Signs, Signs, Everywhere There Are Signs!

A recent shopping experience opened my eyes to the tone retailers take with customers on what I would call "warning signs." We shopped for hockey equipment for our youngest son this past weekend. First, we visited a small hockey shop at the ice rink in Nashville where my son plays. It is an outpost for the store's main location downtown. It has limited hours, but it was open so we decided to go in. I couldn't help but notice a sign on the wall that said "You flex - You break - You buy." The tone of the sign, coupled with the employee who looked only slightly happier to be there than outside in the 100-degree heat, made me want to leave sooner rather than later. Besides, I have confidence in my child's ability to break things!

At the store's main location downtown, another sign got my attention. It said, "Unattended children will be sold as slaves." I was not offended by the sign, and I assume that the signs at both stores were placed as a result of incidents in which customers, probably children, damaged or broke merchandise. However, there is a more tactful way to communicate the message and build positive rapport with customers. A sign with a message of something like, "We value the safety of your children. Please accompany them as they shop. Thanks for visiting our store" is more positive and conveys the same idea. The general message of "Don't break anything!" can be conveyed in more customer-friendly language. I would argue that it is indeed a child's safety that is at issue for no other reason than if a child were to damage or break an expensive piece of equipment, he or she could face the wrath of dad or mom!

As you might guess, we made purchases at neither location. We went to a third store in the suburbs and purchased a helmet and stick. I wouldn't be surprised the next time I visit the other two stores if I were to see a sign that said "Customers not allowed." That would be ridiculous, but so is creating adversarial relationships with your customers.