Posts Tagged ‘Customer Stereotype’

As I mentioned in my Parents post, some middle-age folks are really cool to deal with.  The coolest are the Stoked Old Guys.

So, a guy came into the shop, who looked kinda like John Cardiel (and talked like him too, minus all the sporadic swearing).  The Stoked Old Guy (SOG) threw his board up on the counter and started asking me about building up a new cruiser.  The board was an OG Powell/Peralta Tony Hawk:

Image

I, of course, quickly snapped a picture, and began helping him.  He was looking for a reissue pig board, sort of an old-school board for him and his son to cruise around on.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the board he was looking for, so we had to special order it for him.  Unfortunatelier, the one we got in wasn’t the right color.  Unfortunateliest, we couldn’t find the board he wanted from any of our distributors.

But, he was absolutely cool as hell, and was very impressed at all the random tidbits of knowledge I had about old-school skateboarding.  I even shared a few links with him.

One of the most unique things about a skateshop inside a guitar shop is the clientele that each shop attracts.  Both shops attract their own breed of hipsters, poseurs, snobs, and enthusiasts.  Sometimes the clientele overlaps to the other shop, which can be fun sometimes.  I know that I’ve taken a greater interest in guitar playing because of working in the shop, and one of the guitar guys has reignited his interest in skateboarding as well.  However, as was the case yesterday, we had some pretentious assholes that fit into both groups.

This huge group of hipster assholes came clamoring into the shop yesterday, huddled around our boards and taking measurements off of our stock so they could build their own.  This is generally frowned upon for the same reason it’s frowned upon to bring your own ingredients to a restaurant to have the cook prepare.  They seemed to ignore me when I asked if I could help them, until the ringleader told me he needed some hardware.  I obliged him, then he started asking if we had some Skanunu bearing lube.  I told him we did not, and he proceeded to lecture me on why Skanunu was the best.  For those that don’t know, Skanunu has detergent built in, which cleans a skateboard bearing then evaporates leaving an oily finish behind…An excellent short-term solution, but not match for a proper bearing cleaning.  He told me that Bones Speed Cream took 2 days of riding to break in.  Now, Bones Speed Cream is the de-facto bearing lube that nearly every bearing manufacturer recommends…It takes an hour or so to break in, but this asshat absolutely insisted it took 2-3 days, and that he could put Skanunu in and it would “clean as he skated.”

He then began name-dropping his “sponsors.”  As a seeming hybrid of the Perpetual Arguer and the Epic Brand Snob, he couldn’t keep his sponsors to himself.  Now, as a shop, we’ve been trying to get his wheel sponsor in the shop, but the company has been less than responsive.  I brought this up with the PHD, who promptly turned it right around on us.  He then told me that we should carry Rey Trucks, mentioned in this post.  I told him that I had brought those trucks up to the shop owner, because it would be damn cool to carry ’em, but the fact of the matter is that the trucks are too expensive for our customer base.  Which, I also told the PHD.  He responded that $130 trucks are much less expensive than $400 trucks, and that we could get a lot of business from people by selling Michigan-only boards.  In a comedic twist, the PHD showed his true pretentiousness by saying that he only buys Michigan-based companies, and that he “had” to shop at our store now, because he knows we’re there (and presumably, his pretentious hipsterness won’t let him shop online).

Now, this ties in with the guitar store as well.  Apparently this guy and his herd of hipster followers do the same damn thing to the guitar shop as well.  They’ve been known to interrupt our sales staff to interject their “expertise” into any sales pitches, by giving bits of faux-advice (that is, bits of bullshit that are not helpful at all to anyone buying a guitar) and justifying it by saying “Oh, I give guitar lessons.”  This particular group is apparently such a problem that the guitar guys have contemplated kicking them out of the store for being so damn obnoxious.

I commend their fatalistic loyalty, I really do.  And, I’ve obviously given a lot of thought into the Michigan-based companies, but it’s not something that a small shop such as ours can sustain with our current model…Maybe in a year or two if this longboard thing has proven to be a long-term “thing” instead of just a flash-in-the-pan fad.

We’ve had a new breed of odd customer in the shop lately.  I’m sure they were there before, but I’ve only just noticed them recently.  They are the perpetual arguer.  They’re more Curiously Clueless than Educated Idiot, but they will very vocally let me know that I’m wrong.

