Sunday, November 26, 2006

I love the store, hate the employees

Has this ever happened to you? There is this one yarn store in Seattle that I have a love/hate relationship with. The first time I went there it was with a friend and we were just making the rounds to several different LYS's. I like the shop then, it's large and has a wide selection. Their book selection is very diverse, and like the store, it covers knitting, spinning, dyeing, basket weaving, weaving, felting and other fibery crafts. They have lots of accessories as well, as well as a good stock of Addi Turbos in a range of sizes. They have possibly the best (out of the LYS's I've seen) selection of spinning fibers, cone yarns, and undyed yarn and fibers in the Seattle/Eastside area.

This sounds like the most perfect yarn shop, right? Well, here's the problem. Their employees leave something to be desired. The second time I went into this store, called Weaving Works, I was interested in learning how to spin. I couldn't, and still can't, afford a wheel so I just wanted to get a spindle and a few selections of fiber ready to spin, and a book explaining what the heck to do with them.

Now, keep in mind that while this was occurring I was working retail in a small privately owned business, so I know the trials of good customer service. I know how hard it can be. But this was just insane.

First of all, from a retail point of view, I could have been a very good customer. I knew a little bit about what I was looking for, but not that much; in other words, I was very flexible. Since I was working at the time and the funds were overflowing, I easily could have dropped $75 or even around $100 for this. That was my limit, $100. So I went into the store, and looked at the spindles for probably 10 minutes. No one greeted me, or asked to help me. Then I saw that they had a second display of spindles, so I looked at those for a while. I was migrating between the two, trying to figure out my favorites. I knew weight was of primary importance when choosing a spindle, and I knew that I didn't want to go too light nor too heavy, as both would make it even harder for me to learn.

But at the same time, I learned this information over the net, and I wanted to make sure it was correct before investing. So I waited until the lady behind the counter was done ringing out a customer, and I asked her what the suggested weight of a spindle was for a beginner. She didn't know; she didn't spin (which she didn't tell me until later). Right there, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good thing. To be fair, she was very nice and apologetic, and I know that no one person can be familiar with everything. But if you work at a store which sells fishing supplies and boating supplies, it is expected that in order to be hired you have at least a passing familiarity with both subjects you are trying to promote. You cannot be a good salesperson if you don't at least know the basics of what you are trying to sell. I mean heck, you don't have to be a spinner, you just need to know the basic facts so you can help a beginner like me.
She didn't know, so she real quickly asked another employee who was going on her break. She told me that it was exactly as I had expected.

 I pondered my choices for a bit, then decided to track down another employee (the third of the day) to see if she recommended top or bottom whorl spindles. She was very abrupt, told me the answer then also hurried away, and never asked if I needed more help or to explain further. So I narrowed my choices down, and since two of them weren't marked, I had the nice employee weigh them for me real quickly. I made my choice, then started looking for a book, then eventually fiber. I ran around like a chicken with it's head cut off for quite some time, especially regarding the fiber. I had never handled any fiber before in my life, but eventually I got the hang of it. However, another question had arisen: how much fiber do I need? I had no idea about how much fiber it would take to make a single, or even a plied length of yarn. So I asked the third employee, who once again gave me a very brisk answer ("It depends") and then left.

By now, I was completely fed up with this store, and at the same time, just shaking my head in dismay regarding the amount of potential money they were losing. I guessed regarding the amount of fiber, purchased my supplies, then left.

Next of course, I went to another shop only 6-10 minutes away, Acorn Street Shop. A small shop packed floor to ceiling with yarn, within seconds I was greeted warmly. As I was looking at their spindles, which was a much smaller selection than Weaving Works, I was asked if I needed help. The employees (there were two at the front counter) then proceeded to answer any questions I had, and give me a demonstration of one of their spindles, and let me know about a shipment of spindles they were expecting in a few weeks. We also just talked and laughed about life in general, you know the fun kind of small yet meaningful talk you get in some yarn stores. It was a wonderful experience, and although I didn't buy one of their spindles because I had gotten one earlier, I did pick up a bit of yarn.

