THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

I only wanted some shampoo!

Went shopping in Central Manchester yesterday lunchtime – ostensibly just for a pootle around (and a ride on the Manchester Eye) but also to replenish my travelling stock of Aveda shampoo and conditioner. I know I sound like a real tart – but I like their Rosemary Mint shampoo and conditioner. After all, I’ve now reached the point where there may be less hair on my head than anywhere else on my body (too much information) and I have to look after what’s left. So after I had been whisked up into the air for a lunatic’s eye view of my home town, I emerged from the pod shaken and trembling and walked over the square to Selfridges and the Aveda counter. The assistant was one of those jolly girls who is rather larger than a supermodel but very attractive with it – and with a personality to match. I asked for my usual products. The normal bottles are £8.00 each but she offered me the chance to buy the 1 litre refills (with free plunger) that would “save me money in the long term because I could use them to refill my travelling bottles” – so that was a litre of shampoo and another litre of conditioner at £24 each. She then asked me if I wanted to join the “Aveda” club – that for a one-off payment of £10 I would enjoy lifetime membership, plus a free gift of a bag full of creams to rub on various parts of my body, plus points on future purchases, plus a gift voucher on every future birthday. I politely refused on the basis that:

  1. I don’t especially have any body parts that I want to rub creams on;

  2. With my current hair loss, the points system may not work out too well and

  3. A quick actuarial calculation convinced me that the number of extra birthday cards wasn’t attractive.

So then she asked me if I would like a cup of tea. At a cosmetics counter? Ah – no ordinary tea. Aveda have now started to produce their own herbal tea – a combination of liquorice and fennel that she promised would help me to reduce my caffeine intake and aid my digestion. I do drink too much coffee (which is why I spend most of my days searching for rest rooms) and my stomach rumbles when its empty and when its full – so this seemed a good idea. After a discussion of the relative merits of leaves or tea-bags (I’m not carrying a cafetiere around on workshops) we settled on 2 packets of tea bags at £8.00 each. “ooh!” she said. “what?” I said. “well”, she said, “you have now spent £64 – and if you spend over £70 I can give you a free aromatic candle, normally priced at £24! “ooh!” I said. Not knowing what to spend the extra £6 on to qualify for this valuable gift – she spotted my 2 daughters loitering nearby. “Why don’t you buy some lip gloss for the girls – its (and off she went into some description of how it was organic, caffeine free and no seals were culled or something).” A few moments later, the girls were having free lip gloss applied, they looked like child hookers and I was another £16 lighter. But I did have a free candle. “So that will be £80 please.” She handed me my bags, with a catalogue of all Aveda products, on which she wrote her phone number in case I had any questions (was that a come on?). I have a feeling that if I had stayed any longer I would have ended up buying a time-share property on Aveda Island or something. My last comment was to congratulate her on an excellent customer service experience. Seldom have I been relieved of so much cash with such flair – it was quite brilliant. Looking back as I sip my herbal tea, I reflect upon an enthusiastic individual following a carefully constructed system – and wonder how many of us would employ that lady?

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