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How to Handle a Sales Person With Bad Breath and More of Your Questions for February

Like the legalities of claiming you sell at “wholesale” prices and what exactly constitutes spamming?

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Is it legal for retailers to say they are selling at “wholesale prices”? I have a bunch of old sunglasses I want to move at greatly reduced prices.

In short, no — unless they really are. Many states have strict laws prohibiting the use of the word wholesale in retail advertisements. In some states this is a criminal offense, due to the word’s ability to mislead consumers. Some states define wholesale as the price the retailer paid for the item from the supplier. Other states, and the federal government, say the price must be lower than the average price retailers would pay in the area. And there’s not much room for fudging: When you use terms like “at cost,” “factory to you,” “direct from manufacturer,” it really does need to have been made by you in your factory or the “cost” price. So if it’s you doing it, stop. If it’s a nasty rival, fink on him.

My husband and I are tired of our big city and have found a location in a small town a couple of hours away. The foot and drive-by traffic are low, but we’re hoping this will be offset by the low rent and retention of some existing customers as well as online sales. What do you think?

We think that any time you surrender location you’re taking a big, big risk in retail. Unless you plan to build some sort of destination store (a real one that genuinely differentiates itself in a commercial sense), or the town is renowned for its arts and antiques, you need to carefully analyze the numbers and demographics. It’s unlikely your existing customers will follow you.

I’m looking to do a customer survey to guide our planning this year. Do you have any tips?

Surveys! As the Brain Squad will attest, you’ve come to the right place for advice. Keep it short and focused on the areas that matter to your store’s performance. Mostly use multiple-choice questions to make it easier for both your survey-takers and yourself when it comes to collating the data, balanced with the odd open-comment question to allow people to elaborate on their input. When it comes to sending it out, avoid busy times of the year and weekends (right now is probably a good time, as most customers will understand that you’re trying to start out the new year with some new information) and be generous with your thank-yous and incentives — be it a free coffee or, better yet, a discount card.
Survey software companies like SurveyMonkey make it easy to create functional online surveys you can email to your customers (the services are typically free for the basic version). If you’re adept with Microsoft 365, there’s also a survey tool that can be accessed through Microsoft Forms, which is as powerful as any comparable dedicated service.

I’ve got a salesperson with really bad breath. How do I break the bad news to him?

“Your breath smells” is almost as tough to hear as it is to say, but the issue at hand is also a stone-cold sales killer. As the manager, you have no choice but to grasp this malodorous nettle. Have the conversation in private, assert that the person probably isn’t aware of the problem, use gentle but accurate language (“your breath is rather sharp”), express concern that it may be related to a deeper health issue, share that you may have had oral health issues yourself in the past, and offer them paid time off to go see a dentist or doctor.

What’s the deal with spamming laws? I’m not breaking the law if I send an unsolicited e-mail to advertise an exciting event in my business, am I?

Exciting or not, as long as you comply with the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, which includes obligations to identify yourself, offer an opt-out link and to be honest in your offers, then no, there’s nothing illegal about spamming prospective customers to tell them about your event. But don’t overdo it. You’ll annoy recipients, damage your store’s name if the message is perceived as spam, and possibly hurt your ability to deliver e-mail bulletins in the future. The best way to approach e-mail marketing is to aggressively collect names and build up a database of people who want to receive your message at intervals they specify.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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