Dress code or good service? Radio Shack has answers!


I remember when Radio Shack’s slogan was “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers”.  Based on the service I received back in the day, I used to joke that it should be “You’ve got questions, we’ve got questions” because of the unfortunate lack of information you could count on from a RS employee.  I am glad to say that over the last few years, things have gotten a lot better, up to and including the experience I had today.

Today I met Casey, a twenty-something, mutli-tasking employee that would make ANY employer proud.  He was the only employee in the store, which would usually spell a long wait to check out and no assistance – but that’s not what happened. Here’s what he did:

  • When I entered the store, there were two people at the counter and two more behind them.  Clearly the two at the counter were involved in a long transaction, and I heard Casey say to the two waiting in back, “Can I help you find something or point you in the right direction?” They were there for a cell phone battery, so Casey motioned them to another counter where he was able to assist both guests at the same time.
  • When I was ready to check out, the same two people were at the counter, and Casey was still patiently helping them through some sort of cell phone upgrade/trade-in thing.  You could tell by what he said that he knew the various plans and offers well.  He saw me waiting and asked if I was ready to go.  He motioned me to yet another counter where he started my transaction while in between calls and things he had to do for the others.
  • When he saw what I was purchasing (a video cable), he smartly asked if I also needed the audio cable.  I love it when people ask me questions that might save me a trip later.  I didn’t need that cable, but I appreciate that he asked!
  • He politely finished my transaction as he was carefully setting up the other customers’ phone.  He was masterfully engaged in three transactions at the same time – it was a thing of service beauty!

So what about this dress code thing?  I mentioned that Casey looked to be in his twenties.  If I had to guess purely on looks and appearance, I would say that Casey is a surfer, or at least he likes the beach.  Longish blond hair, goatee, and from my apparently “old guy” perspective, his clothes were a little disheveled.  As I related this story to my wife, she more correctly identified his appearance as “fashionable”.  Ouch.

So now the question of appearance vs. service comes to mind.  If this interaction is the standard, I will take service every time. Casey was honest, genuine, well informed, efficient, thoughtful, proactive and personable.  Did I notice his slightly disheveled yet fashionable look?  Yes.  Did I care?  No.  Would I go back to THAT STORE the next time I need something electronic?  You bet!

Many entertainment facilities (and non-entertainment facilities, for that matter) use the Disney look as the gold standard for employee appearance.  It’s a squeaky clean, all-American, boy-and-girl-next-door sort of image.  I am NOT saying this a bad thing, but thinking about this made me ponder 2 things: Is it still relevant today, and is it relevant in all industries?

When the Disney look debuted, it was 1955 and Walt was trying to set his cast members apart from the carnies and unsavory types that most people associated with your typical carnival worker – and I think it worked.  Fast forward to 2010… I think it’s a lot tougher to stereotype and say that someone is to be avoided, just because they have a tattoo.  Things have changed.

In Disney’s defense, they are about escapism, and I think that image works for them, but they are also a business who needs to hire people.  They have recently changed their appearance guidelines to respond to shifting cultural norms.  So here’s a question – has your dress code changed with the times?  Are you trying to enforce a look that many (including your employees) may not even care about in your business?

The big question here is about balance.  Are you enforcing a dress code or set of appearance standards at the expense of paying attention to and reinforcing the SERVICE your employees provide?  Casey may have been a bit “disheveled”, but his service was out of this world!

Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Dress code or good service? Radio Shack has answers!

  1. This is a good read, Matt, and a good question!

    I think you’re right to point out that this is fairly situational. Now that I’m in the Insurance/Financial services world, I realize how different it can be than when I was in the theme park world (or in Seattle):

    If someone’s doing your taxes or financial planning or insurance, you really don’t care if they have a tatoo so much, but you do care that they look wise enough to handle your risk of loss, right?

    That’s why our financial industry gurus still wear a shirt and tie and sometimes a suit!

  2. Pingback: Dress Code or Service? Chipotle wins, too! « LeaderTips

  3. Thank you for such a great post! My district manager had found out about it, emailed my store about it and I have since saved this into my resume to show my customer service abilities. Thank you again for such a complimenting post of my skills and abilities.

    p.s. It’s okay you got my name wrong. It’s easier to remember a face than a name. I think that is why the beard and long hair worked so well.

    Cheers, Corey Brookman

    • Corey- I am so sorry for getting your name wrong!!! I sincerely apologize! So glad that the recognition got where it needed to go regardless of my oversight! Thank you for the inspiration!

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