The whole reason for this post is because today, even though I dislike the store, I went back to Weaving Works.

Last night I felt like spinning (something I haven't done in more than four months) and so I picked up my spindle and a bit of fiber and started spinning. To my surprise, even though I haven't spun in a long time, I can spin a lot better now than I could then. My fiber isn't completely consistent in size, but the variation of size has decreased incredibly. So for the next few hours, I just spun while watching tv, and until I became too tired. After all, I started spinning at 2am. :D

So I could now produce something that vaguely resembled something I would buy at a LYS, and I decided that it was time to start experimenting with a fiber that wasn't merino wool. I'm an avid blog stalker of several different knitting blogs, and I had seen a few of those ladies do a sort of fiber sampling, where they took a little bit of each different kind of fiber and experimented with spinning it. I decided to do the same; it would be a good learning experience, I would learn my preferences regarding fiber, I would figure out what I'm allergic to, and it would keep me interested in spinning while giving me good practice.

I went to Weaving Works, and picked out a variety of fibers, everything from yak and fine baby camel to merino/tencel and nylon (more on what I chose later). Once again, Weaving Works' employees disappointed me. Well, I shouldn't say employees. This time, there were a few nice ladies there, one of which asked me if I needed help. I didn't this time. I picked out about seven different fibers, all in very small amounts, and went up to the counter. I only wanted small amounts because I'm just practice running these fibers. I just want enough to make a small skein (think about 3 inches long when twisted into a hank) that is a double ply fingering weight yarn. I don't need much, so on the fibers I got less than an oz of each, with the exception of the superwash merino.

Before this I had gone up to the counter once before to see how I should label these. The signs said to use the scrap paper, pencils and bags provided, but the bags provided were very large, and I was wondering if I should use one of these huge bags for each fiber. The employee I asked looked annoyed that she was being asked this, even though really I was asking this for her benefit, to make it the easiest to ring up. I also told her that I was only test spinning each fiber to see the qualities it had when spun, so I would be using small amounts of a variety of fibers. She gave me a handful of smaller bags to use, which worked perfectly.

When I was done, I went back to the counter. The employee looked annoyed that she had to weigh them. The nice employee (one of the two mentioned earlier) took the bags from me and weighed them, then told the weight to the annoyed one, who typed it into the machine. The nice employee had been laughing and chatting up the customers in front of me, and I been laughing and included in their conversation as well. So when the total of the seven or so bags was less than what I usually spend on a skein of yarn (and not the expensive, $20 or $30+ yarn either) I joked to the nice employee that this was the good kind of surprise and I'd have to get more. She laughed as well, and I ended up doing just that, picking a few that I thought I could use a bit more of. When I went back to the counter, the nice lady was somewhere else, and the annoyed lady said, "You have more?" in this disbelieving sort of tone. Now, I should add that not only did I get more, but because of the Jacquard Acid Dyes I was purchasing this new total was even greater than my previous one. Yet she acted like she was really inconvenienced by my purchases, and a bit astounded at my nerve.

This just absolutely throws me. First of all, it's a big pet peeve of mine when a LYS assumes that you're inferior because you're young. This one didn't do that, but she did give me the impression that she was pissed off because I wasn't buying 2 lbs of top, just buying smaller amounts. From a retail point of view, you NEVER EVER DO THIS!! My boss used to tell me that every little bit counts. If you can get one customer to buy just $5 more of supplies a day, then by the end of the month you will have made a $150+ profit. It is especially important in small businesses to do this. The fact that she so blatantly was annoyed with my purchases continues to astound me. You don't alienate your customer base, never ever ever! Especially when in a place like here, where I can name three other LYS's off the bat that are really nice. You don't want your customers going somewhere else.

Of course, Weaving Works is the only place that I know of that has a good selection of spinning related materials and books, so unfortunately I can't avoid them completely. But then again, I go to school in Oregon, and hopefully I can find another LYS who has a good spinning selection down there.


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