Case #1:  Customer comes in to ask about a Penny board.
He asks which is best (between Penny, Paradise, and Stereo), so I honestly tell him I don’t know, and that you’re really only paying for the brand name.  So then he asks why Penny boards are so much more than Paradise or Stereo…I again give him an honest response in that Penny is the most well known brand.  So he asks me why Penny is the best…so I tell him again, they’re not necessarily the best, they’re just the most well-known.  He asks me which of the three would be best for bombing HUGE hills, so I tell him that I personally wouldn’t do that, the boards are WAY too short and I’d be afraid of wobbling out fairly quickly.  So, he argues back that the small boards are better for carving and he can avoid wobbles.  I point out how narrow the board is, and he says he’ll just get softer bushings.  At this point, I was mostly concerned with him getting footbite (where your shoe slips off the deck and grabs the wheel or the road), but he had a different idea.  A third time he asks what makes the Penny brand better than Stereo or Paradise.  So, I lay it out plainly for him:  Paradise are more generic quality, that’s why they’re the cheapest.  Stereo comes with sunglasses and stickers.  Penny is the biggest brand name.  Otherwise, they’re all rehashed boards from the 70’s that are mostly novelty items.  For a fourth time, he asked me why Penny is better for bombing hills.  I told him again that they’re not necessarily better in any way, and that he would do well to look at a longboard if he wants to bomb hills; there’s a reason they stopped bombing hills on plastic boards in the 1970’s.  He looked at me with a horribly condescending look and told me that he wants to bomb huge hills, and he can carve off wobbles, as he set a Penny and a Paradise board on the floor to check out and stand on.  He eventually left empty-handed.

Case #2:  Customer was something of an Epic Brand Snob.
He looked stoned out of his gourd, and walked in to greet me with a “New guy in the shop, eh?”  He then tells this tale about how his friend bought a Dregs longboard from us, and how he was sorely disappointed in his friend.  This guy ONLY rides Sector9 and everything else is crap.  But, he likes supporting local businesses and doesn’t have a credit card, so he pays cash for everything.  He starts talking about how this Dregs board is terrible compared to his Sector9.  I point out that they’re made in the same factory (Watson laminates or a local-to-them woodshop), have the same trucks (Gullwing Chargers), and the wheels are a similar soy-based formula (something Dregs and S9 offer in certain wheel lines).  He argues some more about how Dregs sucks, then says “Yeah, I know they’re made in the same place.  Dregs just sucks.”  And with that, he left in a huff.

I hope I’m not the complete argumentative idiot here.  I’d hate to think I lost two customers over something so petty.  But, I’m still scratching my head over what exactly these two boys were trying to prove.  Oh well, that’s retail for you.

But there sure are a lot of inquisitive idiots.  I was reminded of a scene from the movie Clerks a few times this weekend.  You know the one, where Dante and Randal are arguing over who gets the worst customers.  Kind of a counter-point to the Educated Idiot, the Cluelessly Curious Customer has absolutely no idea what they want from anything, and expect me to give them the best board for bombing, sliding, carving, pumping, humping, jumping, dancing, skancing, prancing, bombing, sliding, and carving…all for a price of about half their actual budget.  It’s not that they have no idea what they want, they just want something that’s impossible to deliver:  the mythical do-it-all board that looks killer and costs $50.

A sort of sub-set of the Cluelessly Curious Customer is the kids who come in and pester me mercilessly with questions.  It wouldn’t be so bad if people took a second to look at something.  For example, the kid this weekend who stood right next to our accessory wall (with prices clearly marked on everything) and asked how much everything cost.  I don’t have the entire wall memorized, so I tried to (very obviously) look at the price tag, in hopes that he got the hint that all the prices were RIGHT THERE.  Then, he asked what kind of hats we have.  I pointed upward at our hat rack, but he wanted to know exactly what kinds of hats we had in store RIGHT NOW.  He actually made me read off every single hat we had, just so he could guarantee we weren’t hiding anything from him.

Another Cluelessly Curious Customer apparently thought we were hiding “the good stuff” from him in the basement or back room or something.  He was flat-out convinced that we had a stash of Landyachtz boards hidden away somewhere, because his friend had purchased a Landy board from us earlier this spring.  He actually pulled me aside and asked in a hush-hush tone if this was all the longboards we had.  Apparently other shops have a “back room” full of  “the good stuff.”  For the record, we don’t.

Along those same lines, we had another Cluelessly Curious ask if this was all the longboards we had…as he pointed toward one rack we have of Z-Flex boards.  Nevermind the 6 other racks we have that are FULLY STOCKED WITH LONGBOARDS.

Otherwise, it was quite a slow weekend.   Bad weather kept people off the streets, so sales were not very good.  I almost couldn’t think of a topic to blog about today!  But, such is life.

One weird phenomena in the skateshop is the Epic Brand Snob…and oddly enough, this concept transcends all facets of skateboarding in general; it’s not just a longboard thing.  These are the kids who solely swear by one single brand, for everything.  But, although it transcends all facets, it is largely a longboard thing.

A cousin to the Educated Idiot, the Epic Brand Snob thinks he knows everything about everything, and that his brand is the end-all, be-all of longboarding.  I hate to pick on Loaded Longboards again, but they’re an easy target given a few recent customers.  I can’t tell you how many people have come in asking for a 65mm or 70mm longboard slide wheel.  In the interest of saving them a few bucks, I usually point them towards our Sector9 Butterballs at $36.  The overwhelming response is that the Epic Brand Snob turns up his nose and says “No thanks, I’ll take the Orangatangs.”  Now, the Orangatang wheels retail for $55…But, that doesn’t really matter to the Epic Brand Snob, since he wants his Orangatangs, dammit!  And he’ll do anything it takes to get ’em!

