Mob-handed they descend on you, turning what should be a bride’s wonderful experience into a boutique-owner’s greatest nightmare. So how best to cope…
“Bride has made first appointment, by email, via my website and has been promised a one-and-a-half-to two hour She arrives on time, not just with mum, sister, and best friend but with an entourage of eight, including best man, and a very unhappy baby. They’re loud, rude, aggressive and demanding – wanting everything from “a big glass of shampoo” to “a beer for the boy”. Two of the so-called friends also want to try dresses on and so, it seems does the mum. The baby needs changing and its mother wants to do it there and then on my white leather sofa. My sales consultant is on the verge of hysteria, my displays are being interfered with and It doesn’t help that the mother opens her bag to show off wads of notes, saying “you look after us and we’ll look after you.” In situations like this – it’s never happened to me before but presumably others have had similar experiences – how does one get them out of the shop? I don’t need to deal with groups like this.”
Stephanie Allin – London and Mumbles
Thankfully, we’ve never been in a situation like this before but quite often these days we come across Brides bringing an entourage. We all know it’s nearly impossible to sell a dress in this way so I make sure I take control of the room by showing the guests to their seats and taking just the bride through the dresses. I will guide her through the dresses and suggest she just picks between three and five. When we are in the changing room, I explain to the bride that having so many guests is really overwhelming and it’s best for her just to try a few on this occasion and to come back with fewer people another day when she is more serious about finding her dress.
If we were to have such an incident, I would continue to carry on with the appointment but would make sure I was in charge at all times. There’s nothing to say that just because you have a rowdy bunch for a consultation, the bride won’t come back on a separate occasion to buy the dress.
The more people who attend the appointment, the more people you have to appease and so long as they leave my boutique feeling they have had a good experience and the bride has felt amazing in my dresses then that’s all I care about!
When it comes to the baby and the entourage wanting to try on dresses, I would politely direct the mum to the bathroom and make sure they all knew that today was about the bride and if they wish to try on dresses for their wedding then that’s not a problem but they’d have to make a separate appointment.
Ian Stuart – Bluecoat, Westminster, London
Firstly we make it quite clear before the appointment takes place that there can be three guests maximum. If they turn up en masse, we would ask the bride to select three members of her party, whose opinion she especially values… the remaining guests can then take the baby, go and have a drink elsewhere, whilst the appointment is taking place.
If the bride doesn’t accept our suggestion, we would cancel the appointment there and then and kindly ask them to leave. If they then
become aggressive and intimidating, and refused to leave the shop, we would at that point call the police. The ‘wads of cash’ are not worth the stress, anxiety, and the rude, disrespectful behaviour. We should all be able to control the characters in our appointments… not vice versa !
It’s better to not take their money, because if they are going to act like that in the first appointment, they are going to be trouble all the way through!
Vicky Lamb – Victoria’s Bridal Boutique, Orpingdon, Kent
Wow! What a situation to be in! We would start by offering everyone seats and a drink (that’s the norm for us). We would explain to the friends and mum that this appointment is booked for the bride and if they would like to try on dresses we would happily book them in on another occasion. If the baby needs changing there is a bathroom available for them to do this rather than on the shop floor. Hopefully this would settle everyone, we would focus on the bride suggesting she pull out five to six dresses to try and then let us do our job and make suggestions of those we think would be perfect.
We have had many similar situations in the past and we manage them – sometimes bringing in another member of staff to help with the appointment and keep the guests chatting and under control. We do not turn away brides no matter how big the party is, it’s an exciting time and everyone wants to be involved. We would much rather it this way than have a bride turn up alone.
Helen Lord – Lulu Browns, Whalley, Lancashire
Ok, first things first, this is your shop. Your shop, your rules and you need to keep repeating this to yourself. Without stating the obvious, you need to know what your rules are. Do you allow children in your store? Do you set a limit on how many guests a bride can bring? Have you made it clear to her about what she can expect from her appointment with you?
Knowing the answer to these three questions will already eradicate half, if not most, of the problems listed above. When a bride is booking her appointment you need to make it crystal clear what she can expect from your store.
For example: “We are delighted to offer you a private, two-hour appointment, where you can chose up to X number of gowns to try. Our boutique has space for you and X number
of guests. Sadly, due to our health and safety policy, we are not able to accommodate children over the age of X”
Already, you are making it clear you have rules, designed with her in mind to ensure she has the most wonderful, and memorable experience with you.
The question of her friends trying gowns on should be met with: “We’d be absolutely delighted to welcome you (said friend) back to our boutique to help you find your gown, we’ll arrange an appointment once we’ve found a gown for your friend.
For the sake of your sanity, do not let her friends try on. It will descend into chaos rapidly and you will lose control of your appointment and your store.
Training your staff on this exact scenario will be so beneficial. Practising how to be assertive and not rude, is one of the most valuable sales techniques there is (in my humble opinion!).
Finally, you will always get the nightmare group, possibly weekly! That’s working with the public for you and the reason gin and chocolate were invented.
Christine Dando – Confetti & Lace, Thurrock, Essex
There are only two outcomes for every bridal appointment – sale or no sale. I shall make it clear at the outset I will not tolerate rude and or abusive behaviour within my showrooms. However, this scenario appears to be one of ‘differing social mores’. Loud, rude and seemingly aggressive behaviour, may be the way the family interact and communicate.
I have experience of many family groups of this ilk and have completed successful sales and then have sold to their wider families. They have come back saying ‘ My cousin bought a dress from you and you looked after her so we will all come to you’.
My chosen outcome would be a sale. An appointment with this many guests takes two to manage. Whilst the bridal consultant is concentrating on the bride and the gowns, I would take care of the guests with humour. Engage the mum and family in conversation, making them feel welcome, whilst managing their behaviour – it is better for you, your consultant and the outcome of the appointment.
I would give them all a Bucks Fizz and kindly explain we do not stock beer but happy to make a coffee. Families often have another member getting married and they all want to try on bridal gowns – take charge and respectfully, with a light touch, explain, that the appointment is for “the bride who has booked and let’s give her our full concentration and support.”
Good old Health and Safety can be evoked if displays are being interfered with. “Please be careful of the displays they are for visual purposes only – I do not want anyone to get hurt,” works for me. Babies in the showroom is a fact of modern day life. Many of our customers have babies and babies need changing. Once again this is where I step in and direct the mother to a suitable place to change the baby.
I have no issue with being shown wads of cash – as long as the notes are real! Appointments like these can either turn into a nightmare or a sale. I would turn it into a sale – but it does take two key elements… management and humour.