Recently I had to purchase a new stroller for my son. The buying experience, was surprisingly pleasant. So much so that I think some car dealerships could learn a thing or two. Juan Barnett wrote a great piece on how it is the people that make or break a purchasing experience. He was right, and it doesn't matter if you buy a car or a stroller. Here is how it all went down.
First we had to decide which one we wanted. My wife, being the librarian, read about a thousand reviews, watched numerous YouTube demo videos, and priced compared practically every angle possible. However, we both knew that a good stroller, like a good car, is more than just the spec sheet. We had to go for a “test-drive.” Our local stores did not carry the higher-end models that we were interested in so we called a store about an hour away.
I called BuyBuyBaby in Cherry Hill, NJ and spoke with “Tommy.” He asked what I was interested in and I told him the brand and model. He then said “We have a floor model for you to demo, in terms of colors we have two black, two blue, and a few pink. The price is $219, if you can find a better price online for the same one we will match it.”
Let’s compare this exchange with a Mercedes dealership that I spoke to once who refused to give me a price quote over the phone or via email. They assured me that when my client arrived at the dealership they would get the “best price, with no games.” When I told them that my client would be driving over an hour and that they would like a price in writing before arriving, the manager’s response was “We don’t do business that way.” Needless to say, they lost the sale.
When we arrived at the store I found Tommy and he already had the stroller in easy access for us along with comparable models from other brands. Keep in mind this place probably carries at least 50 different strollers from various brands across all price-points. Tommy’s product knowledge was astounding. He demonstrated the collapse and assembly of each stroller ran through the pros/cons, gave us the improvement over last years model, and was shockingly honest. We know that no product is perfect, but when my wife expressed a concern about a specific feature, Tommy did not do the “typical salesperson” move of minimizing the customer’s critique, but rather said, “Yeah you are correct, a lot of parents are worried about that. But what you should do is put you son in there and walk around the store awhile; I’ll be here until 9 so take your time. You really got to test them out, and don’t be shy about it. If something doesn't feel right now, it is not going to feel right in a year.”
When Tommy recognized our valid critique I was immediately reminded of a VW dealer who had an unforgettable response when I asked about drum-brakes on a 24k Jetta. He said “Oh man, they are the newest thing. All the car-makers are moving to drums in the rear.” When I asked why all the Audis on their lot still had four-wheel-discs, he just dug the hole deeper. “Oh yeah, well they haven’t been updated yet.” Wow dude...just wow.
After trying out our first choice, we then inquired about similar style stroller up high on the display that was a little more expensive. Tommy said, “There is a reason I don’t put that one down low, I get too many returns. Parents like it for a week and bring it back. You are better off with a much less expensive model.”
Just for fun, go to a dealership looking at one car and inquire about a more expensive model and see if they talk you out of it.
We finally narrow it down to two strollers, both pretty much identical in specs and each has a feature the other does not. So we are really splitting hairs at this point. However one stroller is about $50 more. That is when Tommy says “Now you can’t use our store coupons on the one you asked about first. It is just part of the agreement with the manufacturer, however this other one you can use the store coupon so that will equalize the price.” We told him we did not have a store coupon. “Don’t worry if you can find a competitors coupon, we will use that. If you really want the other stroller we will find away to get you the discount.”
You mean you are going to go out of your way to save us money and make sure we get the right product for our needs?
When it was all said and done we did ended up buying our original choice, but we felt confident in our purchase. We felt this way because a friendly, and extremely knowledgeable salesperson seemed genuinely concerned about getting us the right stroller. You see, Tommy’s paycheck wouldn't change whether or not we bought a $50 stroller or a $500 stroller that night. And I will also venture to guess that Tommy’s paycheck is not even close to what many on the sales-floor make.
O.k. so this is apples and oranges, there is no way buying a $220 stroller and a $22,000 car can even be compared. But what if an automaker decided to employ well paid, knowledgeable, and passionate employees whose objective was to inform and educate you, not see how much they can take from your wallet. If only there was some alternate universe where such a car-buying model was possible.
I would just like to add that I have encountered several sales-people who operate the same way as Tommy. They are friendly, professional, knowledgeable, and will do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. But these are the exceptions and not the rule. I have mentioned before it is the dealership/management philosophy that often determines the customer experience. BuyBuyBaby understands that good relationships equal long-term profits , I will gladly tell other parents to take the drive and talk to Tommy when they need a stroller.