Author Topic: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?  (Read 6026 times)

Tris Prior

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Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« on: January 31, 2014, 11:01:00 AM »
So, I posted this question in another online forum and was sort of taken to task for it - one person actually asked me, "what, are you Mustachian or something?" Well, no, not yet, though it is a goal. :) So I figured I'd post it here where people are more likely to get what I am saying.

I have a job that I mostly really like, and my work just opened up a retail store. I work in the store occasionally, and do not enjoy that, but it's less than 20% of my overall job duties.

We sell wants, not needs, and while I believe in our products, I feel like people should be paying off their debt or saving for retirement rather than buying the sort of things we sell. This makes it really difficult for me to do things like upsell to customers – it makes me feel dirty and like I am doing them a disservice.

This is a small enough part of my job, which I otherwise really enjoy, that to me it’s not worth looking elsewhere. I am not commission based and we don’t have quotas or anything like that. It isn't a high-pressure environment. Though recently, our owner said something to the effect of "we should be able to take someone who wants to spend $5, and have them leave spending $25 and feeling good about having done so." I didn't say anything in that meeting because I know my co-workers are not frugal, but I wanted to say "why on earth would someone feel good about spending more than they intended?"

I’ve read about sales techniques that say things like, you’re not selling, you’re solving a problem your customer has. And I get that intellectually…. but again, I’m frugal personally so I have a hard time seeing the “problem” as an actual problem. Lack of nice art for your walls at home, or lack of the perfect accessory to wear to a party, is not a problem as far as I am concerned.

I am curious whether any of you guys are dealing with this in your jobs, and how you cope. I don't expect everyone to be mustachian but I am not cool with actively encouraging other people to be materialistic. (I hope that distinction is clear; I was flamed elsewhere for "dictating what I'm allowed to spend my money on, I am perfectly capable of putting money in my 401k and still buying things I want!")

My company isn't an evil corporate empire and my bosses and co-workers are not bad people, but they don't really understand mustachianism at all. And of course I want the company to do well and to keep my job. Can anyone help me reframe this in my head?

lackofstache

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2014, 11:13:46 AM »
I sell insurance. And securities. I'm an evil, evil man.

In reality I try to do right by my customers, to get them the thing that I offer that helps them the best or in some cases refer them to something better. Most people that come to me don't want to manage their own IRA's, they want someone to explain things to them. We have slightly higher fees than Vanguard, so I let them know there are options out there and that they are paying to utilize me as a resource, but depending on risk tolerance, generally steer them towards indexes, but some want managed funds. The same goes w/ insurance, especially life. I try not to sell permanent insurance unless it fits a need, but at the end of the day, I present options and if permanent insurance is what the client wants, I'm not going to deny them. I'd honestly rather see them buy a term and start retirement, even though I make less for that (significantly less). Not all sales people are evil. Not all sales are evil. If you're making money honestly, selling things people want, don't feel bad. Take the money and create the life you want. Then quit your job and let somebody else have a go.

catccc

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2014, 11:16:14 AM »
Just understand that not everyone wants to be mustachian, and that is okay.  You don't know your customer's personal financial situations, and even if you did, you aren't in a position to offer unsolicited advice.  For all you know, they are mustachian and FI and this spending want is built into their SWR.  Your job is to take care of yourself.  Unless you are selling loans, I say just go with it.

mlipps

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2014, 11:23:44 AM »
It's not exactly the same, but I work in a study abroad office. At this private university, there are few programs students may participate in where their institutional scholarships & grants can be applied. On top of that, I can see from students financial aid awards that my university, on the whole, is not coming anywhere close to meeting student's financial needs, so I see private loans for $10k all the time. Then, I read their evaluations when they return and see estimates of $2k, $3k, or even $4k in spending for a semester, even from students who are on a Pell Grant. Sure, the students bear some responsibility, but I do feel like we're doing many of them a disservice.

