Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

Volume 44,  Issue 9                                       November/December  2005

     Secret Shopper

The Importance of Connecting with Customers
Memphis Lumberyard Offers Good Service But ...
by Samantha Carpenter

During past secret shopper experiences, I’ve shopped for windows, doors and decking products. This time, I decided to secret shop a lumberyard in an attempt to find some crown moulding.

I looked up possible lumberyards in Memphis to visit on the Internet, and after finding one that had a website which indicated that it carried crown moulding and was open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., I ventured out to do a little secret shopping. 

This visit was going to be somewhat different from my other secret-shopping adventures because I was taking my two-and-a-half year-old twin boys, Clay and Owen, with me.

After driving about 30 minutes from our house in Southeast Memphis to the lumberyard located in Mid-Town Memphis (and after taking a few wrong turns), we found the lumberyard. 

The lumberyard was of pretty good size and was surrounded by fence. The parking lot was clean and easy to find with signs showing where customer parking was located. There were also signs delineating the location of customer service as well as the sales office. 

But just to make sure, as one of the lumberyard employees walked from one building to another, I asked, “Is the showroom located where the sales office is?”

The employee replied, “It’s down that way to the right,” pointing to a somewhat darkened hallway.

While I found the dark hallway a little intimidating, as soon as I opened the sales office door, I found a clean showroom which was housed partially in the same room as the sales office. (It looked like the showroom extended into different rooms from there.) 

As I entered the room with Clay and Owen holding on to one hand each, one of the employees behind the desk asked, “Can we help you with something?”

I said, “I want to see what kind of crown moulding you carry.”

Another employee pointed to some moulding on the wall to my right and said, “That’s what we carry.”

The mouldings were all the company’s stock moulding profiles, but since I had done some reconnaissance on the web, I knew they carried more moulding options than these.

“Do you carry any mouldings that aren’t made of wood?” I asked.

“We do carry some,” the employee said, pulling out an Architectural Ornament brochure and opening it to a page with crown mouldings. Architectural Ornament’s mouldings are made of high-density polyurethane.

“Are there any advantages to using either one of these moulding types?” I asked.

“Not really. However, the wood mouldings are much cheaper than the polyurethane mouldings.” He also said that neither type of moulding holds up better, since crown mouldings are located in the inside of the house. 

When I asked whether it was an advantage because the polyurethane is lighter than wood, he didn’t indicate that that using lighter material was an advantage. (I did appreciate that he didn’t try to sell me the most expensive product, but on the other hand, he could have lost a potential upsell.)

“Can my husband use a saw on either type of moulding easily?” I asked.

“Considering the polyurethane mouldings are three weeks out, I would suggest using the wood moulding. That way if he messes up, he has supply readily available,” he said.

“Do you have a brochure of the stock mouldings?” I asked.

The salesperson retrieved a packet of paper stapled together that contained drawings of the stock mouldings available. 

“Can I take this brochure and the other brochure with me?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said.

As we turned to leave, I spotted a display of White River mouldings, which had a display of mouldings that also held a case with its brochures. I grabbed one of these brochures, too.

“Thanks,” I told the salesperson. “This will be really helpful.”

There are a couple of things to note about this secret-shopping experience. First, the salesperson never did introduce himself or ask me what my name or what my children’s names were. Now, I don’t know all there is to know about how to sell products, but I do know how important it is to make a connection with someone who is looking for a product. 

Perhaps it was assumed because I brought Clay and Owen with me that I wasn’t a serious shopper. I’d like to remind all those salespeople out there that when couples look to make improvements to their homes, it’s usually the female who makes the decision on which product to buy, especially on an item that is as aesthetically appealing as crown moulding.

While the displays were all very nice looking, I would recommend that this lumberyard put brochure holders next to each display, in much the same way as White River’s product had.

I would also recommend a display of Architectural Ornament’s product next to the other moulding products.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad experience. Everyone was friendly to me and my sons, but if I found a lumberyard that was closer to my house that carried the same or similar products, I’m sure I would have checked them out, too. In other words, I wouldn’t have impulse shopped, which I am known to do if a store has exactly what I want. 

Samantha Carpenter is editor of SHELTER magazine.

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