Almost all my Spanish-speaking customers tell me, “Busco algo bueno, bonito, y barato.” They want something good, nice, and cheap. Our store, Liza’s Furniture, is located in Chicago’s Little Village/Pilsen neighborhood, which is primarily Hispanic. Serving sleepers from Latin American countries takes on a different flavor and I wanted to share a few stories that illustrate the distinctions in cultures that I’ve experienced. Hopefully it’ll help you better serve similar customers who shop at your store.
Most shoppers coming to my store are primarily Spanish speakers, which has helped me engage with them in their native language, as I am bilingual. Being born in Chicago from a Mexican background has helped me mix in the best of both worlds - making sure I maintain a Latino friendly environment for my customer from signage to customer service. Throughout the years I have seen the Hispanic population grow. The latest statistics reported by the U.S. Census Bureau show we currently have 53 million Hispanic Americans residing in the U.S. This is a large population that represents strong buying power.
I want to clarify, even though my customers often say, “Busco algo bueno, bonito, y barato” (the three B’s), that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t looking to spend money. On the contrary, I have learned throughout the years these are the consumers that keep coming back if given the right attention. This might sound cliché but it’s all about first impression, not just for Hispanics but in general, and being consistent when making that impression.
Which comes to a quick story. An older couple came into my store one day looking for a mattress but were very nervous. As always, when greeting them I started a conversation to find out more about them and to help pick out the right mattress. The husband was very blunt and mentioned he was looking for “the three B’s.” I could tell right away he was the final decision maker and I was going to have to do some work to change his attitude toward buying a mattress.
The couple was searching for a memory foam mattress. Halfway through the sale I was explaining the differences between latex and memory foam when the wife grabbed my arm and said, “Gracias.” This was confusing because her husband was simply trying out one of the mattresses. I asked her why she was thanking me, and she said they’d gone to two businesses before mine because they found sale advertisements in the local newspaper and had experienced a language barrier with the RSAs. She said both stores had advertised “Se Habla Español,” yet when they arrive there was no one to help them in Spanish and the RSAs didn’t even try to pursue their sale, even though they attempted to explain what they were looking for in a visual way. That bad experience left the couple discouraged and looking to buy in a familiar, comfortable setting.
This isn’t a situation that happens often, but I come back to that first impression. You don’t necessarily have to be a fluent Spanish speaker, just a good listener. By doing this, even if your bilingual staff isn’t in store, your other RSAs can still manage a sale. Many of the Hispanics I know that live in the U.S. are bilingual or will go shopping with a family member that can translate for them. We all know never to judge a book by its cover. With so much technology and information available on the Internet, our consumers come well-prepared with research before making a purchase. Even the older couple in my story had researched their product and had something in mind to buy. They still had concerns on certain topics like motion transfer, innersprings, and sizing but they were comfortable in a familiar environment as I explained their options and took a little more time than I would with a more confident customer.
At the end, did they make a big purchase? The answer is yes they did buy, but it wasn’t a big purchase. That was fine with me because they didn’t just make one purchase, but were back later that month for another set for their children. And later they recommended us to many of their family and friends that have become recurring customers throughout the years due to good customer service. Those referrals have been the best type of advertisement, which is known as “word of mouth.”
This is one of my many stories about serving Hispanics buying mattresses, so make sure and subscribe to the Sleep Geek e-newsletter because next time I will share what happened when I told a customer I would grab a knife and cut into the mattress he was thinking about buying. Adiós for now.