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Are you a firm believer in procedure or do you occasionally put your brain in gear and think creatively once in awhile? I find that middle-management especially in retail, are often the least creative when it comes to thinking when the job calls for the opposite.I should apologise first of all for the hiatus; it’s been a busy past month but now the holiday season has kicked in there’s more time for this.

Where was I? Ah yes, I was in Westfield wasn’t I.

Tradition demands you get your kid’s teacher something at the end of the year to say thank you (don’t look at me, wasn’t my idea) and since everyone believes that teachers love chocolates and flowers regardless of gender, I thought I’d help my daughter buck the trend and get her teacher something practical. No, not a corkscrew (now there’s a thought) but a pair of cufflinks as he’s always smartly turned out regardless of the weather.

So with mini-me in tow, otherwise known as “he who must be obeyed”, we headed off to Westfield. My first stop was the traditional looking ice-cream van with the very modern prices where I bought the young lad an ice-lolly; even my resistance to hearing “Daddy! I wan’ eyesh creem!” on loop, has its limits.

Minutes later with ice lolly stick  swathed in napkins (yeah I know he said ice-cream but I’m paying), we arrived at Hawes and Curtis. Forward-thinking me had already taken possession of the ice-lolly so I wouldn’t have to pay for anything other than the cufflinks. We just got to the cufflinks display with no fabric in range when…

Hawes and Curtis“Excuse me but you are not allowed to bring food and drink in here.” Well apart from the fact that there was no signage stating that, I had to ask  “Do you know the reason for that rule?” I got a nod but no explanation, so I offered “is it to prevent damage to the merchandise?” Another nod. “Well how about in the event this lolly damages your goods I pay for it?” And to appeal to her maternal instincts if there are any… “This isn’t my lolly, it’s for my three year old son and I’m holding onto it as a precaution, you wouldn’t want me to make him stand outside because of his lolly would you?” It didn’t work.

“That is the rule, you have to finish the food outside.” Comes the unflinching response. I instinctively look around for someone reasonable and in authority as I tend to do in these situations. She reads my scan and says “I am the manager here.”

I don’t get it. Why do store managers always feel so secure in their kingdoms as if there is no greater authority than them? I do know that Area Managers exist. The other thing I tend not to do is sustain an argument with someone you can’t reason with, any longer than is necessary. So with mini-me in tow we head to TM Lewin a couple of doors down, get the cufflinks with the lolly in my hand. Job done, one pleased daughter.

If I have a bad experience as a customer, especially if you’re taking my money, I have no problem taking my patronage elsewhere especially if your process doesn’t consider children’s needs and feelings. Retail managers need to think creatively, be adaptive and respond to events on a case by case basis as they deal with individuals, so one size doesn’t fit all. (See what I did there?)

From now on I’ll be going to Pink, TM Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt for my shirts, suits and cufflinks. Ooh look! Charles Tyrwhitt have a sale on!

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