How to deal with salespeople who work on commission?
January 27, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

What is the etiquette of dealing with commission (commissioned?) salespeople?

When buying a household appliance or other item sold by salespeople who seem to work on commission, what is required/expected? Do I need to give my sale to the first person who approaches me? What if I want to look around first or come back later after doing research? If a salesperson is not in the next day but urges me to call their cell phone, do I need to do so? Frankly, this sales system makes me uncomfortable; any tips are appreciated.
posted by Morrigan to Shopping (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The tip is that you're the one spending the money, and you're the one buying the item, and you can take as much time as you like and deal with whichever salesperson you want to.

These folk have got themselves into stinking jobs where they make extra income often by being rude, pushy and borderline dishonest. And if you decide to leave and come back later, they'll just swoop on the next customer down the aisle and try to make a sale to them instead. It goes with the territory.
posted by Jimbob at 5:51 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

deal with the person who is most helpful to you.

if they are not there when you need to return to the store - tough.

you do not owe anyone anything - you are the customer, you are buying from them, you have the money, you have the power in this balance. Just treat salespeople kindly.

Sales personnel owe you professional service, an honest listing of the features and benefits of the product that you are looking for, take your order, and should act as first point of contact for any questions or issues upon delivery. That is all.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:51 PM on January 27, 2008

A clerk at Bank of America tried to do this to me. I went to open an account, but didn't have the required ID, so I offered to come back tomorrow. She said, "I'm not in tomorrow, come back the day after."

I said "Uh huh."

I went back the next morning and she didn't get her commission, tough.
posted by BeaverTerror at 6:02 PM on January 27, 2008

You 'owe' your custom to the person who gives you the best price in conjunction with the least amount of BS; nothing more.
posted by Pinback at 6:06 PM on January 27, 2008

Commission only sales people will try to make you feel like they are doing you a big favour in order for you to return the favour.
posted by mattoxic at 6:21 PM on January 27, 2008

Think of it this way: why should you make an extra phone call just to buy a toaster? They hoping you call, of course, but it's not required. When I bought my car a few months ago the guy said he didn't work on Saturdays. Turned out I was only able to pick it up on Saturday and you know what? He showed up.
posted by rhizome at 6:28 PM on January 27, 2008

It depends on what you're buying and what you need. I spent a couple of years as a commissioned salesman (computers). After having done the job, my expectation is this: if someone gave you value, try to give them your business. Their ultimate job is to help you solve a problem. Even if they solve your problem exactly, they only get paid if you buy something from them. If you take advantage of their knowledge and then buy it elsewhere, you've really shafted them.

If they don't actually give you anything of value, then you owe them nothing and can freely buy anywhere you need to.

If they're actively rude or pushy, but you still want to buy at that location, physically walk to another salesperson and start your transaction over. Keep doing that until you find someone you like and who will help you in a way you want to be helped. If you can't find that, go to another store.
posted by Malor at 6:36 PM on January 27, 2008

BTW, a lot of the reason you can't find good help in stores anymore is precisely because of this... the talented people who actually can help get shafted regularly by people who take advantage and then go down the street because it's five dollars cheaper.

If you wanted talented help, you have to pay for it. Otherwise the talent will go where the pay is better.
posted by Malor at 6:37 PM on January 27, 2008

Dammit, I should always preview. "If you wanted" should be "If you want".
posted by Malor at 6:37 PM on January 27, 2008

There's a kind of stuffy, pretentious jerk a the shop where I bought my camera -- he waited on me one day, when I was just looking. when I came back in to buy, I still needed to do some comparison, and knew I was going to take up a bit more time, so I made SURE to just mill about until he was ensconced with someone else, then conclude the deal with one of his colleagues who was very patient, nice and helpful. I've bought a few more accessories over the last year, and have made sure to give the business to the guy I liked, and not the snooty know-it-all. I don't think there's really an etiquette -- it's their sale to make or lose, though you might go out of your way if you feel like a salesperson has been more helpful or nice than ordinary.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:49 PM on January 27, 2008

you give the sale to whomever treats you best, with a heavy emphasis on the first guy. if one guy put in all the effort, you left and came back a week later, it would be pretty bad not to ask for him to make the final sale. on the other hand if all he did was walk you over to that area of the showroom and then leave you on your own then you owe no loyalty. put yourself in their shoes.
posted by caddis at 6:53 PM on January 27, 2008

If a salesperson is helpful and provides a valuable service, then you should do the right thing and make an effort to give them the sale. If you don't, you are depriving them of income for a service that they have already performed. One that they performed with the good faith expectation that you will buy from them if you choose to buy the item in question. Going to a different salesperson after using one person's expertise and time is really no different then tipping a random waiter rather then the one who served you.

Of course, you don't have to bend over backwards to buy something from them. But the more expensive an item is the more you should be willing to do. For example, if you are buying a two thousand dollar refrigerator and the salesperson spent an hour with you discussing options, giving seemingly good advice, etc., then a simple phone call does not seem to be unduly burdensome. Remember that a salesperson may not get more than one or two big ticket sales a week, maybe less. On the other hand if you're buying a fifteen dollar memory card, or no one spent more than 10 minutes with you, then you can pretty much buy from whomever you want.
posted by oddman at 7:08 PM on January 27, 2008

In many (I always assumed most?) stores salespeople have a shared sense of self-government regarding commissions. If someone helps you pick out a shirt, but is busy when you go to ring up, the cashier will often ask you who helped you. Unless the person's a real scumbag, they probably won't dick over a coworker. And if he or she does so often, she likely won't get help from coworkers in return. They seem to have their own system anyway, so you shouldn't worry about it too much.

