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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why Dick's Sporting Goods Won't Last

I don't know if you've had a similar experience, but the people who work at Dick's for the most part show absolutely no enthusiasm, product knowledge or initiative to get you an answer. You can tell with their body language -- shoulders slumped, tough for them to look you in the eye, as if they're entitled in life to have the job and then have no accountability for it, as opposed to taking the attitude that if you have a positive attitude and a sense of urgency, your day will go faster, someone will notice you and good things can happen in your career and, if no one notices, you'll be able to transport some good skills that you've built to a better place where the management cares. While the rank and file are somewhat to blame, it makes you wonder what the corporate mission is, what the store managers are told, and how the store managers train their staffs, if they do so at all. (My guess is that they don't train them on much, other than how the inventory is stored in the back and how to work a cash register).

Over the past year, when I've tried to buy things, trying to find someone to help you and, if you do, getting someone who knows the products or has any enthusiasm for connecting with a customer to make the customer's experience enjoyable has been rare. In the winter time, I went to buy lacrosse equipment on a specially dedicate night, and if the coaches from our organization weren't there, there was no one at Dick's who knew anything about the sport or had been trained to be of service that night. Ditto for football in the fall -- other parents helped me. A few weeks ago, I went looking for a pair of shorts for my son -- only to find that they only sold the brand in the adults' section. When I got there, I asked the sales associate whether they had the kids' version, and he didn't check, he just told me "no." So my son went back to school, only to have a friend tell him to check the kids' section -- we did and they were there (believe me, if I could have found them on-line, I would have given my money to another vendor). Finally, if you try to give feedback about a store on-line, forget about it. My preference would have been to send a private e-mail to someone with a clue so that perhaps management could sense that they're missing a golden opportunity.

But perhaps they do not care. Perhaps their business model is that they don't need much of a store staff, because sporting goods customers do their homework on-line and then come in looking for the best equipment at the best price, that they already know the features, that they sell too many goods, so it's impossible for some high school kid or sophomore in college to know anything about anything other than to slosh around the store, checking in the back on occasion or getting a store manager to deliver more details about the installation of a basketball backboard and hoop. Perhaps that's it.

But it seems to me that in an age when things are impersonal, that's a lost opportunity. Customers like to talk about features, they like to have a conversation, and, believe it or not, if customers see an effort they might be more likely to reward it with a purchase. Not to mention the good the average sales associate can do by pointing out clearance items or specials to help move merchandise. Instead, it seems like the average sales associate at Dick's comes in solely for a paycheck and, perhaps, for the comradery with other sales associates. But them don't seem to appreciate the customer or believe in what they are selling.

Note to potential competitors: come into the field with good locations, good inventory and a sales team that is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and you will take away market share from Dick's. Note to existing, smaller stores -- offer service, offer knowledge, hustle, find something from a supplier and bond with local athletic associations, and you, too, will have a good niche.

Because if you go to Dick's, they think that they've got your business, no matter how much (or little) effort they put into the sale.

And that doesn't sound like much of a strategy.


Blogger Roy said...

We need Wawa to expand into sporting goods

12:17 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Great idea!

My local Wawa is a hotbed of action. The people there work hard and are friendly. Seriously, good customer service can help distinguish a store.

1:22 PM  
Blogger jdsigman said...

I'm a bike tech at DSG. That is my passion and that is what I know. However, there have been many times where they would only schedule me and no one else in 3 or 4 departments. In other words, I have had to be a bike tech, a fitness trainer, know team sports and also cover golf department. I will admit that I do not know those departments that well. However, I am always willing to go onto the internet and look. I am sorry that you have had a bad time with DSG. I hope that it isn't always like that.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Steve Yeaton said...

I also work at Dick's Sporting Goods and I don't necessarily agree with your generalized statements. Not EVERY store has this type of atmosphere, and you're probably right, it can most likely be attributed to poor training or lack of motivation. I take pride in my job and sincerely enjoy working at Dick's, as do the majority of my co-workers. It shows in our customer interactions, and I think DSG gives their employees opportunities to communicate their passions with guests in our stores. Sure there are employees there to merely earn a paycheck, but I think they fall are the minority (at least in my store).

As for your concerns with feedback; each receipt has a link to a survey online. There is a "Comments" section that can be accessed by every manager in the store. Our store manager will even reply to the negative comments (and some good too!) to try and reconcile any concerns that effect our customers. We work really hard to get people to come back to our stores and conscientiously greet every customer with enthusiasm, respect, and a genuine eagerness to satisfy their needs.

I don't think your concerns regarding DSG are completely true and urge you to reconsider your perceptions regarding the company as a whole. Talk to the store manager, but don't be demeaning in doing so. People in retail really don't enjoy being talked down to. I will spend all day with a customer if they are genuine, polite, and in need of assistance. If someone talks down to me or exudes a superiority complex, I will not make any extra effort to satisfy their (usually unreasonable) requests. I will answer their questions and share my knowledge, though. We are not drones. We are people to, and your accusations make me think that you expect us to be sporting goods robots. Keep in mind that some of the people you were in contact with may have been there for a short period of time and it is virtually impossible to become an expert on everything in the store. It has taken me three years to learn about things I had no idea about before (Sorry, I never played field hockey in school and I don't shoot guns!) but have learned through reading, observation and asking a lot of questions.

Have some patience, show some respect, and treat the other employee as another human being and your point of view may be more positive.

11:52 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...


Thanks for your comments. I remain a Dick's customer, but I still see the same problems repeat themselves. It may be a problem that the individual store has, and rest assured that I have been courteous and patient in asking questions. That said, even after the original post, the assistance has been inconsistent at best and non-existent at its worst. I really think that Dick's is missing a great opportunity to better bond with its customers.

The issue isn't Dick's alone. I think overall that in-store retail suffers because of increased on-line purchasing activity. In other words, stores are probably understaffed. Best Buy has a lot of empty space in its stores, and the service for computers hasn't been what it once was. Borders went bankrupt and Barnes & Noble is hanging in there.

I'm happy to see that you feel proud of your employer and of what you do. I commend you for that. My post was meant to provoke responses, and it's comforting that you feel that way. My comments aside, I continue to go to the store and have a bunch of stuff to purchase for my kids' sports. I just wish the experience were better.

9:17 PM  

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