered her name or have her business card somewhere. Don’t leave like that, no one deserves such a treatment. Please help prevent other potential customers of hers be treated that way and had eyes rolled over on!

Ksenia Valentine
Ksenia Valentine
5 years ago

Sorry I submitted a comment without re-reading it. Had to edit it:-) I am so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. My recommendation to you is Not to leave it like that, and write an email or letter to the Corporate offices or management of that store explaining what had happened and mentioning that designer’s name. I hope you remembered her name or have her business card somewhere. Don’t leave it like that, no one deserves such a treatment. Please help prevent other potential customers of hers from being treated that way and having eyes rolled… Read more »

JL
JL
5 years ago

This was fantastic and spot on. Luckily, the first memory that popped into my head was that a place I love to shop is probably somewhere I love to shop because the staff is NICE. They have been nice to me when I have that ‘new momma not showered and put together look’ and they have been nice to me when I was looking a little more stylish. They have been nice to me on high dollar purchases and nice on itty bitty things like ramekins. Thanks for this! For those of us that feel totally clueless with furniture and… Read more »

Mary
Mary
5 years ago

Excellent and so true. It is refreshing to hear these words online, thank you for such a great post!!!
I hope also that some online design bloggers get this message as well.
Thank you.

Mary Mausser
Mary Mausser
5 years ago

I loved this!!!

Lori Sawaya
5 years ago

Sorry that happened to you, Kristie. 🙁 Renos of the scale your doing don’t come around that often in one’s own home and it should be a fun, exciting time full of welcome anticipation. I’m glad you got what you wanted in the end. Best of luck on the rest of it.

Teresa
Teresa
5 years ago

I’m so tired of crying in the parking lot-maybe I don’t have alot of money, but I want to make my home look nice too! I’m so sorry that you had this experience.

MK
MK
5 years ago

Well said!

TKraft Art & Interiors
TKraft Art & Interiors
5 years ago

Wow Kristie, I feel like I just heard my own thoughts and words echoing when I read this post. You’re spot on. Like many who will read this story I can not begin to count the number of times I walk into these same scenarios. Because of the general I’m-mightier-than-thou attitude of these sales associates in-house esigners I always scope out a new vendor or supply house before I ever take a client in. I really hope you enjoy the new faucet with out the bitter taste in your mouth from this encounter but rather as a badge of honor… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
5 years ago

This is in any type of business . We just moved back to the U.S. and I have been appalled at the horrid customer service I have received Everywhere. If the winters weren’t so awful in Canada I’d be back there in a heartbeat .

carolanne
5 years ago

so totally true, well said…. ( I have worked 10 years as an “In Home Designer” for Lazboy, if I treated anyone this way I would have not been there that long, for sure!) My fav client is the client with a very small budget and we do up their room amazing on 8-9000.00 … everything lamps art art rug included… their in tears at the end of the presentation and again on delivery day… x I have been shopping for a new kitchen, bathroom and all new flooring in my condo… I have been lucky so far but I… Read more »

Shirley
Shirley
5 years ago

Loved this post. We were once turned away by a store that sold nice art prints and such. We were met at the door and told we could not afford anything and not to come in! This was NOT the case, but rest assured, we DID leave. There are always other stores. Kinda ruined the mood on our Anniversary (temporarily) though.

Lisa
Lisa
5 years ago

You are so right Kristie. While you didn’t name the establishments here, nor would I expect you to, I hope you send a copy to the ownership/management of the stores in question. Thanks for being one of the good designers who makes the rest of us comfortable.

applehillcottage
5 years ago

ooh, i love the girl rolling her eyes. I hardly ever dress up while shopping, so i know of what you speak! And i think i would have had a conniption fit if my boxes were delivered to someone else’s house and put BY THE POOL! What were they thinking? Fun read. You tell ’em!

Nancy
Nancy
5 years ago

I had a similar experience a few years ago at a well-known upscale furniture retailer. The designerr came to my home to discuss furniture options. Long story short, she made unsolicited suggestions regarding renovations we were doing which I did not take. However I still purchased thousands of dollars worth of furniture, and I’m sure she made a nice commission. But once I placed my order, she became very inaccessible. Any time I called with questions about my order, she was either not there or was with a customer and never returned my calls. I think she was peeved that… Read more »

Holly
Holly
5 years ago

Whoah! Well said, Kristie. We’ve all been treated that way at least once before. I hope some of those retail furniture/design stores and employees actually read this. 😉

Judy Willis
Judy Willis
5 years ago

Well, so glad that I am not the only one who gets treated this way. In the last six months I have been trying to do some redecorating and my husband has almost had to drag me out of several stores where I received such treatment. My remedy has been to contact their supervisor or corporate office and I have gotten several responses by doing so. Most store management insist on good customer service and do not want customers treated in this way. Have a feeling their bottom line will eventually tell the tale. Good to know I am not… Read more »

Michelle L.
Michelle L.
5 years ago

Unbelievable! I think you need to go talk to some retail managers or owners. Really. Or maybe I’ll do it for you! The cool thing about you, is that you are not naming names. And you could. Great advice, Kristie… I hope someone will read it and heed it!

