It’s not you, it’s me. That classic break up line may work for romance, but what about when it comes to that all-important relationship with your sales associate, whether Hermès, Chanel, or another brand. As in amorous entanglements, it’s even more difficult when you want to hook up with his/her friend.
In other words, how do you switch sales associates (SA’s) within a boutique? Frankly, the answer isn’t clearcut, even to us, and it is fraught with interpersonal and corporate considerations. As we examine the topic, however, keep in mind these factors: how long you’ve been “with” the SA and why you want to switch.
So many times, the selection of a SA isn’t a selection at all, but rather a matter of happenstance and availability. Think back to your first venture into the store. Someone (finally) approaches and says: may I help you? Perhaps you make your first purchases or ask to be notified about a specific item. You get their card and contact information. Are you bound to that SA? No. It’s not even a first date. You just met at a bar. Move on.
Of course, if you hit it off and want to continue with that SA, go ahead. Perhaps consider whether they are new to the store and/or the brand as it may affect their clout and allocations. Are you dating up and out of your league lol?
Conversely, they may be eager to build a satisfied clientele list. If you like the match, find out their days on and off. Visit. Contact them – but not too much; you don’t want to be a stalker. Build a relationship slowly but surely. Purchase what you desire. And let the SA know your future wishes.
However, do recognize that these sales associates work with hundreds if not thousands of people. You are unlikely to leap to the top of their relationship and priority list immediately (unless you are a VVIP, in which case you can always just do what you want). They have customers they have worked with for years, with large established purchase histories.
And in the lucky case where you immediately connect, get to know each other. A sales associate wants to sell. The corollary is that it is difficult to tell a customer I can’t give you that (or that you can’t buy it, even if the person on the other side of the store can).
Where it gets tricky, no doubt, is after a period of time and the relationship is pretty well established. When you enter the store, the other staff know who you work with and locate them. Hopefully, however, you also are acquainted with these people, as well as the store manager. After all, how can you select another SA if you don’t know the options! So, always be friendly and chat with everyone.
Moreover, knowing the other sales associates helps you in the event your SA leaves. In relationship terms, you may be ghosted. Trust us, it happens and can occur on repeat. You walk into your boutique, ask for your SA, and are told they are gone without forwarding information. While we may think it wonderful to work for Hermès or Chanel, it is a job and people have other lives and aspirations.
All of which brings us to the really big question: what do you do when you want to switch sales associates? Presumably, you are not moving on to another brand or even another store. As a result, your action likely will be known to your SA and others in the store. Awkward to say the least.
One simple solution is to go to the store on your SA’s days off. It’s not perfect, as schedules do change, but avoidance without an aggressive switch may be more comfortable. Generally speaking, others in the store should be happy to assist you. However, those visits aren’t likely to lead to quota offers.
Which raises squarely the issue of why you want to switch SAs. If you’ve been offended, berated, or the like, don’t stick around. No one should be treated that way. Your SA may even be relieved to have you move on. But, be realistic. Are you overly sensitive or with extreme expectations? If your SA said,”I’m sorry but I have appointments the rest of the day and cannot help you. Please make an appointment for another time”. . . you should accept that and not feel offended. Much like the people in the rest of your life, they cannot drop everything for you.
When your concern is that you don’t have access to the items you want, for example quota bags or special orders vis-a-vis Hermès, moving to another representative may not be the answer. It may seem bizarre, but Hermès has its own system for allocating handbags and you may not “qualify.” A better solution could be to ask your SA to introduce you to the Store Manager or Director and have a discussion among the three of you about how you can get what you want. In this instance, think of it not as a threesome, but rather as corporate politics.
Following that introduction (or whenever you meet the Manager/Director), you could have a private conversation about recommending a different associate for you. It’s risky and could backfire, particularly if they team up with the Associate team against you (subconsciously). Yet, with a strong relationship to the Manager, making the switch might be easier and they could take responsibility, aka shifting resources.
Although not directly on point, consider whether the situation is one where boutique staff feel you are not loyal to that particular store, not just an associate. We are aware of situations where customers have been chastised for doing this and effectively blackballed from receiving quota items.
No doubt, shopping at Hermès is not like a trip to the grocery store. On the one hand, we must remember its items are luxuries, not necessities, no matter how much you ‘need’ that Birkin. Sales associates are there to maximize sales, following whatever rules Hermès dictates. While you are the customer (whether or not always right), be reasonable and respectful. You can hate the game, but be nice to the players.
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Updated: May 14th, 2022