Guest Author Ali Can Cakiroglu is a San Francisco-based world traveler and self-described retail psychiatrist.
I work in fashion retail as a psychiatrist. Well, not a real psychiatrist, but my customers make me feel that way. I’m a good psychiatrist because I feel that I can see life through a customer’s eyes as well. I have been at both sides.
There is a truth about retail. We seem to have lost the connection with ourselves and started to see retail as therapy. When this happened, I don't know...
There are so many reasons to shop and very few of them are need-oriented. Yes, we need to shop for the necessities of life, but most of the time we use shopping—and the retail psychiatrist like me, as someone to tell us that we look good; or to relieve our professional and personal life pressures on someone else—someone who basically can't talk back to us. I have seen them all!
"I don't want to make money, I just want be wonderful" said Marilyn Monroe—but she already had money and she was wonderful. So unlike her, most people want to make money to buy the look of wonderful. To reach that almighty blonde level, we do not hold our "Kraken" back and go shopping.
Often times, customers talk to people like me from a higher cast; they ignore retail employees as they do not exist, or delete the word “Thank You!” from their vocabulary. They talk in “bold” and emphasize the power of buying as a human shield. We were not born this way though. Society, media and geography let these little alien eggs to hatch.
This "material girl" attitude turns retail people into mirrors. They talk, act and look like customers. And clients either love or hate the service they get without noticing they are in love or have some issues with themselves. The amount you spend does not get you the equivalent of service but your attitude does. I have seen the most valuable $20 shopping experience with a client and the worst $20,000 with another one.
Don't think that I am biased—I know that good and bad shopping experiences can be negatively influenced if a sales person gets under your skin. But the thing is they don't stay there; when you leave the store you already forgot about that person and the next most important thing is if your coffee should or should not have soy milk? For the sales person, the story is different; he/she carries over the impact of a customer’s behavior from you to next customer. We’re human after all. And who can tell if you’re bad sales person experience is simply the direct result of the last customer’s behavior?
When you read this you might think that you are definitely a good customer; because you say “Thank You!” Well, I’ll take that. At least it is a start. Call it retail therapy 101.