Teavana -- If you don't want to buy something, too bad.

587 Replies

Wow it says 509 replies, but I see none? Where did they all go? Or perhaps it’s my browser?

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I have been working at Teavana for 4 months. I believe in the product, most of our teas are very high quality and yes they are expensive. A large part of that is the amount of ‘partners’ we have working at any given time. We value the one on one experience and teaching our customers about tea and the tea drinking lifestyle. I have given up coffee and physically feel a difference in drinking almost exclusively Teavana tea. We have a variety of different teas that all have different benefits. That being said here are my 2 cents on these terrible experiences people have had:

1) It is a very demanding and high pressure job for fairly low compensation. We are asked to do a huge amount of work for what will soon be less than the new minimum wage. It’s a stressful job and sometimes it does get to us, leading me to…

2) Our sales goals, both personal and store goals are ridiculously high. They are very difficult to meet for most stores especially since there is an abyss between the corporate side and those of us who are on the sales floor. Yet we are scolded for any sale less than around $40 (we are almost trained to feel guilty about ourselves).

3) The turnover rate for employees in my understanding is less than a year. Only 3 people of the 12 who work at my store have been there longer than I have. Meaning most Teavana employees are not very experienced.

In the beginning I too was pushy, I know I was and every time I saw a customer walk out the door I felt dirty, like I had cheated them. Particularly in the last 2 months I have gotten more familiar with the product and how to better service customers. Now I feel like I give my customers pleasant experiences and show them the things that they could really enjoy or have a real use for.

Long story short it is not an easy place to work. The experiences people have had are a result of an unexperienced staff, a very pushy sales model (which most of us are putting a personal spin on to make it bearable), and a huge amount of stress.

The only way I can keep my head level at Teavana at this point is that I believe in the product and how it can help people and that I form relationships with my customers. I have my regulars who I know by name, what they like and dislike and trust me not to up sell junk that they don’t need and those are literally the only reasons I haven’t put my two weeks in yet.

P.S. The samples do taste completely different than the actual tea. That is all a marketing thing, most people are used to overly sugared juices and soda pops, the idea is to get people in the door and have curiosity for tea. For those who do know tea we do have traditional teas that are much better in my opinion.

P.P.S. I have been feeling uneasy at Teavana for some time and now I am finding tons of forums such as this, full of bad experiences. I feel terribly guilty for the way you have been treated and I sincerely apologize for all the bad employees you have run into. If you are ever in Minnesota come to Teavana in Ridgedale mall and I will do my absolute best to give you a positive experience.

P.P.P.S. Tea does have real health benefits but it is not like a pill that you can take and instantly get the benefits. Tea benefits come from build up over time. People who take anti-histamines know what I’m talking about, Claritin doesn’t work immediately you have to take it for a couple weeks to take effect.

I suspected that might be the case. I tried to get a job at the Teavana that opened up near us, just for fun as a part time job.

During the interview, I talked about my passion for tea. I’m not the most knowledgeable person in the world on the subject (obviously), but I know more than the average curious-about-tea people who would be wandering into the shop. The person interviewing me started telling me that the expectation as a sales person was to push the product based on what I perceived to be the rather exaggerated health benefits. She didn’t come right out and tell me that my passion for tea was unnecessary, but that was definitely her tone.

I understand that a business needs something to separate itself from the competition, and they opted for the “health benefits” as that something; but we don’t have any other tea shops in the area. I suggested maybe talking about the flavor profiles alongside the “health benefits”, and was greeted with a stony stare. IN AN INTERVIEW. I felt like I was being reprimanded, and I hadn’t even been hired.

Anyhow, I didn’t get the job, but I wasn’t surprised. I was a bit sad, because Teavana has some really lovely tasting teas, and I didn’t see how telling people “Hey, our teas taste great!” would be a detriment to sales.

Management is definitely very close minded, since Starbucks bought Teavana at the end of 2012 we’re all supposed to be ‘partners’ and the idea is that I as a lowly sales associate could go up to a regional manager or even the CEO with suggestions and such. It doesn’t work like that.

Personally I sell off taste more than health benefits and what things remind you of. A coworker and I were bored on a slow day once and we made a “Romance Blend” (Strawberry Blush Rose, Strawberry Paraiso, and Jasmine Silver Needle) and it was delicious. Reminded me of a picnic in the French countryside with my girlfriend. I continued selling it all day because I made myself a pot and would give samples to customers if they were interested. It is a more expensive blend but it’s quite good and customers were happy to get it, I far exceeded my sales goal for the day. It was great….. The next day my manager heard about it and I almost got written up for it.

How dare you make the company more likable and profitable!


That’s just sad; can’t say i’m surprised, though.

darby select said

Hey Billie! I live up in Blaine! I am a huge Teavana lover eventhough I don’t like some of what they do. I have to say most of our MN stores are great! I’ve been to almost all of them and really only pushed at the MOA location.

Maybe I’ll try to come see you this summer! That blend sounds awesome! Might have to try it, I have all three of those teas, lol.

Many years ago I managed a Gymboree store, and it was very quota oriented too. I loved the job, but we had very specific average sale numbers that we were expected to make. I think voting with your feet is the best way to deal with it.

With that said, we have ZERO tea stores around here, and given the chance I will gladly visit a Teavana. I envy all of you who have tea stores nearby and can choose to go or not.

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Cwyn said

I will risk sounding like a hick and honestly admit I have never heard of Teavana. Looking up the nearest location, there are none in my state nor even remotely close. I did see they are selling some of the same exact cast iron kettles for up to $179, as compared to enjoyingtea.com at $50-ish.

