A tale of two travel retail salespeople

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

It’s amazing how much difference an individual can make to your experience in a store.

Let me tell you about two people who made a difference – good and bad – to me.

Scene 1. I am at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, running late as always, in this case for my flight to Dublin. At the last (and I almost mean that literally) minute, I remember that I want a good bottle of wine from my home country for a very special man I am having dinner with that night.

I steer myself into the first World Duty Free store I see. But the wine selection is basic. My flight is about to depart. What to do? I run up to a World Duty Free employee for help.

“Is that the only wine selection you have?”

“No, we have a much wider range n in our main store along there,” she replies, pointing in the same direction (fortunately) as my gate.

“Do you know if they have any good New Zealand wine? Cloudy Bay or Matua, say?”

“Yes they do.”

“Aaargh, I think I’m going to miss my flight.”

“No you won’t, let me take you down there.”

We walk in the style and pace of Olympian walkers. I ask my new friend for her name. It’s Jane. I ask her how long she has worked at Heathrow. 22 years, she replies.

We race into the wines & spirits department. Jane asks a nice young man called Maciej about New Zealand wines. “Yes we have some,” he says. They jointly guide me to a gondola where I grab a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Jane escorts me to the till and even asks her colleague at the cash point to serve me as fast as she can. While she does, I ask Maciej to take a photo of us both. He, like her, is graciously obliging. A nice young man.

Jane 1

“It’s for my Blog,” I say, Jane has no idea who I am. Still doesn’t unless someone shows her this Blog. She has just done her best to serve a flustered customer. And through her efforts she has made a £20+ sale for her employer.

“Gosh I’m so embarrassed,” she says with a delightful chuckle as we pose for the shot. “It’s for my Blog,” I say.

I wonder how much difference that Jane, and other Janes (and Maciej) make during the course of a year? World Duty Free please note. You have a priceless gem (you probably already know that) on your hands.

Scene 2. I am at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, running late as always, in this case for my flight to Budapest. To my horror I realise that I have left my camera charger at home and that my battery is near flat.

Given that I hope to take numerous photos of the new Gebr Heinemann offer at Budapest Airport a couple of hours later, a dead camera is precisely what I do not need.

In such circumstances, who you gonna’ call? Dixons Travel, of course. Consistently, in my long-term view, one of the best airport retailers at Heathrow, and perhaps in the world.

Dixons Travel

Except… the T3 store is different. The range and merchandising are typically good, the store packed, but can I find a shop assistant to help me source a charger? No way.  The only two that I can see are stuck to the cash points, managing sales.

After he completes a transaction, I approach one of them.

“Excuse me, do you sell chargers for cameras?”

“Sorry, no we don’t stock camera chargers at all. I don’t think anyone in the airport does.”

He is friendly enough but the news is as I feared. The worse news is that I will have to buy another camera, just for this trip. My iPhone 5’s camera is decent but not decent enough for what I will need.

“Oh no,” I tell him. “I’m going to have to buy a new camera.”

With time against me I race to the camera section, quickly setting on a nice budget model for just over £100 that won’t look too cheap when put to professional use, resplendent in what might pass as Moodie blue. The camera is fixed to the stand so I approach the second salesman at a different cash point. I notice his name is Kavit.

“Can I buy one of the cameras please?” I asked.

“Of course, show me which one.”

“It’s so annoying, I have a camera but I forgot my charger,” I say as we walk towards the display

He stops in his tracks. “What model? We sell chargers.”

“Really? It’s a Panasonic.”

“No problem, we sell a universal battery charger.”

He takes me to the display, checks the wording on the box and says, “Yeah, this will be fine.”

It costs £37.99. He has just saved me well over £60. I thank him gratefully. As I leave the store I pass by the first assistant.

“Excuse me, you do actually sell chargers,” I tell him. “You told me you don’t.”

He looks at the box in my hand and shakes his head. “Oh that’s a universal one, they don’t work on all models.”

“But they work on mine. Your colleague told me. Anyway you said you don’t sell chargers.”

He shrugs his shoulders and looks away. Let me repeat those seemingly bland words. He shrugs his shoulders and looks away.

Now I am not going to mention his name. I am not usually a difficult customer and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. But I am by now not a happy punter and tell him so. Politely.

“So it doesn’t matter that I nearly bought a new camera because of you?”

He shrugs his shoulders again.

I walk away but am by now a trifle miffed. As in a large banquet-sized portion of trifle at one of those restaurants where you can eat as much as you want.

I turn around. “Are you really saying it doesn’t matter?”

“Sorry?” he says, indicating he is not interested in the conversation.

Now. ‘sorry’ is a word that can really irritate if used dismissively instead of as an apology. And it just has been.

“Are you really saying it doesn’t matter that I nearly bought a new camera because you didn’t know you sold chargers?” The said chargers were, by the way, just a few feet away from him.

He shakes his head. Really. He shakes his head. And looks away for the final time.

Now maybe he’d had a bad day. Maybe he thought I was being unreasonable. I don’t think I was. But the contrast between the excellent Kavit and him was as great as that between night and day, desert and ocean, and, more pertinently, customer satisfaction and anger. Kavit may not need it but maybe Dixons Travel should get Jane in to conduct some staff training.


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