One of the cashiers at my local cafe is the world’s most annoying upseller. She’s friendly, she’s competent, she’s efficient and fast — but I hate when I get her at the counter because I know she’s going to try to push stuff on me. “Are you sure you don’t want a pastry with that, maybe an eclair or a cherry turnover?” Or, “How about a cup of soup to go with that; it’s delicious!” Not only does she try to upsell every single time, but she’s really high-energy about it which is incredibly grating.

So today I walk in and intend to order a bowl of oatmeal and a pot of tea, and since I’m hungry I figure I’ll get a couple eggs on the side. A different cashier is about to take my order, but in an instant he is sidetracked and you-know-who is now in front of me, asking for my order. I’m suddenly in defense mode.

“I’d like just a bowl of oatmeal and a pot of tea,” I say, slightly emphasizing the word “just.”

On cue, the Relentless One says “Wouldn’t you like something else with that, maybe some bacon or sausage?”

“No,” I say, “just the oatmeal and tea,” with a little more oomph on the “just.”

Of course the drama in my head has made me completely forget to order any eggs, which I realize as I’m walking to my table. But there’s no way I’m going to give Upsell Queen the satisfaction of getting even one more order out of me! Sure, I realize that I’m basically channeling my 4-year-old daughter and entrenching myself in a power struggle that’s completely meaningless in the big scheme of things. But dang it I told her I just want oatmeal and a pot of tea and that’s going to be my final answer.

The thing is, I’m not always this stubborn. There are plenty of situations in which I’ve bitten on the upselling hook. When my great local toy store reminds me that a toy I’m buying needs a bunch of batteries, or my grocery co-op cashier who knows I’m a chocoholic clues me in that there’s a great sale on Chocolove bars with almonds and sea salt (swoon), I’m all over it! But when I feel like I’m being badgered it’s a huge turn-off.

The moral of this story: Be careful when upselling. If done right, you can definitely increase sales — and even better, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty when you anticipate and suggest something that your customers actually want that they hadn’t considered at that moment. But if you’re too aggressive or just not thoughtful enough, upselling can backfire and your business can quickly develop a reputation for being annoying and too pushy.

2 Comments

  • My favourite way to deal with these cretins is to pretend to be foreign or deaf. It’s a lot of fun:

    Them: “Would you like fried with that?”
    Me: “You would like me to die with that?”
    Them: “No, I said ‘Fries’ ”
    Me: “You would like to be high?”

    Or I just stand there with a neutral expression, not answering any questions, until the discomfiture really kicks in, then pull out my phone as if it’s just vibrated in my bag and proceed to have a loud and detailed conversation in gibberish with no-one on the other end. If they have the gall to try and interupt me I just repeat my order, more slowly and loudly, and in a thicker accent:

    “I said a McChicken Sandwich. Simple request. What is problem?”

    PS: Whenever this topic comes up online there is invariably someone that tries to make those of us that find upselling/cross-selling frustrating feel sorry for the ‘poor’ server. However, I’ve witnessed enough fast food workers displaying an undue attitude of entitlement not have become immune to such pathetically unsupportable arguments. They certainly don’t care that they’re employed in a job that requires them to annoy the public, so I fail to see why I should care about annoying them in return.

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