My recent in-store experience at Teavana

I have been to three different Teavanas over the past two years (mostly to only one) and have had mostly neutral to positive experiences. I have read much about the experiences of others, and do I would like to give an account of my recent experiences (two), and I hope others will find this as a place to share ALL kinds of experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

My first experience was a few days before Christmas (I admit I was going in there on the defensive, with an attitude of, “Go ahead, just try to sell me something I don’t want.” In retrospect, that is not something I feel is a very good attitude to take into a store). I had no plan to buy anything; I was just browsing, knowing I would be back for their end-of-year sale after Christmas. The store wasn’t very busy, and there were three or four employees that I saw, and initially there were two employees attending to me. I didn’t recognize any employees from previous visits.

I first asked about gaiwans, and after describing it, the first employee finally knew seemed to understand what I was talking about (personally, I don’t understand why I have yet to meet an employee that knows what a gaiwan is without having to describe it to them; I pronounced it “GUY-w-ah-n”). She told me They don’t have any (I don’t remember her giving me what I judge to be a very good reason why not), and then quickly began to tell me about another teapot they carried (I can’t remember which ones, one because the only tea-ware I was ONLY interested in was a gaiwan, and because I was bound and determined not to buy or even look an anything I felt I couldn’t afford—which is just about ALL of what they sell, unless, it’s on sale). I basically told her I know what I want, and then, “No, I’m not interested.” She did push here, telling me something attractive about the teapots they sell (can’t remember what it was), and started to walk from behind the counter to the floor (presumably where the teapots were). I THEN I used a fairly new communication tactic I have learned: rather than say, No, again, and get angry or defensive, I SIMPLY IGNORE THEM. Thus, I indirectly answered her question with a totally unrelated question, i.e. Hmmm, what about that tea, what can you tell me about it? Evidently she got the hint, as she walked away, while employee number two helped me look at the teas they had.
One criticism of the this encounter is that I don’t understand she didn’t ask my WHY I wanted a gaiwan, as in, what kind of tea are you brewing, and what is it about a gaiwan that makes you want one, etc. Armed with information from those kinds of questions she could much more easily steer me to what I want rather than taking shots in the dark.

ADDITION: more on the remainder of the encounter:

When employee #2 asked me what kind of tea I was interested in, I told him, green. He pulled out the Gyokuro tea container, showed me the tea, waived the lid to bring out the aromas, and told me a little about it. CRITICISM: why not ask if I prefer Chinese or Japanese (the two regions of green tea they offer) before pulling out the Japanese Gyokuro? If I remember correctly, from the research I have done, he totally botched the pronunciation of it, as well. I told him how I believed it is pronounced (“Yie-da-kur-o”). NOTE: Here is one way, different than how I thought it was pronounced http://www.forvo.com/word/gyokuro/ He was very open to my suggestion, admitting he wasn’t sure how to pronounce it. Then employee #1 overheard me, and pronounced it differently than how employee #2 or myself pronounced it (not they way the above link pronounces it, btw), and she got what I judge to be a little defensive by stating that some person high up in their organization is Japanese, so he would know how to pronounce it (and implying that she knew?). I found that interesting, as I didn’t see how that was related to how employee #2 pronounced it (which was very different than how she pronounced it). I admitted that there may be various ways to pronounce it, and left it at that (I have come to realize that in some situations I assume others are interested in ‘corrective input’ or a different perspective—in this case around pronunciation—and at the time I realized that maybe that particular moment was not the best time, and maybe employee #1 was simply reacting to my own defensive attitude that I walked in with).

I then asked employee #1 about harvest dates on the Gyokuro (one of my pet peeves about Teavana: they don’t know the year the green tea is harvested in), and after looking on the tin he admitted he didn’t know. I proceeded to tell him that harvest dates are important due to the fact that some green tea begins to degrade in as little as six to nine months after harvest, adding that that is why many tea retailers sell their tea at a significant discount right before the new harvest comes in. He seemed genuinely surprised by this information (not his fault, but Teavana’s, I judge) and seemed grateful for my having told him. I told him it was not anything against him, but that one thing I don’t like about Teavana is that they don’t provide harvest dates on their green teas.