If you've gotten something out of the exchange, like Malor said, maybe take an extra minute to ensure the right person gets the commission. But it's their job to worry about that stuff, not yours.
posted by aswego at 8:25 PM on January 27, 2008

What oddman said. It's good manners to reward the person who helped you. Key word being "helped". If the person was overbearing and shady, screw 'em. I would also agree that calling someone's cellphone because they aren't working is a bit much, unless you're talking something large and expensive.
posted by white light at 9:35 PM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: Morrigan: I imagine most of this advice hasn't been helpful to you. I know I don't find it very worthwhile. I'm a sales guy (albeit a phone sales guy) so maybe my view is a little colored, but here's my perspective:

Ignore it. Ignore the whole system. A store ought to function as though it didn't exist, and a good salesperson won't let the system show in her or his sales. Walk into a store, look around at what you like, buy something if you're planning on buying it. Make eye contact if you need to, but don't think to yourself, "gee, this guy is working for a living, and my money is what will pay his bills." And for god's sake, don't think about rewarding or punishing salespeople. It's silly and stupid; they're just human beings like you.

Their job is this: to show you something, and to take your money if you decide to buy it. They get a paycheck every second friday just like you (I imagine) and when it comes they certainly won't be thinking about you and whether or not you bought from them. Every sales person deals with the "crap, somebody else got that sale" thing just about every day, and if they're not used to it, they will be soon.

No, you don't need to call their cell phone. No, you don't need to come right up to them when you come back. Do what I do when I'm buying something from sales guys: act like you don't even know that the system exists. Act aloof and pleasant, and have nothing but the thing you want to buy and whether it'll be good for you in mind. The chips will fall where they may. It's his job to make sure that he's in the right place when they do, not yours.
posted by koeselitz at 10:51 PM on January 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

koeselitz, if you don't make an effort to reward the good salespeople, they will go into other fields, and you'll be stuck with the jerks.

They tend to go anyway, but the better they do, the longer they stay in that field, and the more you and other people can take advantage of their knowledge.

As someone said up above, ignoring how your service people get paid is like tipping the wrong waiter/waitress. Deliberate blindness like that is doing a deep disservice to folks who are, at least sometimes, genuinely trying to help you.
posted by Malor at 11:06 PM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: As a former commission salesperson, I completely agree with koeselitz. Sure, there are good guys and bad guys, but that's their world, and it only affects you if they're discussing their drama on the sales floor.

I'm a friendly person, and when I worked in sales I would walk around and whether each person was being helped or needed anything. Usually customers told me if another salesperson was working with them. Occasionally misunderstandings occurred, and tempers would flare, but that's just the business.

Take care of yourself and go with your gut in the moment.
posted by mynameismandab at 11:16 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

That, right there, is precisely why it's so hard to find anyone in sales that knows what the hell they're doing. "Going with your gut in the moment" means that the wrong people get paid.
posted by Malor at 2:07 AM on January 28, 2008

In certain product situations, (cars, high-end clothes, cigars, real estate) salespeople may be able to help you negotiate a lower price or provide you with access to products sold in limited quantities below the level of demand for the price. In those kinds of cases, building a relationship with a salesperson may be in your interest. I've even seen this being the case at Mens Wearhouse. When I went to a store in VA and had a relationship with a salesperson I got better service than when I went to another branch elsewhere and didn't (free pressing with while you wait rather than overnight turnaround, help speeding tailoring through the line, etc.). Heck, the guys who sell books on the street at Broadway and 72nd streeet know me by sight and give me better service than they would otherwise. But I go with the above and say if someone's rude you don't owe them anything, but it's to your benefit to build relationships.
posted by Jahaza at 3:02 AM on January 28, 2008

Just go to the counter person and say that you wish to purchase an X and would like it put through under blah blahs name.

Or do you need them because they offered you a discount? Call him, ask him to write it up and leave it with the counter person to just put it through, when you come in. If that can't be done than just forget it. If something that simple it too hard imagine the BS if you actually had a problem with it down the track.

If you feel guilty then there's something amiss. You're being manipulated.
If you feel they just deserve the sale, it shouldn't be hard to have it credited to them? As they have already done all the work and any fool can take the money and hand you a receipt. Too easy.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:33 AM on January 28, 2008

For big-ticket item like a fridge, if someone is quite helpful, but you don't complete the sale that day, use their name when you complete the sale. In many places, the commission will be shared. For very big-ticket items, like a car, the salesperson will very likely stay in touch with you.
posted by theora55 at 2:10 PM on January 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. To be clear, I would be happy to direct my sale to someone who had provided especially good or informative service. My question really concerned those situations where you walk in and do not really need more help than a non-commissioned salesperson would be expected to provide but the climate is obviously commission-sales driven.
posted by Morrigan at 4:03 PM on January 28, 2008

In commissioned sales, there is usually a catching order so all the salespeople get a relatively equal shot. So all things being equal, work with the person who approached you first. Same thing with phone calls. Auto parts stores were a lot like that. You call up, see if they have a gasket, and the guy says "ask for Brian when you come in". That's because it was his turn to answer the phone, and if he was helpful to you, he should get the commission.

So yeah, to reiterate what others said, the only real etiquette is to mention the name of the sales person(s) who gave you help when actually completing the purchase. Beyond that, don't worry about it.

Oh, and a salesperson is never going to give you a "deal". It's their job to make you think you're getting one. By definition, you're not going to get a below-market price at retail. What you pay is the market price. Because if there was someone else willing to pay more, they would have sold it already.
posted by gjc at 8:04 PM on January 28, 2008

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