Kim Venable
5 years ago

WOW! And add to that an “Amen, Sista!” Thank you so much for publically expressing what so many of us have felt at times. I plan to share this with my entire social network. Kudos!

Carol Bowman
Carol Bowman
5 years ago

Great post, Kristie! What a lot of us were thinking, you put into words brilliantly! Thank you and I hope “they” read it, too! 🙂

Kathi
Kathi
5 years ago

wow-what a great,honest post Kristie-thanx for sharing the truth-I went into an expensive designer shop in Vegas one time and the girls who worked there looked like models with super high heels and were chatting about some customers defects so meanly-they gave me the hairy eyeball and were actually rude when I asked them a question–I’m embarrassed to say that i got really mad and leaned over and said,listen sweethearts-you can be as snobby and rude as you want to, but remember this, i am not the one working for $8 bucks a hour in stilettos on a concrete floor… Read more »

Cheryl
5 years ago

OMG – did you ever…….OMG – this is THE BEST POST I have EVER read in our industry. You ROCK and THANK YOU for your straight forwardness. It is ALL true and I often am EMBARRASSED to be a designer because of just this thing.

Janet
Janet
5 years ago

Bravo! Well said…..but who am I to say….I’m just one of the lowly folks they would turn their noses up at :).

Angel Rodenbeck
5 years ago

I’m so sorry you were treated that way. I hope you never have to step foot in that store again and that someway that aweful sales person will find out who you are and be ashamed of herself.

Rhonda
Rhonda
5 years ago

I will agree wholeheartedly with your conclusions! Years ago, while shopping at a well-known, high-end furniture store, I was fortunate enough to be “assigned” to the most delightful and helpful designer. I’m not sure how she successfully worked with the other designers; she obviously had different character! I dropped a bundle at that store, but I’m sure that I would have left without any purchases, if any of the other designers had helped me. The past few years we have done some remodeling, and a patient of my husband’s who is a designer offered to help me. Of course, she… Read more »

nancy
nancy
5 years ago

Thank you. That really needed to be said.

Vonnie Thomason
Vonnie Thomason
5 years ago

Well Kristie you just made me feel better to know I’m not the only one! Last fall my husband and I were out on a rainy Sunday afternoon and decided to stop by a local furniture store. We were “sort of” looking for a new buffet for our breakfast nook and since 95% of the furniture in our house came from that store… We had not bought anything from them in several years since our furniture was all really great quality so we did not know any of their current salespeople. A salesman greeted us and when we told him… Read more »

Stella
Stella
5 years ago

Couldn’t agree more, it is a shame when we are more surprised to be be treated with repect in a retail store, than to be either ignored or harassed. Well done for speaking out in your own industry.

Ann
Ann
5 years ago

I just had this happen to me last week! I was in (cute) sweatpants. I dress up everyday at work, and it was my day off and I wanted to be comfy! I had been saving my money (a nice little bonus helped) and Had CASH to spend on two leather chairs. I was literally sitting in the chairs when the “designers” walked past me several times! I was so frustrated, I probably would have bought them on the spot if someone had helped me. I ended up leaving and visited my mom. I told them what happened to me.… Read more »

Diane
Diane
5 years ago

Kristie, I totally relate to your situation. This happens in other retail situations like car dealerships and clothing stores. This is nothing new because my mom still tells me about how snooty (or snotty) the sales clerks were at a fancy department store when she was growing up. She realized that they probably didn’t even make that much money, but it still irked her.

debbie
debbie
5 years ago

Bless your heart, I’m so sorry you had that experience. I have had it and I’m sure plenty of others have too. There is no excuse for rude and classless behavior no matter what industry it happens to be. Treat people as you would always want to be treated with kindness, patience and respect. The people that act so immature and unprofessional need to attend an etiquette class. There can be millionaires that dress like they are not and people that are not millionaires dress like they are. You should never judge a book by its cover….what goes around comes… Read more »

Janet Voltaggio
5 years ago

Thank you for putting into words what most of us have felt, but don’t have guts or words to explain. In this day, it is a very selfish, foolish and frankly immature sales person who makes these kind of judgements and has the nerve to eye roll! It’s a new era people, there is no more typecasted ‘well- heeled’ client….good luck to old school….hello to an eclectic new shopper & client!