Before I left, feeling like I may have put him off balance by all of my probing questions and subsequent ‘lecturing’ (I am a teacher and sometimes admittedly feel a NEED to ‘teach’ others even if they don’t want to be ‘taught’ by me at the moment), I told him how much I admired his willingness to listen to my criticisms. I left wondering if I should have even gone in there in the first place. I guess I keep naively hoping someone there will know as much about green tea (or more) as I seem to, and that they will be able to answer my questions. Surprisingly, I have yet to find a single Teavana employee able to do that. So, I resolve to be content with the fact that at least most Teavana employees seem to be open to learning more about the tea they sell, even if the new information comes from a customer like me.

In the end, I’m OK with salespersons not knowing things I expect them to know about what they are selling as long as they are open to input. For the reality is, I have been in the uncomfortable position of being expected to know something, and yet not knowing. Many a time as a teacher/instructor as long as I was open to the student teaching me a few things, and/or as long as I was willing to make an effort to get the answers they wanted, my students seemed to respect, or at least accept, my ‘ignorance’. I hope to do the same for others.

Another interesting note about my second encounter there. While looking at the Capital of Heaven Keemun, I thought I would give them another oppoutinuty to answer what I felt was a reasonable question about the tea: “Is this a bud-only tea?” She didn’t answer, looked at the side of the tin, and after a few moments, admitted she didn’t know. CRITICISM: At this point she could have at least made an effort to find an answer (I don’t remember there being anyone waiting behind me, not that that should make any difference). I have had a number of Keemuns and I know that the grade (and consequently the price) differs in part due to the bud-to-leaf ratio (as with many teas); I personally don’t think that was an unreasonable question about a tea that normally goes for $9/OZ. I judge Teavana should make information like that easily accessible for their employees. She then made some a number of comments, like that it won some award for its aroma, I think, and that it probably was a bud-only tea. Keeping my judgements to myself I decided to agree with her opinion and left it at that, for what good would it do to challenge her at that point? At least on a visit last year to the same store, when I asked about their Emerald Mao Feng, an employee was able to verify my suspicion that it was a Huang Shan Mao Feng by looking it up in some manual behind the counter.

END ADDITION

My second experience was the day after Christmas during their big sale. I went in first to look at what I wanted, talked over with my wife what I wanted, made no decisions, and then left to think it over while doing other shopping, with the intention to return soon after. When we returned (after discussing what we were going to buy with my wife), I had to wait. While waiting, I was observing the encounters of other customers with salespersons. One thing worth noting was how one employee said, after pouring tea into a bag and putting it on the scale, “Is that OK?” (I’ve hear LOTS about this on Steepster). As I didn’t hear how much the customer asked for I couldn’t judge how close to what the customer asked for the salesperson was in her measurements. And the way I look at it, the price is displayed (prominently enough) right there on the scale, and as the sales person waited patiently for the customer to respond, I saw no problem with the salespersons approach.

After waiting for at least five minutes (I didn’t mind, as they were busy, and it gave me a chance to observe what was going on, and to think more carefully about what I was going to buy) another salesperson finally attended me. Right away, I told her I wanted EXACTLY two ounces of each tea, and no more (what would have happened had I not stated that up-front? I don’t know). I then proceeded to ask for two ounces of four different teas (my wife subsequently asked for two other teas), and the salesperson was very diligent about making sure to get 2 oz. ON THE DOT (she would scoop in or scoop out tea, as needed). No problems or pressure there with adding more than what I wanted.