So what do I do? Well, long term, I won't be staying in higher education and this is a huge part of the reason why. In the short term though, I try to balance the demands of my job (promoting study abroad overall) with being very very transparent with students about costs and the value of participating. It still bothers me though, and I'm sure it always will. Really though, I think most positions contribute to consumerism in some way, yours is just unfortunately a bit more direct about it. 

meteor

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2014, 11:37:17 AM »
It's great that you ask these questions.

My first thought is that people get into the most trouble by borrowing for big ticket items (cars, boats).  If someone spends $5-$25 on a picture frame, it probably won't rock their world or change their financial situation, like being underwater in a house that is too big.

I too, made all my money producing a product, but the product was only $3 and made people happy (I still get happy letters from people).

Personally, I purchase art for my walls because I love it and it makes me smile everyday. It's not to impress others or make my house look good, it's because I feel good when I look at it.

But I don't own a lot of other things...pretty sparse house.  Your customers might also be like me: financially stable. We don't really know their motivation for buying it. Perhaps they are even going to give it to someone. 



Shor

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2014, 12:02:52 PM »
And here's the thing about being Mustachian:
You might be correct, from a financial, moral, and responsibility perspective. The customer might not really need what you're selling, but they are looking to spend money. You could either have them spend it here, at your company, where the profits trickle down to you the employees and producers and the workers, or they could spend it elsewhere and you get none of that pie.

It's not up to you to tell other people how they should run their life. That would be like a grey-morale person telling you to stop buying food so that the supermarket tosses it all out and everyone can eat it for free from the dumpster! Not your style, not your way of life, and not up to the other person to tell you what to do!

Take care of yourself. If you have people you care about, try to guide them toward your enlightened view,
but if I was non-religious I would also get irritated if a religious friend was trying to push their religion on to me.
Me: "No thanks, I'm happy with who I am and the decisions I make, and I'm not asking you to help me change that."

lifejoy

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2014, 12:35:17 PM »
When I worked retail, I helped people find what they wanted.

If they were looking for x, I helped them find x. If I thought y was better than x, I'd mention it. If I thought x could be found at a different store for better quality and cheaper, I'd tell them that.

I was lucky; I worked at a store that valued good customer service above the sale. In turn, customers appreciate the honesty.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2014, 12:43:02 PM »
When I worked retail, I helped people find what they wanted.

If they were looking for x, I helped them find x. If I thought y was better than x, I'd mention it. If I thought x could be found at a different store for better quality and cheaper, I'd tell them that.

I was lucky; I worked at a store that valued good customer service above the sale. In turn, customers appreciate the honesty.

I've worked in commissioned retail for 8+ years and this is more or less my philosophy as well. That said, if I can upsell someone without it being a BAD choice for them (functionally or style), godammit I'm going to upsell them. It's their choice whether to spend the money or not and, generally speaking, the more expensive item will last a lot longer (often it's a case of American/custom made versus Chinese imports).

I'm also very open about telling people if their budgets for projects are ridiculous, whether high (sometimes) or low (often, since home builders by and large are cheapskates).

Tris Prior

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2014, 12:55:43 PM »
It's great that you ask these questions.

My first thought is that people get into the most trouble by borrowing for big ticket items (cars, boats).  If someone spends $5-$25 on a picture frame, it probably won't rock their world or change their financial situation, like being underwater in a house that is too big.

That's true. Upon further thought, I feel less icky about someone who wants a product that costs $25, so they spend $25. The part that feels gross to me is when I'm told to take someone who wants to spend $5 and have them leave spending $25. I mean, yes, it's ultimately their call, but this whole upselling thing... ugh. Really, I am just not a salesperson at heart. This wasn't what I was hired to do... but it is what it is, and I'm being given other responsibilities so it's possible that eventually I won't need to do this because my other tasks take priority.

Tris Prior

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2014, 01:20:08 PM »
When I worked retail, I helped people find what they wanted.

If they were looking for x, I helped them find x. If I thought y was better than x, I'd mention it. If I thought x could be found at a different store for better quality and cheaper, I'd tell them that.

