opinion

What You Like Isn’t the Same as What’s Good When Recommending Purchases

Charlie Glickman

What’s the best vibrator?” “What’s a good lubricant?” “What butt plug should I get?” If you’ve worked in a frontline sexuality retail position, you’ve probably heard one of these questions. Actually, you probably hear something like this during every shift. It can be a tricky situation, but it’s also a great opportunity for education and upsells.

There are lots of reasons customers ask things like this. Maybe they’re nervous about their purchase. It might be the first time they’ve ever bought a sex toy and they’re feeling embarrassed. Or maybe they’re worried about how their partner will react and they want some reassurance. Or perhaps they’re bewildered by the sheer number of products these days and they want some help narrowing the field.

A lot of sex advice, especially the stuff you’ll find on the Internet, talks about ‘sure-fire G-spot moves’ or ‘blowjob tips that will drive your guy wild.’ While I understand how marketing encourages that kind of language, it can make it necessary to explain to people that there isn’t anything that will work the same for everyone.

The challenge you face in those moments is that there isn’t one “best” product. If there were, you wouldn’t have 50 different vibrators on your shelves. Everything in your inventory works great for some people and not so well for others. And although some products get a lot of brand loyalty because they rock plenty of people’s socks, there’s never any guarantee that the next customer will like it.

That’s because there’s a big difference between what you like and what’s good. What someone likes is a matter of taste. Some folks enjoy spicy food and others prefer something milder. Some people like powerful vibrators and others need something gentler. And when we talk about a toy as a great product, we risk alienating people who don’t enjoy it. I once talked with a woman who felt really embarrassed that the Magic Wand didn’t do it for her. It was much too powerful for her and she got over-stimulated with it. When her friends went on and on about how awesome it was, she started thinking that there was something wrong with her. That’s not the kind of situation that you want your customers to be in.

On the flip side, I’ve talked with lots of retail staffers who fall into the trap of recommending the products they personally like. You might not even realize you’re doing it, but if you suggest the same few toys over and over again, it might be because those are the ones you enjoy using. And that does your customers a disservice because their tastes aren’t always going to match up with yours.

Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to respond in more productive ways. Whenever anyone asks me to recommend the “best” product, the first thing I tell them is “everything works great for some people and not so well for others, so there’s no way to know what will be the best for you.” That usually helps them reframe their question and makes it clear that while I can suggest something, I can’t guarantee what their experience will be.

That response also creates an opportunity to do a little more education about sexual diversity. A lot of sex advice, especially the stuff you’ll find on the Internet, talks about “sure-fire G-spot moves” or “blowjob tips that will drive your guy wild.” While I understand how marketing encourages that kind of language, it can make it necessary to explain to people that there isn’t anything that will work the same for everyone.

In addition to the more direct approach, there are some indirect ways to make the same point. Talking about what works for some people or for a lot of folks leaves room for those who respond differently. There’s a subtle but important distinction between saying “this lube works great” and “a lot of people say that this lube works great.” Language like some/many/most can make a big difference.

Another way to get this message across is to say something like, “this toy is really popular, but of course, not everyone has the same experience with it.” Sometimes, talking about what items are popular or best-sellers can be reassuring because the odds are in your favor that something that works for lots of people might also work for this particular person. But I still suggest phrasing it in a way that makes it clear that you can’t offer any promises.

And lastly, these kinds of customer interactions give you an opportunity to make an upsell be recommending a higher quality motor or material. When a customer asks about the best toy, they sometimes mean that they want something reliable, durable, or well-designed. Those are the folks who are most likely to purchase a more expensive item because they value the quality. It’s always worth asking what they mean when they ask for “the best toy.”

It can take some practice to approach these kinds of questions without reinforcing the idea that what makes something a good product is that you like it. One way to help your staff do that is to pick something off the shelf and ask them to list as many selling points for it that they can. It’s a fun training game because they can brainstorm and compare ideas. A lot of the time, each person will come up with different ideas, so sharing them can be a big help. Another approach is to ask them to list as many reasons why someone might like that product as they can. The goal is to help them see that there are reasons why any item might be someone’s favorite, which makes it easier to let go of the idea that there’s a “best.”

The important thing to remember is that there’s a big difference between what you or I or someone else likes, and what’s “good.” The more you can help your staff and customers see that, the better your customer service and sex education will be.

Charlie Glickman PhD is a sexuality speaker, trainer, writer, blogger, and coach. He’s an AASECT-certified sex educator and has been working in this field for over 20 years. Charlie is the co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners. Find out more about him at www.charlieglickman.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

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