JoanneGizele
JoanneGizele
5 years ago

I’m sorry about your experience, but I can’t help but think of how this will make you even more sensitive and understanding of your clients (not that you weren’t before, but there’s nothing like a horrible exchange as a reminder). As a college student, my son had the great fortune to work on a project for Sir Richard Branson, a multi-billionaire. Branson wore jeans and sneakers and never put on airs. At the end of the project, he took the time to look up my son–who worked behind the scenes–to shake his hand and thank him for all his work.… Read more »

Cheryl
Cheryl
5 years ago
Reply to  JoanneGizele

Thank you Kristie. Kudos for sharing the same reactions I have experienced. Thank you for being so candid and honest.

Jenny B.
5 years ago

Wow! That sounds AWFUL. I was scared to go in a local design store for fear of this very thing, but guess what? They were super nice and down to earth, and I got a great deal! YAY!! I also have a friend who is an interior designer, and once at a game night at my house she won a prize that was a $20 gift card to HomeGoods. I thought she was going to cry she was so happy. She said she needed to buy some things there to show a client. She wasn’t even going shopping for herself!… Read more »

Peter Evans
5 years ago

I’m a decorative artist by trade. I deliberately opened a showroom so I could sell direct to customer rather than have to rely on designers. You have to maintain a sense of humor. I could tell you some crazy stories about designers. Its a dog eat dog profession.

Donna Frasca
5 years ago

Good for you Kristie! The funny thing is most of these “Designers” just gave themselves that name because they are in the field and think they have an eye for design. Do they have a degree in Design? Probably not. Do they have the experience both in sales, retail and design needed to hold this job? No, chances are very low.

Well some volunteers are needed for these jobs and unfortunately, they are not the right choice for the company and situations just like this happen.

We need more Designers like you Krisitie 🙂

Linda
5 years ago

I have found there are nice and not so nice sales people in all types of retail. Sorry you found one of the not so nice. I think in home furnishing stores, some salespeople just don’t really like their job and end up taking it out on the customer. On the flip side, one of my best friends works at West Elm. Some of the stories she tells me about rude customers is shocking. Recently she had a customer who had a temper tantrum in the store because the item she wanted was out of stock. My mother always told… Read more »

Marilyn
Marilyn
5 years ago

I love you Kristie Barnett!!

Susie T.
Susie T.
5 years ago

Wow, Kristie, so many people can relate to your experience. Thank you for putting into words what it seems we’ve all experienced. Enough of this terrible customer service!

Adele
Adele
5 years ago

This is SO true! My sister, brother-in-law and I were walking around town enjoying the first warm day of spring when we passed by the storefront of an interior design firm. My sister and brother-in-law, both successful physicians, had just bought a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood and wanted to furnish and decorate it so we went inside to look at some furniture. Yes, we were in shorts and t-shirts (as was everyone else walking around) but we were presentable. The moment we walked in we could feel the condescension rolling off the saleswoman and every time… Read more »

Angela
Angela
5 years ago

Word! Looks like we’re all in your corner girl!

Cris angsten
5 years ago

I have been the brunt of this many times. I have also tried going incognito and not mentioning that I am a decorator with many years experience. You for sure learn who will not treat your customers well! They also have this warped idea that designers and decorators are always dressed all fancy and in a fancy car. Some days I am junking and wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and driving my 21 year old Jeep around instead of my leather interior Mini and a pair of manolos (I do not actually own manolos but you get the point) .… Read more »

ceil tarwater
ceil tarwater
5 years ago

Kudos for you Kristie! It’s about time someone spoke up and say something regarding SNOBBY designers & salespeople! Your article reminded me of a scene in the movie PRETTY WOMAN, where Julia Roberts walks into a Rodeo Drive Boutique looking ever the ‘call girl’ and wanting to spend major bucks on nicer clothes! BIG MISTAKE! Keep up the grand work Dear!

Sheila @sZinteriors
5 years ago

Amen!!!

Julie
5 years ago

Thanks for “taking one for the team”! You could have just walked in and been treated like a celebrity, but you wanted to know the real story in order to help your clients and readers. Now THAT is customer service! (Although, very sorry that person made you cry, I have definitely been there 🙁 )

~syl
~syl
5 years ago

“Do unto others…” Still valid today as spoken two thousand years ago!!!! Blessings!

Nanci
Nanci
5 years ago

Never pre-judge, never pre-judge, never pre-judge. Words to live by.

Rae
Rae
5 years ago

Thanks for being so honest. I’ve never been in the position to spend money in a high end shop, ( Lowes and Home Depot are my Go-To retail). However, I did subscribe to a popular home decor magazine at one time. I loved dreaming and looking and planning at all the wonderful ideas each month. But I could NOT stomach the monthly article where they ask designers their opinions and what products they endorse. Snobs. Seriously! Does one really pick out the “plaid wool designer one -of-a-kind naturally dyed throw” because it reminded them of sipping cognac from a plaid… Read more »

A different Holly
A different Holly
5 years ago

Personally, I think it’s kind of fun to see them GROVEL after I have made my first selection, even though I’m only wearing jeans, moccasins, and a sweatshirt. Then I become the b*+ch . . .

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