Luxury Retail Brands Should Never Be Rude...No Matter What The Survey Says

snob customer serviceLuxury retailers can sell more by having rude salespeople?

I was shocked to read that was the case on RetailWire the other day.

It seems two Canadian researchers got a lot of coverage by purporting that being rude was back in in some of those old black and white movies where women wore gloves and put up with snobby salespeople.

Retailwire reported, “At least at luxury stores... the study found snobby associates reinforce the reputation of high-end, posh labels as privileged for the social elite.”

There is no evidence that those who took the survey were actually part of the target market of a luxury brand.

Or beyond that, that they had actually had that kind of snobby service and spent their own money in spite of it.

Here’s how we are told the survey went…

Participants were instructed to rate their feelings about the brands and their desire to make a purchase after different types of interactions — both real and imagined — with sales representatives.


But wait, there’s more…

According to CTV, co-author Darren Dahl has dubbed the phenomenon the “Pretty Woman Effect” after a scene in the Julia Roberts film where her character is insulted at a posh boutique.

Dahl went on to say that his research was inspired by a similar situation where a rude employee gave him the cold shoulder as he tried to buy cologne.

“Irked by her behaviour, Dahl opted to buy two bottles instead of one. ‘I wanted to show that I did belong in the store and I could afford it,’” he is quoted as saying.  So I guess he came up with this survey to prove his behavior was normal.

I probably wouldn't have given this too much time except all the media headlines it has generated like these:

  • Snobby treatment in high-end stores can boost sales

  • Being rude helps when selling luxury brands.

  • Snobby' staff can increase sales in high-end stores, study finds

  • Snobby staff can boost luxury store sales, study finds

Some of your store managers are going to see these stories and wonder if they should be rude or worse, think those headlines justify being a jerk to your customers.

OK, for the record, it doesn't.

See also, Best Suggestive Selling Tips and Techniques for Luxury Retail Stores 

My View

It’s funny to watch those 1940’s movies with Frank Pangborn as a fussy salesclerk... you know the snobby guy with the tiny moustache and disapproving glare in those Preston Sturgis comedies...

But it’s 2015…

If you are a luxury brand, you can’t take this survey to heart.

If anything, rudeness now covers a lot more than it did even five years ago. And now, that behavior that might have seemed innocuous before would probably be seen by more than a few as rude.

A luxury store is about access.

A luxury store is about a lifestyle.

A luxury store is about building ambassadors.

Luxury is about a lot of things.What luxury isn’t about is some abnormal behavior that says the worse you treat a customer, the more they will give you their money.In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

Personalized, engaged customer service is the norm, not the exception.

Having given luxury sales training to some of the most exclusive brands including Hearts on Fire and Omega I can tell you, no one would dream of treating their exclusive buyers with anything but kid gloves.

One more thing

I guess the researchers didn’t watch the whole scene, Julia Roberts’ character walks out of the store without buying a thing!

Let exclusivity show in the merchandise you select, the people you hire, and the store environment you showcase them all in.

But don’t be rude about it...Remember to share this post with your associates and your networks.

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