If you’re anxious about furniture shopping for fear of being hounded in the store, our experts give you tips on how to ask that sales rep to back off.
Steve Skone could feel a pair of eyes watching him. The Bothell, Wash., homeowner was not yet an Angie’s List member when he walked into the poorly rated Tukwila Ashley Furniture Homestore in Seattle. “The sales staff bombarded me,” Skone says. “One of the sales associates latched onto me and followed me throughout the entire store, which was very creepy.”
Skone says he needed to buy a dining room table set and knew the store had options within his budget, but never anticipated his every move would be scrutinized. “At first, I didn’t believe it was happening,” he says. “I would turn around, and the sales associate would pretend to be adjusting a display. Sure enough, I was being tailed. That was such a bizarre experience.” The Tukwila Ashley Furniture Homestore didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Shopping for furniture can be a daunting task, and finding a store with good customer service can make all the difference. Whether that includes a greeting at the door, being followed throughout the store or left completely alone — it’s kind of a dance between the customer and sales representative.
“We understand that each guest is unique — some prefer space to shop relaxed, some need help narrowing down their options, but in the end our goal is to help ensure each consumer finds the perfect piece for their home and family,” says Amy Hellebuyck, spokeswoman for La-Z-Boy. “We actually want our consumers to truly enjoy the shopping experience, so we take a low-pressure consultative approach.”
Please, go away
What if you’re in a store and the sales associate just won’t leave you alone? “Give them a little bit of communication,” says Wendy Scott, a sales consultant at highly rated Kittle’s Furniture in Indianapolis. “Tell them, ‘I’d prefer not to be followed, I just want to look around.’ Then ask for their name and let them know you’ll find them if you have any questions. That’s the perfect customer.”
Scott says shoppers need to speak up if they’re uncomfortable. “We’re used to some rejection — we’re OK with that,” she says. “As sales consultants, we can often tell when you walk in the door if you’ve been stalked by other companies. I can tell by your body language if you’ve had a bad experience.”
When a new customer arrives, Scott says she greets them and tries to ascertain his or her needs. “If they say they’re just looking, I respect that 100 percent,” she says. “We try really hard not to stalk our customers.”
In fact, Kittle’s offers shoppers a sticker to wear that states “I’m just browsing,” to ensure they’ll be left alone.
However, Scott admits if a customer hasn’t indicated that they’re just browsing, she does like to remain within eyesight.
“There’s really a fine line between being available and following the customer,” she says. “We respect and value each one of our customers. We’re there to offer our service and knowledge. Our goal is to guide you through the shopping experience and hopefully make it enjoyable.”
RELATED: Tips for buying furniture
Kevin Krasney, owner of highly rated Cole’s Appliance & Furniture in Chicago, says although his associates are instructed not to hover, he’s very familiar with the technique. “Stalking, is what I would call it,” he says. “I visit other furniture stores all the time to see what they have that might be new or interesting, and I’m stalked.”
But Krasney says, unlike most other furniture stores, his sales team doesn’t work on commission, relieving them of a must-sell mentality.
“I hold a very strong policy — when people come in, greet them, make sure they know my name, make sure they know they can ask me questions, but then let them walk around and do their thing,” he says. “I want my customers to feel completely comfortable.”
Krasney says his “no-pressure” sales tactic is the secret to his success. “Furniture is the kind of thing where people will look around at different stores,” he says. “So I let them look around, give them my card and I let them leave without pressuring them to buy. Nine times out of 10, they come back.”
Skone agrees that feeling comfortable in a store, with a particular sales representative, is key to a successful shopping excursion. “In the end, I learned I should always trust my senses,” he says. “If something doesn’t feel right, walk away. You’ll be happy you did.”