The Zumiez Generation
Snowboarding is a commodity and that’s the gods honest truth. It can be bought and sold more times than you’ll get powder days with friends. Gone are the days of old when specialty shops ruled the scene and everyone was a friend because we shared that one common interest that is snowboarding. We didn’t sell out, we just let companies with money buy in and that’s where we sit right now with the current generation of retail. Any mall across the urban sprawl that is suburbia has some wanna be “core” shop. The biggest of these is Zumiez with its “organized chaos” theme and mass appeal to youth culture.
When you go to one of these stores you don’t go there for great advice or service you go because chances are their shit is on close out and you’ll get a deal. Unless by some chance you’re a teenager then you’re just mindless and driven by the culture of cool to shop there. It’s true they employ the most mindless employees I’ve ever encountered or worked with. Yes that’s right I whored myself out once again to Corporate America and came out the other side with a better understanding of this company and how their stores operate.
First off throw any rhyme or reason out the window with the hiring process. The most capable of running the store or with a proven track record doesn’t mean shit. It’s a popularity contest, the more you can whore yourself to those that are hiring you the more likely you’ll get a job. They have two types of interviews individual and group, most stores go with the group one to pit potential employees against each other in a bro-down of epic proportions. Think of it as half America’s Got Talent half The Jersey Shore. Somewhere in that mix you end up finding the kids that spend more time telling you how cool they are than proving how cool they actually are. Chances are these kids will end up hired or being a manager. Cause remember it’s not that you can do a good job but that you look good while you’re doing it.
Now if you were awesome enough to be hired you get to go through the worlds largest training manual. Seriously this thing rivals War and Peace with the amount of crap it’s filled with. The one thing you’ll learn from this is how to be a pusher and force sales on people. Now I’m from the generation of, if people want to buy stuff they’ll do it, you just need to steer them and answer their tech questions and above all else make casual suggestions. Their idea is to fill you so full of acronyms and sales pitches you’ll be shitting out what’s left of your soul in no time. Classic example is the acronym B.I.G, Because I Got. They want you to instill in the customer that because they have it you need it. Then after the acronym’s there’s steps about how to deal with customers and the three golden questions. You see the golden questions are “What are you shopping for?”, “what brands or styles do you like?”, and of course “what else are you shopping for?”. Way to smother the people with persistence. There’s plenty more I could go into about this but the basic gist of it is too many shitty sales techniques not enough understanding of products or how to properly address customers.
It’s all a numbers game with them and that is instilled in their staff. Whether it’s dollar amounts or units being sold they keep track of it all and force their employees to push harder to keep these numbers up even if it means pushing the customers to buy more product. Because if your numbers aren’t ideal you’re going to be on the shit list.
Here’s the bullshit with all this snowboarding isn’t a numbers game for those of us that participate in it. We don’t have an average of half pipe hits or backside lipslides performed. We just want to know what we’re getting and to have fun. A shop should be there to provide a service and not hound us into buying gear. I’ve found that the best customers I’ve had were the ones that I never pressured into buying anything but instead gave them a list of products that suits their needs even if we didn’t sell some, and just shot the shit with them.
Now here’s the frightening thing, this company is so big it’s actually producing the next generation of shop kids. With local shops hurting and malls popping up all over this is truly where they can find work. Now ask yourself this would you want a kid helping you that learned in this environment? Or would you rather have one that was brought up under the tutelage of a local shop that has a vested interest in the scene and cares more about you having a good day than adding 3 pairs of socks to your sale?
Having worked in shops for literally half my life I’ve seen the types of kids that come through the doors of the shop looking for a job in the fall. They come from all over, some did work at legit shops, but more than likely half of them worked for a mall shop. They think that alone on an application or a poorly written resume ensures them a job cause they know how to bro-down and push sales on people. It reminds me of this kid that worked with me a few years ago, he came from an art sales background and no matter if the person was looking for entry level or just a jib stick he always pushed the top of the line product to the person and said it was the best without knowing shit about it. This is where I put their mental capacity.
So as I mentioned earlier we didn’t sell out we just let these people buy in. People want to piss and moan about the local shops not knowing fuck all about what’s going on, look at the breeding grounds where a lot of these people come from. If you’re trained to treat it like you’re slinging used cars and push at all times of course the service will be the first to be sacrificed in the name of the almighty dollar.
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