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Good Biz Rule #1: Know Your Customer

By Dian Vujovich

It doesn’t matter what you’re selling—clothes, stocks, cars, wine, etc.—the first rule of successful selling is to know your customer. From there it moves into relationships like the one you create and share with that customer. The idea is obviously to keep your customers coming back whether they’re using Lawrence Moens real estate company, shopping at Marley’s, Saks, Target or Wal-Mart. It’s customer relationships from those last two stores that this blog looks at.

Once upon a time getting carded, as in asked for your ID to prove your age, used to be flattering. Think that was sometime between the ages of 21 to say 40-ish. Most of my women friends look pretty great for their ages even though they’re 20, 30 or 40 years past the age of 21 and definitely don’t look like they are 19, 20 or 21. Aging shows. That’s a real thing. And it’s the truth even if they’ve had “a little work” done. So when the young female cashier at Target asked me for my ID so she could ring up the bottle of wine I wanted to buy, I looked at her and said, “You’re kidding?”

“No, ” she explained she wasn’t kidding and that she couldn’t ring that bottle of spirits up until I showed her some identification to prove my age.

“You can see by looking at me that I’m old enough to buy this,” I say back to her all the while thinking that this is the most ridiculous policy I’ve ever heard. And nonsense to boot. To get that ID meant opening my purse again, digging around to find the right wallet, then the license— all to show this person—who could see with her own two eyes— that I wasn’t aged 21 or under. It was an absolutely stupid and unnecessary request.

So I asked to speak with the manager and asked her for a Target business card so I could write a letter to Target’s home office. To get a card, the manager had to go to the office and retrieve one. When she returned, the card she gave me had nothing on one side and only the Target logo and an 800 number on the other. No street address, no department name, no person to contact. Only the barest of bare minimum of information. Not a good thing for a store with the slogan, ” Expect More. Pay Less”.

(BTW, I did expect more and wasn’t paying less for this 750ml jug than I could have purchased had it been on sale at say Publix or ABC Liquors.)

While waiting for the manager to return with a Target business card, the cashier told me the reason why they had to card everyone was because, “You’d be surprised how many cashiers don’t ask and let under age people buy wine.”

I told her that was a management problem, as in internal management and training of their personnel problem, and shouldn’t be the customer’s problem. Everyone knows there is an age requirement for buying wine, beer and liquor. And that Target’s ridiculous show-me-your-ID policy no matter how old the customer looks, does nothing for creating good relationships or keeping customers coming back. I won’t buy wine there again.

Curious, I drove to The Dark Side, that’s what I call Wal-Mart, and bought some wine. The cashier there did not ask for my ID. However, a sign posted by the cash register basically said that Wal-Mart does have the right to ask customers under the age of 40 for identification. I guess people, cashier people, can’t see very well these days.

When companies don’t train their employees properly, everybody looses: The employee gets unnecessary grief for an incident that should have never happened had they been trained appropriately in the first place; the company suffers in name, reputation and/or revenue; and most importantly, the customer leaves unhappy—then talks about it.

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