While she was pouring one of the teas, the salesperson asked me if I wanted a tin (I told here I had plenty), and told me some were 75% off, and offered to get one. My understanding was she was getting it simply for me to look at, and my, Yes (after I hesitated and she waited patiently for my answer—THAT is important to note ), was in reference for her to get one for me to look at and was NOT a commitment to buy it. She then proceeded to get one, showed it to me (and noted how it was airtight), and I then told her I wanted it (after another pause to consider whether or not I really wanted it, or if I was simply giving in to impulse buying—again, KEY to remaining in control) as it was rectangular, and I have lots of oval and rounded tins. To me, her mentioning the tin (at 75% off it was $1.74 ) was good customer service, and NOT being pushy (my wife even ask me right there in front of the salesperson if I wanted another one since they are so inexpensive, and the sales person said nothing, while patiently waiting for an answer—I decided, No, in the sake of simplicity, and the salesperson seemed to have no problem with it).

During the entire encounter I felt there was NO up-selling what-so-ever, and so I never felt pressured to buy something I didn’t want. All that to say, knowing what I wanted, giving myself permission to say, “No” or “Hmmm, I don’t know”, and allowing myself time to think before responding to a request to buy something really helped. I have found that when I feel rushed and I do not know what I want, and especially when I don’t feel comfortable with speaking up, and saying, “No” when necessary, I tend to make poor decisions I often later regret.

In short, I feel I was in control the entire time I was there, I am happy with what I bought, and do not regret any purchase I made.

43 Replies

I’ve had good and bad experiences at Teavana, so it’s really hit or miss. All I have to say though, is that Teavana was what introduced me to generally better tea than generic grocery store brands and I’m glad my first experience was in a shop that was not pushy.

I’m glad they and they were not pushy, and that they introduced you to better tea. THAT, I judge, is the biggest plus of Teavana: exposure to the wider (and wonderful) world of loose leaf tea.

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I don’t quite understand why people complain about Teavana upselling aside from those who do it in a pushy manner or seem disappointed that you did’t buy more than intended. That’s part of retailing. If you don’t like it, live in a box. Or better yet, buy everything online.
I also don’t why people complain about Teavana employees asking if the amount is okay when its SLIGHTLY over. If you want precise measurements and aren’t okay with paying half a dollar more – again buy online.

Not meaning to be rude, but some of you seem to attack Teavana simply because its the largest and most known tea vendor. Good luck finding tea shops that don’t do the same thing (although they do often do it in a more professional manner).

I’ve had sales people pour as much as two ounces (not just once, SEVERAL times) over. At 10 to 15 dollars per two ounces for some of the teas I like there, it’s slightly more than just a half dollar for that extra pour.

That being said, I dropped fifty bucks there today and am sipping on some of their tea right now.

I have never had someone over pour that much. Frankly if that happened to me I would demand to see a manager.

momo said

That is not part of retail. I used to work in a craft store and no part of my job was convincing people they needed something because not every store makes their mission the same thing as Teavana. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and belittling people for not liking what Teavana does (which by the way for me is based on how things went when I worked there, thank you very much) is indeed rude. And there’s not always a manager in a store anyway, especially at night. The hierarchy of their stores is bizarre.

I hear you, yappychappy. Over pouring by too much (then again what ‘too much’ is is a judgement) is suspect. I judge anyone on the floor is experienced enough to know the difference between, say, about 2 OZ of tea (ANY tea), and say, about 4 OZ. Not that it justifies it, but I can’t help but wonder how much of that is due to pressure from ‘above’.

thedrunkstrawberry: “I’ve had sales people pour as much as two ounces (not just once, SEVERAL times) over.” I believe you.

I hope you are enjoying the tea you bought. We have tried four of the teas we bought so far, and we have been enjoying them all (especially at 75% off!).

I never belittled. working in a craft store is a bit different than working in a business that inherently succeeds off of upselling.

Bubbles said

I’ve worked in a craft store. We were taught to sell. There’s no need to be pushy about the upsell, but just about every retail job I’ve worked teaches you that you NEED to sell. No company would be around long without them (sales)…whether it be a craft store, a tea shop, whatever.
I’d never go about it in a way that was described above, with the blatant over pouring, but yes…I would try to get add-on sales. Even though I’ve worked in retail, I would say something if they did that to me, or had an attitude.
That is my biggest problem with some of the Teavana threads. Someone walks in expecting to spend a few dollars, and walks out spending $100. Just say no. I have severe social anxieties, and I still say no when I feel like I am being taken advantage of. Simply restating that you only asked for X amount, or questioning the tally before you hand over your credit card will do.
I don’t think that yappychappy was belittling anyone…I think they just have a different opinion than most people I see on the forums who talk about Teavana. That’s all. :)

momo said

There’s a difference between having a different opinion and discrediting everyone else’s, which is pretty much what that reads, that’s all :)

eh… I dont buy Teavana because it is drastically overpriced and I am against them making these poor people live off of commission.

