Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Scene In Which I Am NOT Going To Be A Retail Florist

Recently, I had the opportunity to shine up my selling skills and host a small "shop" for my florist business during the Decorators' Show House. For two weeks and three weekends, I had the opportunity to interact with the people who came to the house.

For those who do not, and have not, worked in retail- may this post serve to educate.

For those who already operate successful retail businesses, this was my christening of sorts into that world. And yes, I can hear you laughing already.

Let me first start by saying that there were many nice people that I met, handed out business cards to, and who purchased merchandise from my area. And for that, I am grateful beyond words that my handmade products are considered worthy and valuable to people other than my mom and grandma.

And then there were these folks. In each interaction I will refer to them as PB (Potential Buyer).

To give you a slight bit of background on my booth - I am a wedding/special event florist. I relaxed my normal "no cash and carry" offerings to provide silk wreaths and decor, kalanchoe and azalea plants in potted ceramic planters, and a "Fresh Flower Bar" where people could pick out and take fresh flowers home in an arrangement I would make for them on the spot. That's it. That's what you've got to choose from in my area.

Customer 1:
PB (reaching out to touch, then squeeze, head of $2 rose right over the "DO NOT TOUCH" sign): Are these real?
Me: Yes, they are.
PB: Oh. I thought they looked too good to be fakes.
Me: Would you like me to make you a little bouquet to take home?
PB: Nope! (touching roses. touching daisies. touching all the flowers)(because darn it, if she's not taking them home, no one is!!) (seriously these crazies killed about two dozen roses this way).

That interaction happened about eighteen times a day, no exaggeration. I had SEVEN "DO NOT TOUCH" signs posted within a 3' x 3' area. Apparently FOR NO REASON.

Customer 2:
I look over (from about five feet away) to see this woman yanking flowers out of the Flower Bar (yep, the one with the DO NOT TOUCH signs all over it). Petals of other flowers she is destroying in the process are literally raining down on the floor.
Me: Can I help you make a bouquet?
PB: I want these flowers.
Me: Yes, that is great. Can you allow me to help make them for you? (aka STEP DOWN, CRAZY, you're killing everything in your path!)
PB: Well (yank) I just can't (yank) get these couple (yank) ones out without (yank) touching them, so I saw the do not touch sign (yank) but how am I supposed to get them otherwise?
Me: Ok, please stop. Please. Please let me help you not to damage any more flowers while we take those out for you.
PB: (Notices floral carnage) Oh. (Mercifully stops).
Me: Thank you. Now, what can I make for you?
PB: Well, I really just wanted this $1 worth of wax flower.
Me: ......................................(buries head in hands at sight of $20 worth of destroyed flowers).

Customer 3, 4, and 5 (through 8 million)
There was a lovely, if I do say so myself, silk wreath hanging in my booth. I'd used several high-priced silks to make it, and it was completely covered in large blooms, so the cost was $80. Not terribly unreasonable, given what it cost to create it. I also marked it down to $70 during the show. Approximately EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE touched, squeezed, shook, pulled on, and literally groped this wreath during the duration of the show. Here are just a few of them.

PB: This is lovely! How much? (I'd like to point out, the price tag was bright red and affixed to the wreath in a very obvious place.)
Me: Thank you. It's $80.
PB: $80! (Turns to her friend but continues to look at me, speaks in stage whisper) It's AMAZING how much they upcharge these!

PB: (Touch. Squeeze. Grope.) This is really cute. Is it really $10 marked down from $80???
Me: No, sorry, it's $70 marked down from $80.
PB: Oh.
PB: Well, I'd give you $10 for it.
Me: No. (Seriously? No.)

PB: (Touch. Squeeze. Grope.) I like this. Would you take less for it?
Me: Nope, sorry. 15% is a donation to the cause and the silks are high quality and cost quite a bit to produce.
PB: Ok. (Literally starts yanking at the blooms trying to pull them OFF the wreath).
Me: (Staring) Can you please not damage the wreath?
PB: (LOUD, IMPATIENT EXHALE) I'm just TRYING to figure out where you GOT these so I can go MAKE my own!!!
Me: Riiiiiiight....still, please stop damaging it.

The potted plants were also a high source of consternation. Apparently, once upon a time at another Show House, a landscaper offered large potted plants for your deck/steps and large potted hanging baskets for the home. I don't do that. Apparently I should.

