Hampton Lintorn Catlin
Hampton Catlin is the co-founder and CEO of Wordset, an online collaborative dictionary, and rarebit. He is also the inventor of Sass, Haml, and m.wikipedia.org . He's the founder of the libsass project and the author of "The Pragmatic Guide to Sass." He was formerly mobile lead at the Wikimedia Foundation and CTO of Moovweb, helping large companies build better interfaces.
Also, my husband, Michael Lintorn Catlin, has a blog you should checkout if you want to follow what we're up to, non-professionally.
"Sorry, no drinks allowed!"
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Its a chilly day out, you just got yourself a hot latte and you are about to go into a store and do some shopping. A burly security guard comes up to you and says, “Sorry, no drinks allowed. You’ll have to keep that outside.” You look around in abject horror. Is there a trash can nearby? Can I set it on a table? Do I want to sacrifice this drink? Am I in trouble? Are people looking at me? My response has usually been to walk out the moment I realize that I am there to determine if I’d like to voluntarily give them money.
This just happened to me today at a store that just opened next to where I work called Clement Joscelyne. It is a furniture store and me and my husband were on the hunt for some high-end furniture. That is to say, we were their best customers at that moment; people with money to spend. I was a heat seeking missile of “I need a coffee table.”
However, I was turned back at the door by the burly security guard you can see in the picture above. I was a customer ready to spend and I’m basically kicked out by a security guard. Of course, he didn’t think of it as kicking me out, but no alternatives were given. If there isn’t a table to put drinks on, then you are effectively kicked out. Its embarrassing, weird, humiliating, and stressful. And, Clement Joscelyne made sure that those feelings were my first impression of their brand and store. When I think of their store, I think of humiliation and rejection.
A good retail (and consumer) experience is one of acceptance and improvement. “You can be like us.” Think of your favourite store. How does it make you feel to buy something there? Do you feel like you are joining a club? Do you feel like you’re improving yourself? Do you feel welcome and happy? Of course you do! That’s the whole point of modern retailing. Its no longer about snobby eliteness, its about being welcoming and cool. Starbucks and Apple are the kings of this kind of brand experience. There is a secret language at Starbucks that you have to use and the staff help you speak it. Its like a fun, warm, upper-end club to be part of. The message is: “Don’t worry. Give us your money and you can be cool too!”
The Apple Store, Hugo Boss, Bose, Harrods, Bloomingdales, and many more have never bothered me about having a drink. But, Clement Joscelyne totally alienated me. When I’m going to spend my pound, I’m going to go someplace that makes me feel cool instead of feeling like they consider me an untrustworthy child.
If they are so alienating, why do these policies exist? Its a simple fear of monetary loss from people who spill drinks on items and then don’t pay for them.
Let’s do some theoretical math for fun. I’d say that in an up market area, only 20% of people who did damage to an article would not be willing to pay to replace it. And, lets say that 1% of the time, someone spills their drink. And after that, I’d say its only 30% of those cases where it actually hits something that stains/damages. So, we’ve calculated for every customer that comes in with a drink, there is a 0.06% chance that they’ll cost the company any money.
If the % of customers who purchase an item isn’t higher than that, then you have a problem drinks or no drinks. How many items would the (assuming 15 drinks a day) 5,400 people you have bought? How many items get spilled on in a year? I assume only a couple.
Plus, its not just the 15 a day. There are indirect effects from those 15. A bad brand impression spreads much faster than a positive one.
I am very certain that Clement Joscelyne had a rash of spills in their flagship store that caused them to institute the policy. However, my arguement is that they are doing wayyyy more damage to the brand than those damaged items could have cost. You can’t treat customers like children and you can’t have their first impression of your store being such a strongly negative feeling. They lost my sale and have made an unhappy customer.
Let’s hope Clement Joscelyne changes their policy or at least provides a table for drinks. Or they very well may end up yet-another-closed-furniture-chain.