I try not to feed the corporate fascist conglomerate whenever I can and often its these bloodsuckers that put independent business under the ground. As a consequence, I buy my tea online, at Japanese shopping centers and at farmer’s markets.

I feel horrible for their employees and I dont- I’ve quit jobs because I had the conscience to reject being a deceitful/crumby human being, but I also had the luxury of listening to my conscience.

All in all, not only is their business model disagreeable with me, I haven’t had a tea from them that I like.

LefTea said

Yea, there’s a huge difference between accidentally pouring 2.2 oz versus 2.9+ oz. One is simple human nature (who knows exactly what 2 oz looks like?) and one is an upselling tactic that, for many people, is not appreciated.

I honestly don’t really understand why, except for the possibility of upselling tins, teavana stores don’t just have packages in store like they do online. It’s one of the main reasons I buy online more often than in store, especially if I’m stocking up on something.

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momo said

If you seem like you are a regular to the store the training tells you not to go through the same top down sell stuff and then it is a far less pushy environment. At most they’ll just be like, do you want to try anything new/see anything new and you’re in control of everything.

Interesting. To me, a desire for salespersons to tailor their approach due to how knowledgeable customers are of their store begs the question, Why don’t the employees get better training on how to make the initial judgement: are these new or existing customers? Many a restaurant where I live asks a question something to the effect of, “Is this your first time here?” Personally, I never mind that question. If my answer is, Yes, they proceed to tell me lots of things about how they do things (I think P. F. Changs does this). If it’s, No, then they proceed normally (I guess they then assume you generally know how they do things). What a simple question that may very well help avoid lots of mis-spent energy and bad feelings.

While working at the melting pot I trained to ask people if they had dined with us before (assuming we could not locate this on the computer which was often the case). Eventually the managers asked people making reservations if they had. If the guest had dined there before the routine was SUPER simple. If they hadn’t we had to go through ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. The time difference in serving a table was at least 5 minutes spent at table which is immense.

momo said

I want to say the first step of the tea counter training was to ask the customer if they’ve been to the store before, and then it of course branches off depending on the answer to that (“Welcome back” vs “welcome, here’s how our teas are sold, we have tins etc”)

Before I (briefly) worked there, I never recall being asked that but I did always go in knowing what I wanted and the fact the employees were so nice was what drew me to apply in the first place. I actually did get upsold once because of this, but it was only a $9 for 2 oz tea, and part of what I later learned was one of the things they’ll try for a regular, ie “want to see my favorite tea?” I believe it was Peachberry Jasmine Sutra, and I had no idea it even existed so once I smelled it, I needed it. (Also proof that if you ask someone who works there what their favorite is, it is not always a $20+ one!)

I think if more of the stores start following that, it would make it more likable. But at the same time the pressure of the sales is just awful. This store was considered a high traffic one and it most definitely was not in part of the mall where that would work. So I suppose it really depends on the store or the day if anyone is going to follow that training or try their hardest to make the sales quota.

yappychappy: I’ve been to a melting-pot once or twice, and although its been many years now, I remember thoroughly enjoying dining there. As fondue is not how most Americans eat (as least in my estimation), and as there is so much to it, I can believe the introduction taking 5 minutes. A quick thought, it may be good for them to tell the customer how long it is up front and then to add something something brief, as, “You can stop me at any time if you’ve felt like you’ve heard enough.” I know you may be thinking, “Like, Duh!” but little affirmations like that can go a long way towards helping others to say, “Enough!” For when they have more of a voice, they feel more in control. And the server WANTS them to feel in control . It impacts their overall experience, and the tip, and their decision to return, etc. I’ve waited tables before.