I was lucky; I worked at a store that valued good customer service above the sale. In turn, customers appreciate the honesty.

I like this philosophy a lot, actually.

huadpe

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2014, 01:21:09 PM »
I'm in a somewhat similar spot, but with numbers large enough to be a big deal for nearly all of our customers.

I work at a law firm that offers a service that is not strictly necessary for anybody.  We do patents for individual inventors and small businesses.  The total cost of a patent application will usually run about $6,000 to $15,000 depending what we quote (which is based on complexity), and how much argument we have to do in the patent office.

We do not offer loans for our primary service of preparing applications nor do we in fact take credit cards - if someone wants to borrow the money to do this, they'll have to do it outside our offices.  We do offer a payment plan on the initial preparation, and we are required to allow a client to be in debt to us for prosecution of an application.

For the majority of our customers, there is little chance they will see a remunerative return on their inventions.  I am up front about this with people, explaining that only a small minority of inventions make it to market.  Most potential clients are very sure of their own products / genius, and proceed anyway.  The small business clients I tend to find are much more level-headed about this than individuals - and also usually have better products.

I think we provide good services, in that we generallly get our clients the legal protection they're entitled to, and try to be frank with them about their prospects (normally we'll begin with a search to tell them if they have a shot of getting a patent).  But for many of them, they're pouring a lot of money into a gamble they really can't afford.

hybrid

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2014, 01:58:13 PM »
I'll be the outlier here.  See if you can find a different job.  I don't think you'll be satisfied working at a place that goes so far against your personal philosophy.  Encouraging people to spend frivolously will gnaw at your soul. 

Elaine

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2014, 02:22:43 PM »
When I worked retail, I helped people find what they wanted.

If they were looking for x, I helped them find x. If I thought y was better than x, I'd mention it. If I thought x could be found at a different store for better quality and cheaper, I'd tell them that.

I was lucky; I worked at a store that valued good customer service above the sale. In turn, customers appreciate the honesty.

This is what I did too. When I worked higher end on commission I had no problem selling pretty hard because I assumed (at the time, I wouldn't now) that anyone shopping with us had lots of money. Now I realize they were probably just in debt.

BPA

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2014, 02:33:11 PM »
I'll be the outlier here.  See if you can find a different job.  I don't think you'll be satisfied working at a place that goes so far against your personal philosophy.  Encouraging people to spend frivolously will gnaw at your soul.

This or simply do not upsell if you truly do not believe it's in their best interests.  If you get in trouble for not upselling, consider finding another job.

Personally, I want to clobber people who won't take no for an answer.

The little things do add up.  I was once in huge credit card trouble for that. 

yyc-phil

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2014, 03:06:57 PM »
I do not work in retail, but in my field of work, I am faced with similar ethics issues. In a nutshell, I have been a scientist and policy maker specialized in Arctic resource development for many years, and I have managed to maintain an excellent reputation for sticking to facts and evidence, rather than personal opinions or beliefs. Resource development companies, in particular the oil and gas sector in Alberta's tar sands, dream having people like me on their team, and have offered me obscene amounts of cash just to put my name on their environmental impact assessment reports and show up at public meetings to greenwash their public image and sell their products (exactly like a good retail clerk). While making that kind of money was admittedly very tempting, in the end my conscience won and I decided to remain in a neutral, but much less paying, role with a mining watchdog. I am happy with what I do even if it means making much less money. I have good friends and former colleagues who went to the other side, and they are telling me they are very happy with their career choices.

Tris Prior

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2014, 04:50:36 PM »
I'll be the outlier here.  See if you can find a different job.  I don't think you'll be satisfied working at a place that goes so far against your personal philosophy.  Encouraging people to spend frivolously will gnaw at your soul.

This or simply do not upsell if you truly do not believe it's in their best interests.  If you get in trouble for not upselling, consider finding another job.

