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  • Writer's pictureJim K

A Tale of Two Halloween Stores

In the animated classic ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,’ I always look forward to the sequence when the Peanuts gang is trick-or-treating. As Lucy, Patty and the kids compare what treats they get at each house, poor Charlie Brown always declares, ‘I got a rock.’

Delivering a good customer experience should always be a key component of a company’s business. Even when you’re one of those temporary, pop-up Halloween stores that rolls into town for the weeks leading up to October 31st. These stores are the ‘go-to’ for everything you could possibly need for trick-or-treating, haunted yard decorations or a good old-fashioned masquerade party. I was in search of a pair of mad scientist gloves. I found a couple of examples online, added them to my phone and off I went. Would my experience be like ‘five pieces of candy’ or ‘a chocolate bar’? Or a rock?

In Merced, we actually have two Halloween stores: Halloween City and Spirit Halloween. Who knew that even in this situation, customer experience would be the key element that differentiates them?

Halloween City

Located in what used to be Anna’s Linens, it’s a big space. Walking in, it wasn’t busy, and I did receive a pleasant, if not perfunctory ‘Welcome to Halloween City’ from one of the associates as he breezed past me. I’m guessing most customers enjoy browsing around and normally, I would too but I was on a time crunch. Walking back to front of the store, two associates were chatting with each other

‘You need some help?’ one asked. I let them know about the gloves I was looking for ‘Yeah, no, we don’t have those.’ I pulled out my phone to show them. ‘We don’t have those.’ ‘Do you have a section with maybe doctor costumes?’ I asked. ‘Yeah, but we don't have gloves like that,’ they responded. ‘Can you show me?’ I asked.

So, an associate walked me to the section where doctor costumes are, and, sure enough, no surgeon gloves. He also walked me to another ‘gloves’ section, and again, no gloves of the type I was looking for. Fair enough. It took us all of 90 seconds.

‘Thanks.’ I said. ‘No problem,’ he responded. Which should really irritate any Baby Boomers reading this. I’m out.

Spirit Halloween

This store is also ginormous and located in the former Long’s Drugs at our local mall. Right near the front entrance was a large creepy looking doghouse, with a growling sound effect coming from it. As I reached for the cloth covering the opening, I giant animatronic dog leaped out at me loudly barking and I jumped back and screamed. Several associates saw me and laughed and said ‘Welcome to Spirit Halloween! We gotcha!’ I laughed along with them.

Asking about the gloves, one of the associates looked at my picture and said ‘I’m not sure, let’s go look.’ And off we went. She chatted me up on the way, pointing out some of the other scary pop-out animatronics along the way.

We arrived at the ‘doctor costume’ section, but no gloves. ‘Hold on,’ she said, and she walked me to an aisle with costumes from the movie ‘Ghostbusters.’ Sure enough, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson wear black rubber gloves as part of their uniforms in that movie. ‘Perfect!’ I said. She even let me open the package and try them on. ‘What else do you need for your costume?’ she asked. Great inquiry when a customer is standing in the middle of a Halloween store. I didn’t need anything else, but thanked her for her very kind, personalized service and off I went to check out. A short, but excellent experience. Spirit Halloween for the win.

Interestingly enough, both are pop-up, seasonal Halloween stores. Both are probably paying minimum wage and providing part-time hours. Why is one experience so different than the other? Being more selective with the associates hired could be one reason. Inconsistent training could be another. What one associate thinks is acceptable service is looked upon as subpar or ambivalent to a customer.

At Halloween City, the associates seemed like they were slightly irritated with me. With some urging, they did walk me to the gloves, but I’m guessing if I had walked out after they said no to my picture, that would have been fine.

At Spirit Halloween, the associates were super-nice, chatty, helpful and ready to make a sale. Even if I hadn’t found what I needed, my experience was a positive one. Which, ultimately is what we want a customers.

After all, even during Halloween, providing a great customer experience doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It can be a simple as finding some gloves. From a customer’s perspective, that’s a win. Way better than getting a rock.

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