Momo: I’m glad to hear the “… first step of the tea counter training was to ask the customer if they’ve been to the store before, …” but I don’t remember any employee ever asking me that (I usually walk right up to the counter, a slightly different encounter then browsing in the store and being approached).

Regarding salespersons trying their hardest to make the sales quota, I offer this, erm, reflection, on sales.

I have no formal training in sales, but I judge successful selling is centered on the customer’s experience. I’m not as pessimistic about sales as I used to be, so thankfully I can now understand (and have experienced myself) how, for both the customer and salesperson, a sale can be win-win. The following is much easier said than done, but I believe if the salesperson’s intention is in the right place—a honest desire to connect the customer with a valued product—then the sale(s) will happen exactly as they need to, profiting both customer and salesperson equally (and associating company). Many a ‘salesperson’ has helped me open my eyes to see value in something where I didn’t see before. AND, I hope I do this as a teacher, for as I see it, teachers are in a sense salespersons—we’re simply selling intangibles rather than tangibles. As an example, just recently, after a teaching moment with a student, I was gifted with her response of “I feel smart!” Bingo! Win-win. : – )

If a Teavana salesperson truly understands (and maybe they do) the importance of that initial encounter with a customer and subsequent judgement of whether or not they are “New”, then they may choose to ask the aforementioned critical question regardless of how hard they want to make their sales quota.

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Lynxiebrat said

The only 2 negative things that have happened to me at a Teavana’s:

1.) Being asked if 2.6 is ok…Most of the time I go in there with a strict budget that must be stretched out so I can get other things that I need/want til the next check. But being asked that is not a big deal, I just smile politely and request it be 2.0.
2.) Not having enough money or space in my tea cupboard to buy mass amounts of everything I want. lol. But then…that happens at every tea store I go to.

I am with you on the strict budget. That’s why we bought the absolute minimum of 2 OZ on each tea when we shopped in-store. Wanting to buy lots of every tea that appeals to you can be hard to keep under wraps. I know from experience.

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darby select said

Sorry, I’m also on the LOVE TEAVANA bandwagon….although they have caused me to acquire an enormous amount of tea! LOL

I shop Teavana ALOT. I prefer to shop online because of the bags they package the tea in and that you get exactly 2oz. They always ask if it’s ok in store but it’s not like 2.1 or 2.2 but more like 2.8 which really starts to add up.

I went today in fact just for the citrus tins which happened to be hidden behind the counter…the visit wasn’t stressful at all. The guy that initially talked to me accepted my I know what I want but just looking to see if there is anything else I need. When I couldn’t find the tins I asked him and he happily sold me the tins (no pushing for more) and sent me on my merry way.

I just feel you need to be strong with them. I always joke that I have a Teavana store at home so they know I come often, love them and don’t need to be sold.

Glad to hear you have positive experiences there. Letting them know that you are firm about what you want and don’t want certainly helps.

the teavana’s i have been to must be like yours.. i haven’t had any of these experiences. some upselling is expected. not nearly harassment. and i’ve never had 2.8 weighed and asked if thats okay.. thats just crazy.
good salespeople know its not just about the current sale but future sales through word of mouth and references.. sounds like many teavana’s only care about current sales average and not so much on long term.

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Bubbles said

I would LOVE to see Teavana acknowledge that there are other ways to brew tea. I am never going to purchase a cast iron pot. I am just too clumsy, and I KNOW that it will end in heartbreak. (That is, if I could ever get around their price for one, which I couldn’t.)

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I have absolutely no idea why we don’t sell gaiwans. My first week, I asked my then-manager that, and she said, “What’s a gaiwan?” So I printed off a bunch of pictures from the internet and brought them in – she recognized it with a picture, but she hadn’t known the name as she had no personal interest in that style of brewing. I asked her to fax it to head office and ask if we could please find a supplier to sell them. Nothing came of that.

