You know that scene in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” where King Arthur and his knights have to answer three questions before being allowed to cross the rope bridge over the vast gorge? “What is your name?”, “What is your quest?”…etc.  The knights are impatient at this intrusion of questions because they feel so close to finding the grail.

That’s how I felt at Sears one day recently.

I had finally found what I wanted to buy, but the current “Buy One Get One at X Percent Off” promotion was confusing me. What would the actual price be if I purchased just one of the things I wanted, not two?

“Can you tell me what the final price would be for this, please?” I asked the clerk at the one-and-only checkout register on that floor of the store.

“Sure,” she answered. “Do you have a rewards card with us?”

“Ah, no, and I don’t want one,” I said.

“Do you have a Sears credit card?” she asked next.

“No, I just want…”

“Really?” she said, as if unable to believe I didn’t own a Sears credit card.

“Right. I am just interested in…”

“What’s your zip code?” she interrupted me. “You’ll earn points and get X percent off today if you open …”

“Can you tell me the price for this or not?” I asked. It was my turn to interrupt her. 

At that point she looked over her shoulder at what I presumed to be her manager. The woman stepped over without saying a word, and punched a few numbers into the cash register. The manager then told me the price.

I didn’t like the price, but felt I had been held captive so long there I didn’t want my investment of time to be for naught. I bought the damn thing and went away grumbling.

Rewards cards and offering discounts for opening new credit card accounts have always been two retail practices that rub me the wrong way. I may be unusual in that regard, but rewards cards do me no good because I shop so little and, secondly, none of us have any business simply adding credit card after credit card to our wallets. It doesn’t make sound financial sense, in my opinion.

The Sears clerk serving me was clearly following a script she had only recently been handed. She was doing what her manager wanted her to do, not what the customer so clearly wanted her to do. 

Let’s hope that with good training and with more experience, clerks like her everywhere will see when it’s time to try the upsell and when it’s time to just answer the customer’s question.