PB: Where are you selling hanging baskets?
Me: I'm sorry, I'm not. That vendor is not here this year and I do not offer that service.
PB: (Staring me down)....Why NOT???
Me: I just don't. I'm a special event florist, it's not my specialty, I don't carry the supplies.
PB: Well, why NOT???
Me: Yeeeeeah. It's really just a "no."

PB: Are these potted plants?
Me: Yep.
PB: (To her friend, in another "stage whisper"). Remember when they used to have the NICE potted plants?
Me: Um, I can hear you.

PB: (Currently manhandling azalea plants with big "SOLD" signs around them)
Me: Can I help you?
PB: I'd like one of these azaleas.
Me: Those are sold, but I have two more of the same plants over here.
PB: (Sighing as if COMPLETELY weary of having to deal with SUCH incompetence): I KNOW. But I don't WANT those, I WANT these.
Me: Well, those are sold, but I have these two.
PB: I don't WANT those two. I want the ones that are SOLD.
Me: Yeeeeeeah, I'm not going to sell you those, they are sold.
PB: (SIIIIIIIIIIIIGH). Fine. (Flounces off).

Then there were the ladies who, inexplicably, treated all other shops as shops and my shop as a rest area/lunch spot/waiting room.

Me: (to a woman standing in my booth, staring at the fresh flowers, standing about an inch from me) Hi! Can I make you a bouquet today?
PB: (LOOK OF DEATH bears down on me) UM, I'm all-ER-GIC.
Me: Oh, sorry! We do have some silks if you're interested.
Her: (LOOK OF DEATH gets worse) Silks? Ugh. Silks are SO awful.
Me: Ohhhhkay, well, I don't know that there is anything here for you, then.
Her: (Condescending doesn't even begin to describe it) Well, NO, of COURSE there isn't. But I am WAITING on my FRIEND."
Me: "Riiiiiiight."

Me: (to a woman who has not only entered my booth, but has SAT DOWN in my chair and is leafing through her booklet): Hi, can I make a bouquet for you?
PB: (looking at me like I've just crawled out of the garbage heap): No? I'm just FILLING OUT MY BALLOT.
Me: Riiiiight, ok. (Continue to stand near her in her personal space so maybe she gets the hint).
PB: (Clues in to where she's sitting and what I've asked her. Looks at the flowers next to her and inquires scathingly) Did you mean with THESE??
Me: Guess not.

The discount ladies were another story altogether. Seriously, folks, it cost $20 to get into this event. It wasn't like it was some freebie off the street. These ladies treated the shops like they were a personal yard sale.

PB: I like that wreath. It's $60, right?
Me: Yep.
PB: Would you take less for it?
Me: Nope, sorry. 15% is a donation to the cause.
PB: Well, you know, it's the last day and all. I'm sure you'd rather sell it than take it home....?
Me: Nope. I'd rather sell it for $60. It's ok if it doesn't sell today, it's silk.

PB: Those flowers are nice. How much are the roses?
Me: Thanks! They are $2 each.
PB: Oh. Would you take $2 for two?
Me: No, sorry.
PB: What would you bargain on?
Me: Ummmmm.....prices are as marked.

PB: I think I'd like one of these $15 bouquets. How much are they?
Me: $15
PB: Oh. You're not selling them for less because it's the last day?
Me: No, sorry, that actually IS a discount from what they're worth.
PB: So what do they cost?
Me: $15
PB: Ok, but I'm a *insert membership in various organization here*. What does it cost for ME?
Me: $15
-blank stare-
PB: Um.....ok.

And that settles it, folks. If I had any aspirations of ever wanting to subject myself to this on a daily basis, I'd become a retail florist. My hat goes off to anyone with the ability to do this and NOT murder someone, 'cause I came close around the same time the nine thousandth person fingered that damn $70 wreath.

In closing, I want to thank the girls around me who shared in the incredulousness that was our PB's, and urge you to patronize their cool businesses!

Twisted Sisters
The Blue Door (65th & College)
Sew Divine
Periwinkle Paper and Home (on Guilford in Broad Ripple)
Ruth's Gifts (At Shows Only)
Friends (Hazel Dell Crossing in Noblesville)

I'd love to hear YOUR stories of retail craziness. Leave a comment and we'll publish some of our favorites!!


  1. Reading this reminded me of sitting in the baggage claim in an airport recently, and seeing a pilot walk up to the Starbucks and ask if they had "like, coffees with steamed milk". Some people have a keen grasp of the obvious

  2. lol- I'm sure the people in Starbucks have it the worst! I've definitely overheard some good lines there.