News & Opinion

Why Do Store Employees Lie To You?

Too often you leave a store unsure if you were steered correctly by the employees. You walked in knowing what you wanted and they sold you something similar or perhaps a completely different product. Did they hoodwink you? Have you been bamboozled? You’ve known friends or family members that have been in similar situations that have completely overspent or bought the wrong product based on employee recommendations. Why does that happen? Why do store employees lie? Let’s discuss!

We Often Confuse Action and Intent

As humans, we often observe a behavior and will immediately assume intent behind that behavior. Someone cuts you off in traffic? They did that on purpose because they are a selfish person. A store employee sells you an overpriced item? They did that on purpose because they are evil and want to rip you off.

Yes, you NEED an ALR screen with your UST projector!

Never mind that most products can be easily returned at no cost to you (other than time). Never mind the drawbacks for the business if they encourage their employees to rip people off and the word gets out. The downsides to an employee personally and the store in general of lying to customers far outweigh any momentary and fleeting monetary advantage. Let’s remember that before we continue.

General Ignorance

Employees in sales positions are rarely hired for their expertise. They are hired and trained on the job (more on that in a bit). If they are selling home theater equipment or gadgets, they learn about them from their fellow employees, interacting with them at work, and other sources. No matter what profession you have, you are unlikely to want to do more of it at home. If you are selling home theater gear, are you really going to go home and do more research? Of course not! Anything you learn at home is either going to confirm what you’ve learned at work (which seems like a waste of time) or contradict your training (which you aren’t going to be able to use on the job anyhow). Why waste your time?

Pictured: Not happening after work

Internal Training

When a new product is released, especially one that is high dollar, manufacturers will send out their representatives to “teach” salespeople about the product. Of course, the reps are highly motivated to talk up all the advantages and downplay or omit any disadvantages. From the store’s perspective, it really doesn’t matter. They are getting free training for their staff to better help them sell this new, exciting product. The salespeople love it because it gives them talking points about the product to help them make sales. The manufacturers love it because it helps increase brand awareness. It’s a win for everyone.

Except you, the consumer.

Sales Goals/Bonuses

There are a lot of reasons why a store might push specific products. When I was putting myself through college, I worked as a waiter. If we were low on a specific dish, we were asked to not recommend it to people (even if we thought it was one of the best dishes on the menu). If the restaurant had lots of a specific dish, we were asked to “push it” or recommend it more often. Did it matter to us what people bought? Not really. But if people asked for a recommendation, we’d much rather suggest a dish we knew we had lots of rather than one that might have us returning to the table with bad news of being out.

On the other side, manufacturers will often reward stores and employees with incentives for sales. If a salesperson could sell enough of a specific product, they could earn money, extra days off, or other prizes. Is that enough motivation for some people to lie to their customers? Maybe. But it certainly is enough for nearly everyone to at least mention a specific product.

Probably not what they are getting

Personal Experience

Turning back to the restaurant analogy, when someone asks about the menu, I never, EVER answered what I actually thought was good. Instead, I recommended what other people had reported was good. I may hate fish, but if a specific fish dish gets rave reviews, then I’m going to recommend it over a dish I actually like.

If a salesperson has good feedback from one customer, they are more likely to recommend it to another. If that customer also gives good feedback, the cycle continues. They may be very insistent on selling that product even to the point of exaggerating its capabilities simply because they know that if you buy it, you are likely to at least not complain.

More than anything, salespeople want customers to be happy. A happy customer means positive feedback which can lead to praise from their employer, raises, and promotions. Why wouldn’t they want to push a product that has been successful in their personal experience?

The Wrap Up

Is it possible that there are employees that lie to consumers for nefarious purposes? Sure. But they won’t be in their jobs for long and most of the time I believe it isn’t the case. When one of your family members comes home with a product that you wouldn’t have recommended, it normally isn’t a non-functional product. Instead, it is an overpriced one with more features than your family or friend actually needs. They are usually happy with their purchase, you just happen to know that they could have spent a lot less.

It is tempting to think that the store employee lied in order to make more money for the store. It is way more likely that they just wanted to make sure they had a happy customer (they do) who will give them a good review (they will) and will be happy with the product (they are). These aren’t nefarious people. They are just trying to do their best with their limited knowledge to make sure they are successful at their job.

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