Fries, Batteries, Warranties: Enough Already!

"I'd like a cheesburger." – "How about some fries and a drink with that?"
"This CD player is nice" – "Why don't you pick up some AA batteries with it?"
"How much is that printer?" – "$99, and you can get a great extended warranty for just $29"

Enough is enough. Somewhere along the line a company realized they could sell more my mentioning a few add-ons to customers. The problem is that over time, everyone started doing it. Now I can't even buy something without being harassed to purchase a bunch of extra crap with it.

Salespeople, please stop.Yes, I realize you are taught, as I was in sales training, that you are doing the customer a favor. Yes, I realize that a handful of customers respond with "oh that needs batteries? I better get some then, thanks for mentioning it." But most of us know what we want to buy, and don't need you to treat us like idiots if we choose not to purchase an extended warranty.

Yes, if I add a soft drink to my combo I get it for only $.40 whereas normally it's $1.19 but if my demand for a soft drink is near zero, then the drink is not worth $.40 to me. Do you understand that?

Yes, applying for your credit card will save me 10% on my purchase today, but I still don't want it. I read the sign on the register, and am perfectly capable of asking you about that if I want a new credit card. (I once spent $300 at Target, and the woman in line behind me even said I should apply for one!)

Is it just me, or are sales people these days becoming more nagging? It's getting to the point where I have to say NO multiple times. And then they get almost confrontational about it. It's not good customer service to make someone feel like an idiot because they don't buy an extended warranty. Especially when the customer is aware that the odds of redeeming it are heavily in the company's favor, and that most businesses make a killing on them.

Sales is about uncovering customer needs and selling people something to meet those needs. It is not about maximizing your commission by attempting to exploit your informational advantage. So please spare me for the next few days. I just have a little bit of Christmas shopping left, and I really wish it would be a pleasant experience.

  • I don’t think this kind of thing is usually about the behavior of individual salesmen; rather, it’s about micromanagement. I bet that in 9 out of 10 cases, these people were told by their management not only what to say, but what specific words to use.

    If you program your employees like Robots, you will, tautologically, get Robotic behavior.

  • Anonymous

    Can I get an Amen

  • Rob

    LOL… I’ve felt the same way. If the salesperson says I really need the extended warranty, maybe I shouldn’t be buying it in the first place.

  • Michael Trier

    Right on target Rob. It is these types of things about business that make me crazy. I have always likened this to the difference between a push or a pull approach to marketing.

    If you actually make a compelling product then people are going to want it, they are going to ask you for it, they are going to wait in line to get it. Think Xbox 360. But if what you have to offer is not interesting, an overpriced add-on that you do not need, then their only hope is to force it on you through whatever coercive means possible. The warantees are really what kill me, because you get that look like, “if you don’t buy this you’re a moron.”

    The sad truth is that it must be an effective approach or retailers would wise up. At least I would hope so.

  • As someone who has spent years trying to change the last 100 feet of the supply chain I can tell you it is:

    a) just as important to the bottom line as you believe
    b) more complex than you imagine, and therefore
    d) starving for the direct, and persistent attention of the most talented executives.

    Yet the brightest, most talented execs continue to avoid the selling floor and the hard choices of what average people (making a fraction of the headquarter’s salaries) should do to keep and grow more customers. They’d rather keynote a “rally the troops” offsite, find a new slogan or dream up the perfect ad. And consultants just rehash the same old “sales training” they were flogging twenty year ago.

    The reason is obvious. It’s easier.

  • “the last 100 feet of the supply chain”…I love the expression. It could also be turned around as “the first 100 feet of the revenue air hose.”

    I don’t think business schools have shown much interest in the practical details of the customer-facing operations (sales, customer service) and this is part of the reason for the pRoblem, though by no means all of it.

  • RP

    The incentive plan is tied to the extended warranty, not the purchase. Apparently, you can talk down the price of a TV set at Best Buy if you agree to the extended warranty first. You might even end up paying roughly the same (or even less) if you didn’t buy the warranty….

    There are no stupid salesmen (for very long) – there are only stupid incentives.

  • RP

    The incentive plan is tied to the extended warranty, not the purchase. Apparently, you can talk down the price of a TV set at Best Buy if you agree to the extended warranty first. You might even end up paying roughly the same (or even less) than if you didn’t buy the warranty….

    There are no stupid salesmen (for very long) – there are only stupid incentives.

  • This post raises an interesting point. In companies that sell business-to-business, senior executives are often people with at least some sales experience somewhere in their background…either as a direct sales rep, or as an engineer or marketing person heavily involved in supporting sales and working with customers. I suspect this is much less true in business-to-consumer companies.

  • Rob,

    It’s not the sales people you should be blaming for this – it’s sales management. My son worked for multiple large retail operators in store-based sales roles over a several year period. Yes, the sales reps do just as you say, but it’s not because the sales reps think it’s a good idea.

    As suggested by some of the other commenters, retail sales rep compensation plans are heavily slanted towards sales of extended warranties and other forms of service plans and add-on products. Why? Easy – much higher margins on the add-ons, especially the warranty plans which have very fat margins.

    And it’s not just the compensation plans – it’s a matter of retaining their jobs. The way these sales people are measured at most of the retail chains (not sure about “all” so won’t make that claim) they can be one of the top two or three sales reps in terms of volume of “primary” products sold, i.e. PCs or laptops or whatever, but if they aren’t selling the required amount of add-ons, especially service plans, they pRobably can’t make their margin dollar targets and pRobably won’t be keeping their jobs. They get huge pressure on this issue.

    The intent of this from the retail chain headquarters financial perspective is understandable – the PC and consumer electronics business is brutally competitive, with many products close to commodities, and margins on these products are very thin, so the channels are looking for ways to increase margins. But when poorly implemented and controlled, as is the case in many of the chain operations that don’t seem to have much control of the people at the end of the supply chain that touches the (prospective) customer, the effect it seems to be having is alienation of more and more of the consumers that they need to drive repeat business.

  • Suggestive selling is extremely annoying, and as a consumer, I dislike the practive very much. However, this is a very effective sales tool, especially when applied to the majority of consumers.

    For some reason, I am flashing back to psychology 101, and am thinking of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

    Who has not seen a buyer contemplating and finally agreeing to purchase the extended warranty at an electronics store or at an auto dealer?

    It seems to me that each time that I patron the local Fry’s or Best Buy, I am stuck in line for ten minutes while the sales person “closes” a buyer in front of me, and ultimately convinces this person to buy an extended warranty.

    As much as I hate suggestive selling, it is practiced because it is a very effective means to maximize sales revenues and profits. These items all tend to offer signifiant profit margins to the retailers, and these margins would have not be obtained, in most cases, without suggestive selling techniques.

    I too have reinforced the suggestive sales techniques over the years. Yes, at least once, I have agreed to “super size” at the suggestion of the cashier; and, yes, I have purchased batteries not realizing that these were not already included in the product that I was purchasing.

    Unfortunately, I doubt that this sales technique will ever disappear.