Hidden Camera: Vanessa Lee goes undercover
Published Tuesday, November 17, 2009 5:12PM EST
We decided to go shopping with a hidden camera to see what kind of service we would get. My cameraman wore a button camera that blended into his shirt. It had to be worn at a perfect angle to capture the right images.
We were worried people would be suspicious (He had to stand still and basically appear as though he wasn't staring) but then again - why would anyone think we have a hidden camera on us?
We wanted to see how long it would take for people to greet us, offer help, and how friendly/knowledgeable they were.
Straightening shelves, not serving customers
Here were some of our experiences on a Wednesday afternoon:
- We went into a busy accessories store, and walked around for 15 minutes. Nobody said 'hello,' nobody asked if we needed help the entire time we were there. We deliberately looked at items that sales clerks were standing next to; we even followed one around for a few minutes to see if she would offer help. The staff seemed to be more concerned with straightening shelves than helping their customers.
- The next store we went into was a small clothing store. Nobody said hello when we walked in. After ten minutes of browsing, I asked my cameraman to hand me a coat (it was too high for me to reach). That's when a salesperson came to help us. I asked if there was a smaller size; he said 'no' and that was it. He didn't offer to show me any other coats, so we left.
- I was casually dressed that day, and certainly didn't look like I belonged in a high-end women's clothing boutique. We went in anyway, and as I expected, didn't get a lot of attention. The sales lady was having her lunch at the time, so she didn't even get up. After a few minutes of being the only people in the store, she said to me, "You're just browsing, right? You don't need any help?" No, I guess not.
Magazine reading and saying 'hello'
- In another women's clothing store, the sales lady was sitting at a desk reading a magazine. She looked up when we walked in, but didn't say anything. I deliberately stood by the jewelry counter the entire time we were in the store, which was about 10 minutes. She never left her desk once, or offered any help.
- There were two young men working in a men's clothing store we went into. They were sitting down on chairs in the middle of the store. One of them got up and said 'hello' when my cameraman got within five feet of him. The other stayed sitting, and didn't say anything, smile, or offer help. You won't see this in my series because it turns out the button camera moved out of place, and as a result, both sales clerks were out of frame.
- In a women's clothing store, we were greeted as soon as we walked into the store. I was admiring a suit jacket to see how long it would take for one of the three sales clerks to offer help. It took 12 minutes before anyone came up to me. I found out my size wasn't available. She didn't ask if I was looking for anything specific, and didn't show me any other suit jackets.
How to get the 'wow' factor in customer service
Now, we did go into a few other stores and had more positive customer service experiences, but of the 20+ stores we visited over the span of a couple of days - not one "wowed" us. I learned the quickest way to get service is to ask for it.
To be fair, some businesses don't want their staff to be too aggressive, but from our experiences it didn't seem like many sales clerks were that interested in making a sale.