Sofa Shopping: A Tale of Desperation, Disinterest, Frustration and Hope

Adam Hankinson, Managing Director at Furniture Sales Solutions, shares a story of Sarah and John searching for their perfect sofa.

Sarah and John did their research online before heading out to buy a sofa. They were determined to find the perfect one with the right style, colour, and comfort. They came prepared with spec sheets and a Pinterest board but were worried about the possibility of pushy salespeople.

As they walked towards the first store, they saw 5 salespeople grouped together looking at them through the large windows. They were stood slightly to the right as Sarah and John, now anxious, entered the store and (unsurprisingly) turned left. One of the salespeople shouted “Morning guys!”. Sarah and John thought they heard a titter of laughter, they weren’t laughing at them, were they? As they tried hard to avoid eye contact with the group, they heard another cry “Give us a shout if you need any help.” John thought “Yeah right, but at least that sounds like we’re going to be left alone.”

Undeterred but slightly nervous, Sarah and John wandered through the bays trying to match the models on their list with the ones on display. Suddenly, somebody appeared right behind them “Can I help you?” “Err no, no thanks we’re just looking.” (This response is automatic in 95% of customers).

Now more edgy than ever and with male pride in the way John felt he couldn’t now ask for help even though he knew he needed it! As they tried out various models, they were conscious of numerous sets of eyes staring at them like prey on the Serengeti. “Let’s go,” said John. Was that another titter they heard on the way out?

They entered the next store frowning nervously (there were 7 furniture stores on this retail park, but thankfully they couldn’t see any staff this time “Phew!”, they relaxed. They took their time to try things out, discussing what they liked or didn’t like about each settee; “I wonder if they do this in other sizes”, “I don’t like that colour of feet”, “I wonder what this fabric’s like with kids?” They were getting some good ideas.

20 minutes had gone by and Sarah was looking for some help. She saw a glass office with two people inside, busy working on their computers. Sarah waited… and waited, “Where are the staff?” she whispered to John. John walked over to the office and knocked on the door. After a couple of minutes, a frowning lady opened the door and asked “Can I help you?” “Yes, please we’re interested in some sofas is there anyone that can help us?” “Haven’t they come over to you? I’ll put a call out for them.” The office door shut as the lady leaned over to speak over the tannoy “Sales to the shop floor customers waiting!” She barked.

John walked back to Sarah rolling his eyes at her. A couple of minutes later a salesperson, still chewing and wiping his mouth with a tissue came over, “Can I help you?” He smelled of a Ginster’s steak slice (other brands are available) and cigarettes!

To say he appeared disinterested was an understatement and why wouldn’t he be? His lunch was going cold and it had been dead all week anyway. Dulled by the obvious lack of interest John and Sarah left. They shook their heads in disbelief as they left the store “unbelievable.”

Store three was another national retailer, they entered with trepidation. The store looked tidy and bright and had some customers and staff interacting, there felt like a bit of a buzz. They pulled out their pictures. “Good morning” smiled a friendly-looking young woman. “Welcome to our store, just to let you know we have a special offer today that means some additional savings for you. My name’s Hope by the way. I see you’re looking for some particular styles let me point you in the right direction.”

For the next 30 minutes, Hope asked some great questions, listened carefully, demonstrated and explained various options and choices, learned all about Sarah and Johns’s busy lifestyle and made recommendations that made perfect sense to them, things they’d never thought about. They laughed together and she even made them a lovely cappuccino just as they liked it. The difference in experience was incredible.

Hope had done a brilliant job but it was lunchtime and John needed to eat before he felt he could make a final decision. They left but promised to be back.

After a quick lunch and a couple more disappointing store visits, they burst back through the doors of Hope’s store even more delighted to see her than she was to see them, they all beamed at each other, “We said we’d be back”, “I hoped you would” smiled Hope.

That night Sarah and John couldn’t stop talking about how brilliant Hope had been.

The following week Sarah was meeting her group of five friends for lunch – she told them all about Hope. Within the next six weeks, two of them had bought sofas from Hope. A few weeks later John’s mum and dad bought their new sofas. Have a guess who from?

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