I went to buy some new work shoes yesterday, from Shoezone (low-end shoe shop) and this is how the conversation went when I got to the till:

Sales assistant: "Do you need some polish to go with these?" *picks up polish*

Me: "No thank you"

Sales assistant: "You're definitely going to need some boot protector for that pair, otherwise they'll get white water marks" *picks up boot protector*

Me: "Ok but I'm not going to buy that now"

If I wanted to buy shoe polish, I'd pick up some shoe polish, stop trying to squeeze extra money out of me - I'm already shopping at your store aren't I?! This is making me not want to come again. And to say these boots *need* boot protector makes it sound like they're so cheap they're going to get ruined if I step in a tiny puddle so you're actually making me regret picking them up, rather than making me want to buy an extra product.

I know she was just doing her job, this strategy probably came from head office, and it probably works for some people - otherwise they wouldn't do it. It's just annoying. When I worked in retail we were told to ask every single customer if they'd like stamps or top ups. I don't think I ever had anyone say yes. And I knew I was probably riling the customers up by asking. 

There's a fine line between being helpful and delivering good customer service, and being pushy. Up-selling just seems to alienate customers. No I don't want to buy Britney Spears perfume at the till in Savers, I don't want to buy a giant chocolate bar in WHSmith and I don't want to increase my contributions to anything. 

This is why self-service tills are so great, no up-selling!

I don't mind all the other subtle psychological tricks the supermarkets and shops play on us - putting sweets near the till, particular packaging, offers and even how they arrange their aisles. Because I don't feel under any pressure. It's the awkwardness of having to say no and being firm with someone who's masquerading what they're selling as something amazing and why would you ever not want this thing? Just go away!

Published by Claire Walker