Retail Sales Report From The Mall: Customer Service On Life Support


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Updated February 6, 2024

I was in Vegas the week before Christmas. It was a cold-ish night around the dinner hour. The mall was anything but packed.

What struck me was how little retailers were even trying at customer service.

As a seasoned retail expert, I couldn't help but notice the glaring gaps in service that many stores exhibited, turning what should be a bustling holiday shopping atmosphere into a landscape of missed opportunities and disengaged staff.


Here is my retail sales report

When I went into Neiman Marcus looking for a particularly nice gift, I passed two cosmetics girls who didn’t even glance at me but continued to talk about their personal lives.

I entered their gift area, where a woman stood behind the counter. I looked around for about four minutes. It wasn’t until I was leaving that she shouted to my back, “Good evening, sir.”


At another department store, almost every employee I passed was looking down to their smartphones as shoppers walked by.

Sur La Table looked like a distress sale with signs for 30% off this and buy one get one free all over the place. The dinnerware I was looking at had a one-day sale sign.

I compared and contrasted. I looked to find someone to ask if they could ship. No one came over to help me. I heard no one talking, but a guy walked up to the front to fix a display as I was leaving.


I went into Macy’s, a store so crammed with merchandise and decorations that I couldn’t even see where the houseware department was or if they had such a department.

Next, I went into Nordstrom and got the usual zero interaction from two young guys on their smartphones chillin’ at the counter while I was looking at Robert Graham shirts.  Those guys also ignored a woman considering a Burberry coat while their one good salesman worked with a young couple.

I did find a great guy at the Robert Graham boutique down the way who recognized me from a few months before when I had purchased a shirt. He went to his computer, confirmed which shirt I had purchased, and showed me a few similar shirts.

That's smart.

Did I mention I had to run the gamut through the carnival barkers at this mall? “Hey, I really like your…(the kiosk attendant couldn’t say sweater, apparently)... Want a sample?”  

At another kiosk, a young woman shouted to me, “How about something for your girlfriend?”

Another accosted me, desperately trying to sell me a steam iron, another an iPhone case, another some-other crap.

Geez, are you all so desperate?

I walked into another luxury boutique where I expected an exceptional experience but was only greeted with, “Would you like a bottle of water?”

Really? That’s your opening line?  It’s winter. It’s 20 degrees. I could get something to drink in a million places in the mall. If it were August and you were in a strip center, maybe, but really? That’s the best you can do?

When I picked up my Hertz rental car, they offered a bottle of water at the booth. Are you no better than them?


Sorry retailers, practically all of you in that mall show that customers are not your concern.

How do you think customers feel when they experience such service?

  • You think you have time.
  • You think that we’ll wait.
  • You think that we are mesmerized by watching your untrained employees, bored out of their minds, lean on your counters and play with their hair.

Those of us who DO have money, DO want customer service, and DO expect our discovery experience to be fun won’t be buying anything from you.

And we won’t be coming back when we have these types of retail experiences.

But you’re probably decrying the death of the luxury shopper. Or saying that omnichannel is the only way forward. Or offering a loyalty discount program.  

How wrong you are...

Do you think we don’t notice your rotten attitudes, your one-person coverage, or how your chummy crew treats us as an inconvenience?

Oh, but we do.

Do you think your supervisors and managers don’t have to be on the floor watching all the time?

Do you think your employees will do fine on their own?

They can’t and they won’t.

Do you think customers are disposable and fickle?

You are so wrong.

If I get in my car and drive to your mall, your center, your store, you’d better respect the fact I did that.

If you work on the floor of a retail store, you’d better respect the fact it is something you have to work at.

It is not your living room where you can talk to your pals whenever you want.

Or that shoppers are there to entertain you and ask you to help them.

We’re not; you’re there for us. Be grateful.

Because I can tell you retailers…and I’m talking high-end luxury retailers in particular…you have been weighed and are left in the balance.

There’s no there there.

Is your marketing department, your social media, or your PR claiming cache, exclusivity, or personal service?

Don’t make me laugh.

  • You’re Walmart without Grandpa greeting me at the front.
  • You’re Kroger, and you're begging us to join your loyalty club.
  • You’re Dollar Days with your 40% off the entire store.

There’s nothing special about your merchandise or the people you’re letting define your brand.

How can a merchant remedy this grim retail sales report?

When it’s slow, you find ways to make it interesting, for Pete’s sake. When I was twenty, working at the Broadway department store in Glendale, I found a way to take out the remote-controlled car, play with it, and sell four units in two hours.

No one had sold even one in the prior three months.

Are there so many levels of management that no one sees what I see?

You think John Nordstrom or R.H. Macy, if either of them saw what I saw, would just shrug their shoulders. I doubt it. They’d be just as upset as me.

A lot has been written lately about consumers increasingly looking for experiences. Too many falsely believe this only means ziplines and thrill-seeking.

Shoppers want experiences in your stores.

Stop phoning it in  

Your shoppers are out there again. They might give you just one more chance before swearing off your brand forever.

Don’t screw it up.