Monday, September 22, 2008

Teavana II

I knew it. I knew there was a reason why the saleswoman at the Teavana in Charlotte kept asking me if I wanted golden monkey tea along with 1/2 pound of various other sorts of tea (Golden Monkey tea is divine and priced accordingly. Teavana had their FOP grade priced at $20 per 2 ounces but I've seen prices vary from $5 per ounce up to $30). So I googled Teavana to see if anyone had good experiences with them ('Teavana sucks' brings up some interesting hits) and Wikipedia had a page on them that states:
The company places two points of emphasis on employees: Sales and Individuality. Sales results are updated daily on bulletin boards in each store, with emphasis on the amount of "rare" tea sold, its ratio to regular (lower priced) tea, the amount of "cast iron" sales, the number of teapots, tins to hold tea, and rock sugar. Keeping up with the theme of sales, payroll is given based on how well a store performs (if a store does well, there are more hours for the staff, and vice versa) and employee's receive a weekly grade, on a scale of A+, A, B, C, D, and F. Typically, employee's who do not consistently receive a B or higher are let go. After shifting from a half-store half-cafe setting, sales of just to-go cups of tea are looked down upon, as most sales should have add-ons.

Due to the sales focus, there are several key points employee's are taught to finalize the sales process with customers, namely "top-down-selling". If a customer selects a tea, employee's are to bring several higher quality/priced teas to compare for the customer. When purchasing tea, employee's are to start by giving a large price, such as for a whole pound, and work their way down. When purchasing tea, employee's push for the sale of tins to store the tea in, as the tin is airtight and light-tight, which does preserve taste and health benefit. Training teaches to not accept a no until either the third or fifth time, though most employees don't follow this rule. Most important for customers is to pay attention to the total price before paying, because tea is not returnable.

So this probably explains why the saleswoman gave me tea in a coffee type sack, told me I should buy a yixing pot, and spend $36 for 4 ounces of tea. I understand that the company has to make a profit, but I think they're going about it the wrong way to introduce America to teas from around the world. One thing they could press which I didn't see was giving demonstrations on the correct way to brew different teas, including guywans, cup infusers, and yixing pots, tasting notes for the different teas, and the actual price per cup of tea compared to coffee. Another thing that would establish their foothold in the nation's hot beverage consumption would be to offer starter packs at a discounted price and possibly establish some sort of quota with the Chinese tea factories so that a good portion of the fine teas that would go to independent vendors in the USA would go to Teavana.

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