“Great! Perfect choice! Goood!”
Two salespeople in a Lululemon store in Manhattan made me laugh when they put exclamation points on the art of positive selling. Whether or not the company manual teaches them to sell this way, the experience kept me laughing even after I shelled out an outrageous sum of money for a pair of yoga pants.
For a long time, I avoided Lululemon stores for a lot of reasons: too pricey, too trendy, too much controversy. I do own a pair of the brand’s yoga pants that I bought years ago at the Shala, a New York yoga studio, before there was a retail store in the city. Honestly, I liked the way they fit.
So feeling giddy after a good meeting, my worst instincts led me through the door. Two young women, each with beautiful, shiny, streaked chestnut-colored hair falling gently to her shoulders, lounged against a table filled with folded workout clothes.
“Can you recommend a pair of pants for me?” I asked. “Sure,” they responded in unison.
“What are you looking for?” asked one of the women who introduced herself as C.
“I think I want a pair of cropped pants.”
“Great! What size? You look like a 4, maybe a two.”
“No. I have a big butt. Probably a 6.”
“Oh. Good!” she said.
I thought a minute and re-assessed. “An 8 probably to be on the safe side.”
Both women smiled and seemed to approve.
“An 8. Great! That’s good!” C said.
Even if I was fat in the butt, it didn’t matter. It was still “Good!”
She pointed to one half of the display on a high shelf. “This side has the tighter fitting styles.”Do you want something really tight that holds you in?”
“No. I can use a looser fit.”
“That’s great! Then you’ll want something from this side.”
Her coworker nodded and continued to beam at me.
Every thing I said won enthusiastic nods, smiles and an effusive “Great!” or “Good!”
For a couple of minutes, they swept me away with the power of their radiant positive energy. My choice today would turn out perfectly.
C ran through a list of options from the right side of the platform. One style, even on the looser side, offered extra slimming
“I probably need it, but I don’t like to feel pressed in,” I said.
A big smile spread across her face. She seemed to understand completely.
“Sure. That’s great!”
“These are a new fabric and really good if you sweat,” she said.
“I don’t really sweat that much.”
“Ooh, good!” she said.
“Maybe I want to try a full length pant, even though my legs are short.”
“And I don’t want anything that sits below my waist. I hate it when it feels like my pants are falling down.”
They smiled and nodded again. “Oh good! Absolutely!” C said.
She handed me three pairs of pants and introduced me to the person in the dressing area, who also had great hair and continued to enthuse about everything that I tried on.
“These look perfect!”
“The fit is great!”
“What about the crotch on this one?” I asked.
“We can hem them for free!”
In the quiet of the little dressing area, I ultimately rejected the pair with the questionable crotch fit and chose one that I thought looked best. I ignored the price tag.
I have no idea if this is always the vibe in Lululemon stores. But I began to think about the history of positive selling and found that retail pioneers John Wannamaker, Marshal Field and Harry Selfridge built their empires on the notion that if you make people happy, they will buy.
In Philadelphia in 1868, Wannamaker opened what’s described as the first department store. He supposedly said, “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.”
And in Chicago in 1880, Marshall Field expanded the department store idea in a six-story building that catered to women. He used the motto: “Give the lady what she wants.”
Harry Selfridge helped Field develop the modern, customer service- oriented department store and then built his own retail palace when he moved to London in 1909. Selfridge promoted the idea that “The customer is always right,” and that everyone deserved “Service with a smile.” And his exceptional and entertaining story gets told in the Masterpiece series Mr. Selfridge.
Meanwhile, in brick and mortar stores more than a century later, a smile still goes a long way toward making a customer, at least this one, inclined to buy.