Well, the Christmas Tree People Hate Me

Yesterday, my kids and I set out to buy ourselves a Christmas tree.  Instead of going to Home Depot first, like we usually do, we stopped at one of those tent places that grow up this time of year on vacant lots, mainly because the tent was closer.  We soon left the tent, though, moving on to Home Depot, but not before the tree sales person made sure to tell my kids that he thought their dad was a jerk.  Here is how we got there:

I walked around the lot - there were only about 20 trees up, which is kindof a small selection, but they were all sitting in a pan of water, which can be a good sign that they are trying to keep the trees fresh.  I immediately saw a couple of trees that would work fine, so I walked up to them, looking for a price tag -- no price.  I looked around to see a posted price list, or a list of prices per foot - no price list.  I asked the guy working there where the prices were - he said just pick the one I liked, bring the tag to the register, and they would tell me there how much it costs.

At this point, I turned to my kids and said "lets go someplace else".  In my book, businesses can operate and price most any way they like, but I can also decide if I want to do business with them.  I don't like doing business with companies that have no posted prices (similarly I hate doing business with people like car dealers whose posted prices aren't the real prices, but that's another story).

The guy asked me why I was leaving.  I should have known better.  I should have just said something like I don't see one I like.  But I actually tried to explain what I was thinking.  I said, "What would be your reaction if you went into a Walmart and none of the items had prices - if the only way you could find out what the prices were was when they rang you up at the register.  Would you shop there?"  What I left unsaid, because I didn't want to discuss it in front of my kids, was that I didn't want to be put in the position of having my kids fall in love with a tree (they get very emotional about this choice) and then having to tell them a few minutes later that sorry, it was too expensive.  I much prefer the Home Depot approach, where each set of trees is clearly marked, so I can steer them away from even looking at the $100+ trees.

Anyway, I confess I probably was huffy about it, because this is one of my hot buttons, and as I called my kids to me the guy told them their dad was a jerk.

I probably am.  I know this guy is trying to make a living.  He may well not have had prices posted just out of lack of sophistication rather than any sinister desire to trap me into buying more tree than I wanted.  So I probably need to be publicly chastised -- feel free to use the comment section to do so.

  • http://maxedoutmama.blogspot.com MaxedOutMama

    I would have done the same thing, although I probably would have told the guy something like "I can't decide which one I like without knowing the price."

  • Max Lybbert

    Well, whenever I've worked as a sales guy, I've never expected to get a sale or referral out of insulting a customer, especially not in front of his children! The customer's always right, because the customer has the money. Good salespeople recognize this and act accordingly.

    Why weren't the prices listed? To put you in an awkward situation if your children liked an expensive tree. The decision maker at that lot (likely the guy you talked to, but possibly somebody else) made that decision in an effort to pressure certain customers into buying trees. If that wasn't working in your case, the sales person could either have played under your rules, and possible have made a sale or gotten a referral, or he could insult you and write you off as a potential customer.

  • jolene

    My guess is that the salesperson was watching the cars people drove before he decided the price he would be charging for the tree you chose.I believe it works the same way with car dealerships and law firms.Jolene

  • http://www.santasons.com/ Mark Rohlfs

    Hello,
    I am the owner of Santa and Sons Christmas Trees in Los Angeles, an Oregon Christmas Tree Farm. I have operated retail Christmas tree lots since 1977, and I am totally behind the decision of you as a customer to draw the line at the lack of service you received. Being an industry that has many many small tree lot operators, you are going to find some big differences between them.
    For years it has been our policy to individually price tag each and every Christmas tree we sell (we don't sell holiday trees!). With high quality fresh trees that are properly displayed in water and in the shade, and the full service we provide, our trees are not cheap. So I would never want to put a customer in the awkward position of not being able to afford (or choosing to spend for) a tree after it had been selected. Bad for the customer and bad for my business. A smarter retailer would have understood that keeping it fun to pick out a tree together is part of the reason people choose a retail Christmas tree lot instead of a tree from the chain store.
    Mark Rohlfs
    santasons@peak.org

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