SMS Text News reader, Ben Harvey, documents the seven deadly sins of mobile retail sales. Can you recognise them?
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I do love going into mobile phone outlets on the high-street. The same alluring smells that float out of your favourite restaurant, of your favourite car, the smells that relax you? Well, for me, it’s that combined stink of hair-gel and desperation that I most savour when shopping for handsets. Makes me feel at home.
‘Can I help youÃ¢â‚¬Â¦sir?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Every time I hear that I love it. That first line, that opener, that oyster-knife into your wallet. Every time I hear it I can’t help but think of the wood behind the spear, the lessons that the sales staff must’ve had in Travelodges, sat in drone-rows, chugging back dinky bottles of Buxton whilst some dispirited Regional Training Leader (or whatever the poor sap happens to have on his CV. Whatever their job title is now you can reasonably sure that it wasn’t also the subject of ‘What I Want To Be When I Grow Up By Brett Edgby Aged SevenÃ¢â‚¬Â) uses Blairish hand-gestures whilst telling them how to flog contracts.
It’s a clichÃƒÂ©, but there really are seven deadly sins to the world of face-to-face mobile sales. If you’re lucky I might one day write the flipside, the ten commandments, but for now, here’s where every single network is getting it wrongÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
1. Hair gel
I’m not sure why this is, but every commission-chasing eijit with a name-badge and a sneer also comes complete with a barnet coated in product. The only rational explanation for this universal marker is perhaps that – like Foxtons staff all singing the National Anthem at the start of the working day (the roiling tide of patriotism takes the edge off of conspiring with their buyers’ financial advisers, apparently) – all the boys in these stores line up in front of a communal mirror at 08:55am and have a bonding session over the Fudge.
2. Have a really tiny shop
This is a classic. The retail outlets that people find indispensable – Boots, Marks & Spencer, Anne Summers – have enormous stores. Lavish amounts of square-footage, sat squatly in High Streets all over this green and pleasant land. Yet a lot of the network stores you see are tiny – just about as wide as the shop banner over the front door. The price of retail property can’t be that much of a factor, given the Big Four’s predilection for haemorrhaging cash like it was going out of style. The reason, dear reader, for the fact that some network stores are so small is that they’re only really ever stocking two (2) handsets that they actually want to sell you. One will be designed by Italians and then encrusted with heroin-coated diamonds, one sale of which will earn your sales-monkey enough commission to get slotted on JÃƒÂ¤germeister every day for a month. The other handset is the new-but-cheap model that they want to sell lots of, to paupers. And you don’t really need a huge number of aisles for that approach, now, do you.
3. Suits and boots
Again, it’s a mystery why the retail staff of every mobile phone shop you go into are dressed like the bastard offspring of Reggie Cray and his letting agent. Suits so new that, in their breast pockets, you can still see the outline of that little packet of buttons that Moss Bros. kindly supplied them, like the condom poking a ring on one side of their wallets. Both smack slightly of unworldlyness and are bound to result, one day, in a feckless boy getting confused and sewing himself into his Durex. Playing devil’s advocate, though, you do have to have new suits if you’re in that line of trade, if only because you’re going through puberty and as such the length of your arms and legs changes on a weekly basis.
4. Crazy, crazy marketing
Brilliant. In this day and age, now that we have no market-breaking economic slumps, no society-collapsing pandemics and no cataclysmic World Wars we only, apparently, have one thing left to put backbone in our young men, to fortify them with pluck and character and doughy John Bull toughness. And that is to put them in a costume, on the pavement, with a stack of flyers in their hands and desperation in their blood. An undeniable rule of business is that good product sells itself – it doesn’t need Jamiroquai playing a concert on a 747.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¦that, by the way, was an opportunity missed – next time, PR boys, don’t give the plane as much fuel as it needs to get across the Atlantic. Imagine the column-inches thenÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
5. Be a shit
‘HelloÃ¢â‚¬Â says the frazzled mother, out shopping on a rainy Tuesday. ‘I just need some more texts so I can keep in contact with Daryl, my youngest, whilst he’s in BorstalÃ¢â‚¬Â. Now, we’ve all seen it, but there is no word in the English language to truly describe the expression that passes over the face of your common-or-garden sales boy when he hears something like that. It’s the look of someone who finds an unaccountable twenty-pound note in their pocket when doing the laundry. The look of a Manchester United fan when Evra punched the 7th goal in against a pack of feckless Italians (and the crowd started chanting ‘are you City in disguise?Ã¢â‚¬Â). The look on George W. Bushes’ face when they let him stay up late to watch Sesame Street – mix those three together and you’ll see that epiphany of potential, that almost loving look they give an idiot about to be parted from their money.
6. If you’re a store manager, be a bigger shit
Five words: Alec, Baldwin, Glengarry, Glen, Ross.
7. Would you like fries with that?
Upsell. Someone walks into your shop wanting a new handset on a cheap contract; you bolt on, throw in or barter some minutes, some texts, some bandwidth, even one of those faux-leather & Perspex sheaths (that, for some reason, always scream ‘socks with sandalsÃ¢â‚¬Â). Anything, anything, so long as it increases the cash, that feeds that sacred turnover. Why they do this with phones but not with other products, other industries, is beyond me. How long before your builder gets infected? ‘Would you like a shed with that?Ã¢â‚¬Â. Or your local vicar; ‘How about we sign you up for Buddhism, too? Just in case you roam in a country with patchy Christian coverageÃ¢â‚¬Â. Buy one, get one free? Bog offÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Ã¢â‚¬Â¦and they wonder why so many packages are being sold over the internet these days; perhaps it’s something to do with not hearing any sniggering from the back of the store as you punch in your PIN. But there we go. Never mind; don’t let them make you angry. Don’t show bitterness or impatience to these weak and credulous creatures. Just think – next time you’re stood in a store, asking something vaguely technical and being answered with blank-eyed incomprehension – just think; what else could they be doingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦?
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Fantastic! Thank you for sending that in, Ben!