It doesn’t surprise me that staff at most locations wouldn’t recognize a gaiwan, though. Teavana is hiring minimum-wage workers, most of whom just need a job and aren’t actually tea drinkers to start with. They cover the bare basics of tea and their own product/sales process in training, and that’s about it. The training manual is still an inch thick. With pull-out flash cards. LOL.

My best guess as to why Teavana doesn’t sell gaiwans is simply that they aren’t very easy to use. Teavana’s biggest target market is unquestionably people who are very new to loose tea, and a lot of the training involves how to convince people that loose tea isn’t more difficult to make than bagged tea. Use this piece of equipment that you just have to throw away the leaves from. Follow the simple instructions on the back of the tin. Etc.

But gaiwans have, um…a bit of a learning curve. Honestly, the mess I made with mine at first…

As to the overpour issue, I think asking, “Is that okay?” for anything over 10g is quite excessive. I do ask for a 2g-10g, though. I didn’t at first, because I absolutely hate to be overpoured as a customer. But I discovered that trying to get it on the nose for every single person backfired badly, because there are a number of people who got frustrated with me for being “fussy” about it (and apparently wasting their time).

You make good points here regarding gaiwans and over-pouring. The reason you gave as to why they may not carry gaiwans makes a lot of sense to me. And regarding the over-pouring, I found this to be enlightening: “But I discovered that trying to get it on the nose for every single person backfired badly, because there are a number of people who got frustrated with me for being ‘fussy’ about it (and apparently wasting their time).” Some people are more cost conscious than others, and those others may not care if they end up spending a few more bucks—they just want to buy some tea and be on their way. Thank you for offering you perspective from the “front lines”.

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Dustin said

Is there a love/hate wagon, cause that is the one I need to ride! I hate that they discontinue favorites. I have had some really obnoxious sales people, some mildly irritating and a few really nice ones. I don’t like that they seem to go through employees so quickly. I have had several employees look at me like I’m making things up when I ask about discontinued teas that they have never heard of. I’m hoping that with the Starbucks take over, they will offer benefits and incentives that keep people working there for a while who have had a little more history with the company compared to the few months experience I’m seeing in employees now.

Turn over rate is huge. But that is my hope for the Starbucks take over as well. Make it nicer and less pressure for the employees who in turn make it nicer/less pressure for guests!

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Glad to here the positive experiences whether it is a good store, good employee, good region or just a good day! SimpliciTEA its wonderful that they paused and waited for you to make up your mind, something I’ve both done and witnessed, but have seen the opposite as well.

As for the over pouring, I only asked if it was a smidge or announced how much it was, depended on the guest and what they asked for, some didn’t say how much they want. I have witnessed former co-workers, one specifically who would majorly over pour and only tap a tiny bit back in and ask repeatedly if that was okay and after half a dozen times said that’s as close as she could get it. It’s really not that hard to get it on the nose and with the sample teas your hand gets used to it.

yappychappy you hit the nail on the head here: “good salespeople know its not just about the current sale but future sales through word of mouth and references.. sounds like many teavana’s only care about current sales average and not so much on long term.” Our first few months the comment was made by one of our team leads, claiming to quote someone from corporate “If you haven’t had a guest walk out on you, you’re not doing it right”. Major problem. But glad some stores/individuals can think for themselves.

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I made an addition to my encounters in the topic above.

Having read a number of things on this thread about how employees are hired and trained, I have slowly come to adjust my expectations about what a Teavana employee knows about tea and even about tea they sell. In thinking about why it bothers me that Teavana doesn’t provide this kind of imformation, it is largely that they charge so much for their tea. If most of their tea was priced, as some tea stores are, from say $2 – 6 OZ, rather than from $3 – $13 OZ, then I wouldn’t expect them to provide as much imformation about their teas.

Oh, well. I am beginning to accept that Teavana is just not going to give me the information I want, and so there’s no reason to go in there, or buy their tea, unless it’s 1) at a deep discount and 2) that I’m OK with knowing very little about the age or quality of the tea. It makes me appreciate the smaller tea retailers that can give me the kind of information I expect that much more.

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