This past weekend I was in Elk Grove Village for the annual Chicago Seminars. I met a lot of readers, bloggers, and newbies who asked me about manufactured spending. The questions that came up the most were, “What is the secret to your manufactured spending success? How are you able to MS in such large quantities?” There isn’t really a secret to this stuff. My #1 tip and the biggest factor that enables me to MS in large numbers is…being nice to people. People generally like people who are nice to them. The same goes for Walmart cashiers. If you act shifty and don’t bother being polite or considerate, then forget about it. That Walmart cashier will enjoy putting you in your place when you pull out a stack of Visa gift cards and try to use them for money order purchases.
This isn’t about being disingenuous or trying to butter people up with compliments. I’m not a sociopath. I don’t like flattery or bull**** either. But I do try to be nice to people – especially those who work in customer service. Make small talk, ask about their day, be pleasant. They deal with rude, condescending a**holes on a daily basis – don’t be one of them.
So many people don’t bother saying “please” or “thank you” – or smiling, for that matter. You have no idea what a difference it makes when you bother to smile at people. It makes them think you’re a nice person and everyone wants to help nice people, right? (Wow, I do sound like a sociopath).
Even during those times when a cashier gets difficult, I try to empathize with them. It takes a lot of patience (that I don’t have) to deal with customers. Can you imagine how much worse it is when those customer are unhappy (which they most likely are if they’re standing in the customer service line)?
On the rare occasion when a new Walmart cashier gets testy with me about using gift cards and decides to call a manager, my instinct is to get annoyed.
But instead, I respond cheerfully with, “That’s fine! ___ knows me, so I’m sure he’ll approve it.” Sure enough, the manager shows up and gives the green light. The cashier feels somewhat embarrassed, but because I didn’t turn this into a knife fight, she feels ok about brushing it under the rug and helping me out. By remaining friendly, I give her an “out”. In fact, going forward she’ll feel at ease because I didn’t insult her or make her feel bad about her very legitimate concerns.
My MS success really just comes down to my awesome Walmart cashiers and nothing else. I could buy all the gift cards I wanted, but where would I liquidate them if I didn’t have an MS-friendly Walmart? Sure they’re an awesome, friendly bunch of people but if I wasn’t the same way, they probably wouldn’t like or trust me. And that would be that for my gift card churning days.
So be nice. That’s really the key to a successful gift card churning strategy. Treat people with respect, empathize with them when they’re having a bad day, and if you can make things easier for them (i.e. don’t hold up the line, take time to fill out surveys, etc.) then do that. They’ll appreciate it and reciprocate. It’s not about manipulating people – it’s about building relationships. That takes time and effort, but is worth it. Be mean or indifferent like some of the people the cashiers interact with and you’ll get treated the same.
Even if I wasn’t going to Walmart to buy money orders, I would still make an effort to be friendly and polite to the cashiers. Because even if all I’m purchasing is a pack of gum – isn’t it preferable to have a friendly rapport with the staff? I think it is.