Consumer Reports calls out things consumers hate about retailers -- ouch!

In a full-page “Dear Shopper” ad that ran in the Nov. 24 edition of USA Today, Consumer Reports put the spotlight on things consumers hate most about retailers and what CR calls "pushy holiday-season practices." SNEWS has some ideas about how outdoor and fitness specialty retailers can stand out when consumers seem to be expecting the worst.

In a full-page “Dear Shopper” ad that ran in the Nov. 24 edition of USA Today, Consumer Reports put the spotlight on things consumers hate most about retailers and what CR calls "pushy holiday-season practices."

Using a thumbs-down icon (see image taken from the ad), the ad highlighted three things consumers told CR in its recent poll that they find most annoying about retailers during the holiday shopping season:

  • 52 percent said pushing store credit cards at the register;
  • 58 percent said cashiers that ask for phone number or other personal information; and
  • 62 percent said being hounded with the extended warranty sales pitch.

The ad also revealed that closed checkout lanes caused 72 percent of consumers to become very annoyed with a retailer.

On its website (click here to read the full news release on Consumer Reports), Consumer Reports revealed the top consumer gripes:

  • Stores that don't open all the checkout lanes – 72 percent

  • Fake sales. If something is always 20 percent off, it's not on sale – 68 percent

  • Coupons that exclude almost everything in the store – 67 percent

  • Being hounded with the extended warranty sales pitch – 62 percent

  • Cashiers that ask for your phone number or other personal information – 58 percent

  • In-store prices that do not match the same company's online prices – 56 percent

  • Employees required to up-sell you at the register – 53 percent

  • Pushing store credit cards at the register – 52 percent

  • Mail-in rebates – 50 percent

  • Stores that require loyalty cards to get discounts – 48 percent

  • Stores that have a minimum purchase requirement for credit cards – 43 percent

  • People who check receipts (e.g. at store exits) – 26 percent

The survey was conducted as part of Consumer Reports’ annual "Dear Shopper" campaign that highlights things consumers need to watch out for during the holiday shopping season. This year, Consumer Reports had an assist from its sister website, Consumerist.

Naturally, this news got the SNEWS® team thinking that it’s a good time for retailers to shine in the face of such news. As consumers are expecting to be annoyed, specialty retailers have an opportunity to stand out, and make a clear statement that consumers are special and appreciated, even during the busy shopping season.

To that end, we have a few thoughts:

  • Make sure that every member of the sales team and, frankly, every member of your retail staff, knows he or she needs to make every customer feel welcomed to your store. Now more than ever, consumers need to know you are happy they have chosen to come through your doors to shop, or even just to look around.

  • Understand every customer’s needs and wants by listening to him or her carefully before you even start to launch into recommendations of product.

  • This is a perfect season to have snacks like holiday cookies or fruit and perhaps hot drinks like cider or tea to serve to customers while they are in your store.

  • Make your store fun to be in, and that includes any time spent waiting at the checkout line for a cashier. We’ve been in long lines where the retail staff was entertaining and funny and kept everyone in the line engaged and laughing. Time flies when you are having fun.

  • Demonstrate that you are thankful for every one of your customers and prove it with thank-you cards, follow-up calls and emails that are meaningful. As shoppers, members of the SNEWS team also dislike being asked for their phone numbers or emails by a staff person who is obviously only doing it to add names to a database somewhere. We don’t mind doing this, though, when we are asked for the information in a manner that makes us realize we are becoming part of a family that cares about our needs, and will only call us or email us or send us promotional invitations that are sincere and valued.

  • No matter how busy your store is, prove to every one of your customers at all times that your employees are able to work with more than one customer at a time and still make each customer feel as if they are being served well. Yes, this is a skill that must be trained, but it is one that makes customers realize just how special a store is when you show you are good at it.

  • And, above all, realize that you will not be your customer’s only retailer, especially in this economy and with the blurred lines of distribution and product channels. However, in realizing that, do all you can to ensure you are your customers’ favorite retailer and not one among many who simply annoys them.

--Michael Hodgson