Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Q&A - Trust A Retail Salesperson?

Today's image does relate to the Q&A topic.  The topic comes from a direct email from the guy who was my last boss at Intel before retiring.  Back in the summer he had borrowed a lens from his brother (or brother-in-law ???) and used it to get closer to some landscape type subjects.  At that time he wanted a recommendation on which lens he should buy.  I gave him a couple options,  The serious route of going for a Canon 70 - 200 F2.8 IS and the less budget busting 70 - 300 F4 - 5.6 IS.  He thought he might be able to get the $150.00 75 - 300 "kit" lens.  I talked him out of it and he decided that he could wait until the holidays to get his lens as a "gift" from his wife.  That's where the problem came in.  She had lost the email I'd sent and went to a store knowing only that the upper end of the zoom was 300mm.  His wife explained that the use of the lens would be to get closer to the subjects of the photographs.  The salesperson at the store talked her into the cheap 75 - 300mm "kit" lens and --- wait for it ---a 25mm extension tube.  The explanation being that it was needed for his Canon camera to get closer to subjects.  The title of today's post in "Trust a Retail Salesperson?"  The simple answer is absolutely not.  To find out where this opinion comes from, hit the "Read More".

My entire career at Intel was in the US sales group, but I never sold anything.  Our team was on the fringe of Intel referred to as "influencers".  People who would go out and explain the benefits of buying products with Intel processors.  There are influencers on the commercial side, the manufacturing side, in vertical markets such as the medical field and, where I was, on the retail side of things.  One of the biggest functions of an influencer, no matter which area they are in, is education.  In retail it involved holding educational sessions (I never really liked the term "training")  It could be to multiple salespeople at an "event" such as a movie premier, dinner at a game parlor like D&B, or at a theater at Lincoln Center in NYC.  When we weren't doing the big events we'd visit stores like Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA.  Either we, or our part time team, would have individual conversations with the sales folks, asking what their understanding of which processor based systems were, for what customers and giving them tips on new technologies.  The hope was that they could make more informed suggestions to the customers walking through the doors.  It was so bad that one of the pieces of gear we should have been given was Saint Jude logoed gear.  Saint Jude being the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.  For one thing, the turnover in retail was horrendous.  Another was the lack of understanding of what they were talking about.  A bigger influence than the "Intel guy" was the salesperson with two weeks longer tenure and the loudest mouth.  Every store had one.
So, how does today's image fit in to this rant?  Not only did the salesperson making the sale of the lens to my exboss' wife err in his/her recommendations.  She/he didn't have the foggiest idea what he/she was talking about.  The function being shopped for was to bring far away people or objects closer.  A cheap lens won't give a tack sharp image.  But, the big sin, was selling the customer an extension tube.  An extension tube is not the same as a teleconverter.  In fact it's quite the opposite.  The function of an extension tube is "closeup/Macro" photography.  Being able to get shots like today's image, not like the shot found in Monday's post. 
Taking recommendations from retail salespeople should be avoided at all times.  Do your research and educate yourself on what you're interested in buying.  Walk into the store with a fist full of money and say "I want that one".  You should have researched all aspects of what you're buying.  Quality, function, reliability, and then price.  If you're asking for something as a gift, make sure the giver knows which model to buy.  You'll enjoy the gift and the giver won't be embarrassed when you return the misbought item.