Yeah, what sucks is that otherwise, this job is awesome, and has to do with a fairly niche interest of mine where there are not a lot of jobs to begin with. (not getting terribly specific to try and stay anonymous, though I don't think I have co-workers on here or anything). If I had to sell fulltime, then I'd be actively looking, but it makes up a small enough part of my job that I've opted to try and find ways to deal with selling.

So far we are not being pressured to upsell, just encouraged to. And there are actually cases where it makes sense to, if not exactly upsell, offer "do you want fries with that" add-ons. (as in, the add-on is actually helpful to the customer.)

Emilyngh

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2014, 06:45:36 PM »
For me, it would depend where I was in my life.   Unless we have no morals, we probably all compromise them at some point (whether we are self-aware enough to realize it or not).   As I get closer to FI, I see myself as buying my freedom to do this less.

For example, I don't buy all fair trade products.   This is a compromise I've decided is still worth it based on my current financial sitch, but I hope to be able to move beyond this.

I did, though, leave a soul-sucking job (research scientist) for a job that pays half for a number of reasons, one of which is that I felt like I saw the man behind the current and realized that the pure world of science was just as tainted by money, prestige, and bullshit as any other.   I now have a job that certainly has some bullshit, but where I can see some real tangible genuine effects of my efforts daily.   

Anyway, I don't think staying at my old job would have been unethical in a traditional sense, but I got to a point where I had the resources to choose something else that better aligns with my values, and I'm glad I chose the switch.   If you are in this place, I'd recommend getting out.   If you are not, then stay in until you are :)   

bikebum

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2014, 02:48:47 PM »
I used to work at Starbucks and we were told to up-sell: "How about a piece of coffee cake to go with your frappuccino?" I never did because I thought it was dumb, and as a customer it annoyed me when employees tried to up-sell to me. I never had any problems from not doing it. Not saying you shouldn't up-sell, maybe it's important for your job. I wouldn't feel bad as long as you're not too pushy.

I think unless most of society becomes Mustachian, most of us Mustachians will earn our money providing services and products that we wouldn't buy. I bet a lot of our investment returns come from stuff we think is wasteful. I don't feel bad because I think it is a personal choice and right to waste your money, haha, as long as you are not being tricked.

netskyblue

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2014, 03:11:39 PM »
I work in a luxury jewelry store.  And I kind of hate it, but that's related to things other than I think it's an industry that caters to a consumerist lifestyle (though that's part of it).  I'm not in sales, I do ordering.  There's no WAY I could sell.  Like right now, I have to call a company on monday to inquire after a $250 watchband.  A WATCHBAND.  For $250.  That the customer wants to see multiple samples, so she can choose which one she likes best.  There's no way I could look this customer in the face and not look at her like she's grown a third eyeball (as I did to the salesperson who came and asked me to make the call).

sheepstache

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2014, 07:11:37 PM »
Hold up.  Go back.  Someone on another part of the internet used the word "mustachian"?

In high school I worked at a place that sold fast food snacks and always did upselling.  If they bought 2, you asked if they wanted to buy 3 and save 30 cents.  Or if they bought 3, you asked them if they wanted to buy 4 and get the 5th one free.  I guess I didn't mind because so many people ended up saying yes.  So I figured they genuinely wanted the deal and just didn't know about it when they ordered.  And you always asked if they wanted a drink with that and most people said yes, like they were just waiting for you to ask.  It always grated on me when someone started, "Yeah, I need..." and it's like, no, you don't need any of the crap we sell here.  I guess the fact that the whole enterprise was based on over-priced carbs left me too jaded to begin with.


bikebum

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2014, 07:31:20 PM »
It always grated on me when someone started, "Yeah, I need..." and it's like, no, you don't need any of the crap we sell here.

This would happen a lot when I worked at Starbucks. It was often over-weight people that "needed" frappuccinos, with extra carmel sauce of course.

Tris Prior

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Re: Any Mustachians work retail, selling wants and not needs?
« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2014, 09:54:53 AM »
Hold up.  Go back.  Someone on another part of the internet used the word "mustachian"?


Yeah, I was pretty surprised too.