Thursday, March 05, 2009

Yankees and Canuckleheads

Let's face it, Americans are very good at many things; count selling or merchandising among them.

Last week I visited two big computer-electronic stores: Future Shop and Best Buy. The two stores stand almost side-by-side, but I walked into Best Buy first. There was a door-greeter who told me where to go — in a very nice way — and as we meandered about, we were also helped twice by salespeople on the floor. It wasn't difficult to get their attention; Cuppa didn't even have to bat her eyelashes. However, when I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, we headed over to Future Shop where there was no door-greeter; neither was there anyone who felt urge to help us as we wandered about aimlessly. We soon departed — more than somewhat ticked off.

One strange thing about it is that, supposedly, Future Shop employees work off sales commissions, but Best Buy's people don't. Wouldn't one, therefore, expect those on commission to try harder? Another strange thing is that both stores are owned by the same company. At least they now are. The difference, in this writer's most humble opinion, is that Future Shop began as a Canadian company, and Best Buy has always been an American company. Therefore, they have different cultures, the American store emphasizing service and the originally Canadian one being more stand-offishly Canadian.

I remember Dale mentioning something similar when he was building a deck (I think that's what it was). He tried his best to do business with the Canadian, Rona, but was unable to make much headway. Rona simply wasn't as friendly, accommodating or competitive as the American, Home Depot. To be fair, Dale also rails against the American-style management of his former employer; no system is perfect, eh?

This isn't exactly a newly minted coin, for almost two centuries ago, Canadian author, Thomas Chandler Haliburton, created a character called Sam Slick. As his name at least partially suggests, Sam was a slick, door-to-door salesman: a Yankee salesman who preyed on humble Nova Scotians. To be sure, Haliburton was satirizing both Americans and Canadians in his short stories. Nevertheless, the American knew how to sell; he could even appear friendly ion order to accomplish this.

We used to live in a border town and were able to cross over fairly easily to Port Huron on the American side. I can recall the friendliness and helpfulness that I was offered in the American shops totally taking me aback — in a good way — although anything can be overdone, and sometimes one just likes to browse unimpeded. That was awhile ago, and since then, I have noticed that Canadian retaillers have generally improved customer service. However, in some cases at least, it appears that they/we still have a long way to go. Meanwhile, however, as in Sam Slick's era, Yankees can still teach Canuckleheads a thing or two about relating to their customers.


Jinksy said...

I'd like the best of both worlds, being left to browse, but then finding a 'know it all' sales person to bombard with questions. Fat chance!

Ruth said...

I do agree with you and also find sales people in America to be more friendly and helpful than the average Canadian retail employees. We go to Best Buy more than Future Shop (our daughters like their selection of DVDs) Actually, I tend to shop online whenever possible and the Best Buy online service is also very good.

Janet said...

We don't have Future Shop, obviously, but we've always had a good experience with Best Buy (except for the LONG lines at the return desk). I once spent 20 minutes making some poor sod explain to me what video cameras I could purchase that would still play the tapes from the old one. Then I didn't buy one. He was very sweet though.

Mary said...


I have always found American sales people to be courteous and friendly until our last trip to Florida. In one state, we stopped at a Walmart. The boys were looking for something and the sales person was rude and lazy. That was a first for me.

When I was young, I worked in retail and at that time you had to be customer service oriented or you were axed. When I started working at Clark's, which later became Gambles, you had three days to know where merchandise was in the entire store. I was instructed that if a customer asked me to help them find something, I was to take them to it and I'd better know where it was. Every clerk in that store did the same. Yet if we asked someone if we could help them and they said they were browsing we were instructed to allow them to do so freely.

Different days back then. My pet peeve is when I ask a clerk where something is and she stands there and points and says,"Over there." That's when the Irish comes out in me.

I detest Future Shop and we don't have a Best Buy, so I can't compare those two stores. The only time I go into Future shop is if the grandsons weedle me into taking them. LOL

Have a great day. Enjoyed your post.


Ginnie said...

Have you ever seen the Steve Martin film called "My Blue Heaven", AC?
It's very funny and points out how a tough New Yorker can't acclimate to small town USA pleasantries..."Have a good day" is definitely not in his vocabulary.

karla said...

Mark and I have talked about this, too. Especially after switching a satellite dish that is all American TV, and the commercials (wow the difference in the CTRC regulations) are so different in the states. Even infomercials. I don’t know...but one has to question that if we have so much government protection and subsidizing that, I don`t know maybe it hardly makes being competitive worthwhile.

Donna said...

What a Kind post!! You KNOW you two want to move to Texas...Some shops serve the men coffee while the wife shops....lolol...It's Still in the Far!!Hahaa..
I've never heard of Future Shop!hughugs

Anonymous said...

Your post certainly has me thinking. Personally I haven't noticed much difference in Future Shop or Best Buy... but I will tell you... I stopped shopping at Rona some time ago. Knowing its Canadian roots... I feel guilty at times.. but their lack of service was unbelievable.

Woman in a Window said...

MAN! Blogger is voracious today, eating comment after comment!

I said, i think Home Hardware rocks and that's Canadian! And that we's not so sma't all the time up here when it comes to making money. Isn't that charming?