Volume 44, Issue 7 - July 2009
by Megan Headley
SECRET SHOPPER REPORT CARD
and Mirror Inc.
Store was easy to find: C
Parking lot was clean:
Windows were clean: F
Greeted upon entering: B
Store aisles were clear of debris: C
Neatness of displays: B
Employee politeness: A
Employee appearance: B
Employee product knowledge: B
Store experience satisfaction: B
Overall Grade: B+
As I approached the turn on Euclid Ave. in Manassas, Va., my eyes were drawn to the big, blue sign announcing Banner Glass. Since I was on my way to “secret shop” a glass company on Euclid Ave., this was just the type of advertisement I was looking for.
However, there was one big problem—I was looking actually on the lookout for ABC Glass & Mirror. Before even reaching the appropriate parking lot about a mile further down, through the extensive industrial park along Euclid Ave., I was making a mental note to tell the person responsible for marketing that, if you have competitors located directly on the main business route, you’re going to need to take a closer look at your signage.
That person, ABC Glass & Mirror’s estimator Peter Lariviere, was out for the afternoon, but I knew that before I arrived. In response to a notice posted throughout April and May on USGlass magazine’s daily USGNN.com™ newsletter, Pete had requested that I come in to take a look at his new showroom and assess the space and service offered by his employees. Pete mentioned not a word of this to his coworkers, and cleared out for the afternoon so that I could pay ABC a visit.
I’m sure the simple brick façade and what appeared to be a loading dock door wouldn’t throw off most contractors, nor the blinds drawn across the one window or the simple slab of the front door. However, as a consumer, I wasn’t crazy about the feeling of walking into the back entrance or up to a delivery dock. Opening the blinds or placing an “open” sign where clearly visible, might have made me less reluctant to step inside.
Once inside, I was greeted by the sight of a small room overwhelmed by the two receptionists’ desk. I stepped forward and said, “Hi, I’m looking for information on shower enclosures and was wondering if you offer that here?”
The two women looked at one another and one picked up her phone. “Sure do,” said the other.
“One minute,” said the woman on the phone.
“He’s not here,” her coworker added. There was a moment’s pause. I shifted from foot to foot.
“Pete, who handles our installations, actually just left,” the first woman explained to me. “If you wanted to come back around 1 p.m., he would be the best person to answer any questions.”
“Oh,” I said, unsure of how to proceed. “Well, any chance I can just grab some information?”
“Oh sure,” the woman replied. She pulled out C.R. Laurence’s SD08 catalog on frameless shower door hardware and supplies, then added, “We actually have a showroom upstairs if you want to take a look.”
Knowing that Pete had called the display area a work in progress, I couldn’t blame the receptionist for not thinking of pointing me to it right away, but I jumped on the offer. “That would be great,” I said, then extended my hand and introduced myself to Shirley.
The showroom upstairs was small, but efficient. I was distracted enough by the various shower door displays that I paid scant attention to the door open on the back wall revealing a disorderly office. The displays themselves were right on target. Three full shower door installations were set up in the small area; one with clear glass and a minimal frame, and two others that displayed a mix of glass types, from clear to frosted to textured. In the center of the full displays was a column of glass samples, each showing off a different style of hardware. Shirley opened a few of the sample-size doors, inviting me to test the feel of the hardware.
When Shirley asked what exactly I was looking for—different glass types or hardware styles—I told her that I was simply looking into all of my options. With that she pulled out a small sample box and let me handle a new variety of textured glass. She explained that there were a ton of options out there, and advised me to spend some time looking through the catalog she had given me for ideas.
With that, she steered me around the sample section, explaining some of the options in hardware by pointing out that I’d have to first choose whether I was interested in having simply a header or a full frame, before delving into more stylistic decisions.
As I moved around the space I noticed along one wall several rows of small 2 1⁄2-inch squares of colored and antique-textured glass. I asked about them and Shirley laughed, “Oh, don’t even look over there, that’s for cabinets.” But rather than being off-putting, the comment actually launched Shirley into a passionate push for glass. “Glass just comes in so many options,” she said, adding, “I can’t even look at the samples when they come into the office because I have so many ideas about how I want to use them in my own home.”
“You can even use it as countertops and backsplashes in kitchens,” the other receptionist added around my oohs and ahs.
Despite Shirley’s protests that she wasn’t a salesperson, her enthusiasm for the product was doing a great job.
Shifting from aesthetic to more practical concerns, I asked next if there was a flat fee for the installation. “No,” she shook her head, explaining that the cost varied but that someone would be happy to come out and offer an estimate.
When I asked about the timeframe, she mentioned that the company did four or five installations a day, and there was usually a two-week wait for materials. With a final invitation to come back at 1 p.m. to talk further with Pete, and lots of smiles, I left with a business card and the thought that if the receptionists, who insisted they weren’t salespeople, were that knowledgeable about the product, I’d certainly be interested in speaking with the individual coming out for an estimate.
Editors Note: An informative website can go a long way in driving customers to your shop. For more tips on designing a website for your retail operation, look for the August 2009 USGlass.
The Retailer comments
Mike Howell, owner of ABC Glass & Mirror, decided to
add a showroom to his facility in Manassas, Va., about a year ago.
Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass.