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A Salesman's Patience: It Isn't The Camera That Makes You Look Big, Ma'am

Last updated on 08/23/2010

Our man on the inside fills us in on the depth of a salesperson's patience, and why your simple question probably isn't as dumb as you think it is.
By TJ Donegan

I've worked as a retail salesperson for years (in addition to freelance writing), and I can tell you that camera sales can be tough work. By understanding what a camera salesperson goes through on a daily basis, my hope is that you can learn to respect the patience that the job requires.

I get customers every single day who preface their questions with “You're going to think I'm an idiot, but...” or “This is a really dumb question, but...” and then ask about a perfectly reasonable question like “Why is a dSLR better than a point-and-shoot?”

Believe me, that kind of question doesn't even begin to stretch a salesperson's patience.

I work in a big-box store that sells all sorts of consumer electronics, and people ask me many silly questions, but I assure you that these are all true stories.

I once had a customer come in to say that he had downloaded some bittorrents off the web, but couldn't find them on his hard drive. He asked for my help. A reasonable request, assuming bittorrents are legal (they aren't) and he knew the basics of searching for files in Windows (he didn't).

I explained that he could simply use the Windows search feature to find the files by typing in the name of whatever he downloaded. The he could copy and paste them into My Documents or some easy-to-find folder of his choice.

“Copy and what?”

He didn't know how to copy and paste in Windows. Not exactly a crime, of course, but certainly confusing when you consider that this man was savvy enough with a computer to download a bittorrent client and find and and illegally download a movie, but wasn't familiar with the workings of CTRL+C.

The demonstration took twenty minutes, but I showed him how. He asked for written instructions.

I once had a woman return a camera because she said the pictures the camera took during her cruise made her look fat (she wasn't even close, for the record). Understanding the sensitive nature of the subject, I tried to come up with some sort of an explanation and explained that maybe the wide-angle lens of her camera created barrel distortion and the wonky angles of the background made her think she looked bigger than she was.

They say the camera adds 15 pounds. I find the all-expense-paid buffet the greater culprit.

Just the other day I had a man state he would “never shop here again,” not because of some failure of customer service, which would be completely understandable, but because he felt that there were grammatical errors printed on our trucks.

So next time you're in the market for a new camera, don't worry about asking what “megapixel” means or whether the retail associate will think you're a moron because you don't know what “bit rate” is.

If you have a question about something that's bugging you, don't worry about some kid with a name-tag rolling his eyes at you. Believe me, no matter how simple you think your question is, you might be the smartest customer he meets all day.

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