The most extreme version of the Epic Brand Snob seems to come from people who buy one particular Loaded model:  The Tan Tien.  I have no idea what it is about this particular longboard, but it brings in some doozies.  They seem to be a combination of Educated Idiot, Wilhelm, and Best For Sliding kid.  They seem to think that, since they’re spending $300 on a freakin’ longboard, it makes them a total expert…and with that, in the true vein of Epic Brand Snobbery, they must have the most expensive stuff we carry.  Loaded boards, Loaded wheels, usually some form of Swiss bearing, and whichever trucks Loaded recommends.  I’ve sold 2 Tan Tiens on Bear Grizzly trucks, even though I thought Loaded spec’ed Paris trucks on their boards…but then I remind myself that Grizzlies are a few bucks more than Paris.  As I mentioned in the 90’s post, it’s not necessarily the brand snobbery that gets me.  If paying up the wazoo is what gives them their jollies, so be it.  It’s the fact that I’m treated like some kind of dumbass for remotely suggesting something outside of the Loaded circle.

A strange phenomena I’ve noticed is the trend of “educated idiots,” as I like to call them:  The kinds of kids who half-assedly do online research on longboards, get half a clue of what they’re looking for, and then take that half a clue as absolute gospel.  They come storming in, dropping buzzwords du jour, asking about the trendiest products, and airing their seeming snobbery all around.  Case in point:  The “Absolute Best For Sliding” board guy from yesterday…and some kids today.  These kids know just enough to be dangerous, and just enough to raise my blood pressure.  I try to be as helpful as I can; I’ve had enough poor experiences at skateshops to know what not to do, so I try to do the best I can for everyone.  But, the “Educated Idiots” just won’t have any of it.

It was one kid’s birthday, and he was in with his friend.  I have no idea of their names, so for the sake of the story, I’ll call birthday boy “Esposito,” and his friend “Wilhelm.”  Esposito comes in and says “I want a Tan Tien,” so I grabbed him one, and he said “No, the other one!”  I grabbed one for him, the right one this time, and him and Wilhelm start chattering like chipmunks on cocaine about what the hell to put on the board.  They covered EVERY damn aspect of the board, from the width of the neck at the drop-through, to the brand of griptape on the kicktails (and whether or not the kicktails would hold up, because a large dude posted on a skate website about one breaking).  They ask me which trucks to put on, so I tell ’em…then they argue with me.  Because, online, the boards have Grizzly trucks.  At this point, I’m just like “Whatevs,” so I slap some Grizzlies on there for Esposito…it’s his money, and I’m just the shop monkey.  Wilhelm and Esposito start chattering about wheels next.  Esposito tells me he wants some Orangatangs for sliding.  I ask if he wants any other wheels, by doing my salesman job and pointing out that Orangatangs are not the end-all be-all of longboard wheels, and that he could save between $10 and $20 by choosing other options.  Wilhelm interrupts me and tells me that I’m wrong, and that purple Orangatangs are the best wheels for sliding, and that’s that…He read it on the aforementioned skate website.  Then, the kids started arguing over bearings.  I just gave up trying to give them cheap options by that point, so I showed them the most expensive bearings they had…again, Wilhelm chimed in (once again, citing the skate website) and saying that these other bearings (Bones Super Reds) are the best.  By this time, I was extremely irritated at this kid’s know-it-all attitude, but I wanted to give Esposito what he wanted, so I bit my tongue and kept working.  I told the kids that I was a frequent visitor to the site, and that the bushings on Esposito’s trucks weren’t the best…One more time, Wilhelm corrected me saying that I didn’t know what I was talking about, the skate website was wrong in this case, he had the trucks, and the bushings were AWESOME!  I couldn’t take the stupid anymore, so I just hunkered down and kept assembling the board.  Then, old Wilhelm dropped the biggest nugget of idiocy I have seen at the skateshop to date.  He specifically called out the skate website by name (named after a common household pest; see the tags of this post if you’re still stuck) by saying “Loaded boards are the best.  People who hate on them on S********h are just jealous because they can’t afford the best board, and I can.  They haters say they’re too expensive, but they’re just jealous.”

I nearly shat myself right then.  It was all I could do to not blow up at Wilhelm’s supreme idiocy, so I just gritted my teeth, smiled at the kids,and handed Esposito his board, sending them on their way with a “Have a great day!”

I know as a shop clerk, the customer is always right.  But that doesn’t mean I have to bend at the whim of every customer.  Yes, they’re right in that they know what they want in a board; it’s not on me to convince them otherwise.  It’s my job to get them the board they want, and the board they’ll have the most fun on.  And yes, Esposito and Wilhelm really wanted a damn Loaded…for the name and presumed prestige.  But, it really bugs me how unreceptive some people can get when presented other (better, cheaper) options, especially when I can physically prove right then and there in the shop that the alternates are better and/or cheaper.  Thanks again for letting me rant, internet.  I really appreciate it.