All retailers have an upselling strategy of some kind. And retail is a field with more young people like college students, I would never bash on a company myself based on the bottom level of worker. Managers are the ones to interpret and apply company policies into a strategy that works for their typical customer. I suspect Teavana isn’t in my backwoods state because successful upselling here means personal interactions and never recommending anything that is not personal. The goal here is to build long term relationships and be there to meet needs as they come up. What we want is to go to a trusted retailer to help with a circumstance like a gift or social event. The retailer who does well upselling can quickly provide a bulk order to serve a large number of people, like a party or funeral or wedding. Retailers who say “we don’t do that here” lose business, but those who step out in the community thrive. We have bars who do quick orders of bread products through a local convenience store rather than a grocery or baker because the convenience store is willing to do it. This is a management strategy and the workers sell personal service rather than try and quick sell every stranger who walks in the door.

You sound like anything but a hick. You are well versed and I think you have a very valid point.

Cwyn said

Oh well it just feels like I’m missing the obvious when I order tea from overseas small tea sources but have never heard of the “big” retailer everyone seems to know! Thanks!

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I went to a Teavana yesterday for the first time with the expectation of having very pushy sales people as they are (in)famous for. The store was much smaller than I had imagined (I tiny room in a mall) so there was certainly no hiding possible. lol. To my surprise, they only asked me once if I was looking for anything and my boyfriend and I stuck our noses in pretty much every teapot and tin in the whole store for the next half hour with basically no interference. I bought a yixing teapot and they even warned me not to use soap in it as they wrapped it up for me. lol. So I was surprised that the workers were so chill. Now MAYBE this was due to the fact that we came in right before closing time, but still I was happy with my experience :)

boychik said

congrats on Yixing! which one did you get?

The tiny mouse :)

boychik said

its soo cute. did you decide on a tea? i wonder if they told you at Teavana about seasoning

No, they didn’t but I did my research beforehand. I ended up seasoning it with peppermint tea. I know its not traditional to use herbals, but that’s what I drink so why the heck not :P

Cwyn said

If you drink herbals, I am certain Yixing would be great for medicinal roots, I have never thought of that, might try it with a new pot, you have given me a good idea!

Medicinal roots like what? :P

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Cwyn said

Oh I would dedicate a pot just to Valerian root, since it so stinky it would have to be a solo pot. I don’t know if you can find the numbered herb teas anymore that I bought in the the 1980s, like 8 herb chai, 16 herb chai, and 22 herb chai. These were used as a supplement in a diet for meditation practice, they would go well in a dedicated pot, they had roots, stick like cinnamon, peppers, cardamoms etc., powerful flavor stuff and the root/twig base meant you had to boil them for 20 minutes at least to get the flavor out.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to drink Valerian yet. I’m just not on that level. lol

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Cwyn said

If you have a sore throat, slippery elm root is very soothing, traditional etc., juniper berries for cough etc. Nowadays we have access on the internet to Chinese medicine pots for cooking medicinal herbs, so I didn’t even think of using a dedicated Yixing though it certainly is a less expensive option than the electric cookers.

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I’m just glad this company hasn’t come over to the UK. I do believe we need a designated tea retailer at a national level and before anyone shouts Whittards it needs to be a step up from that experience. Question is how much of a demand is there for it.

A place that sells tea to drink and to enjoy at home could do well but would be hit by seasonal variations. For all the mythology, not many people want a cup of tea in summer so that would hit the profits.

Cwyn said

Could be cuz “tea” in England means late afternoon snack or light supper, and tea shops are pastry or bakery and you can get tea with that. That suggests the other stereotype about England, that the food is bad, when in reality the country is obsessed with great food, despite the far greater use of sandwich machines than we have here in the US. I think the interest in great food is key and if great tea becomes more of a focus, then food will be the door that goes there. Just my opinion…

A sandwich machine?

It seems poor that for such a tea drinking country we accept second best in tea by just buying generic supermarket brands. We step it up a game in coffee, in Manchester we have loads of great independent coffee shops but theres no equivalent for tea and I think we are missing a trick. Coffee has become cool, why not a chain of tea retailers?

Anyway back on topic I do feel for those who work at such an environment as Teavana, I work on selling stuff to people that they want, not selling stuff they don’t.

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darby select said

Ok guys, a good story! Went to one of our locations today and ended up being helped by the manager (found out later). He not only was helpful, he wasn’t pushy at all! He even brewed their new tomato lime for my mom and I so that we could try it. I ended up with the tea I planned on and one other, with his help, but not pushed in to it. He gave me exactly the 2oz I asked for too! I could go on and on, but it was so nice to see and he’s been with the company for 5 years!

Maybe a quick email to Teavanas customer services to relay the positive experience you had compared to a bad experience on a previous visit and how you as a customer appreciated the latest experience more.

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Went to another Teavana today. Different story. This one was a bit larger and the sales guy hovered over my shoulder the whole time. Another thing that was a little annoying was when my boyfriend asked what the difference between cast iron and clay was, the sales guy said “Clay isn’t as good as cast iron because it doesn’t stay hot as long and the cast iron has a ceramic coating that absorbs flavors and gets better with age.” Soooo, what now? I would say that they have different pros and cons, not that one is better than the other. Plus the comment about cast iron being better because it absorbs flavors just made him sound like he didn’t really know what he was talking about. He also asked me why I like my teapots “so small” and I said because I’m learning gongfu style brewing. He didn’t know what I was talking about. sigh

Oh and he also said he leaves flowering teas blooming around his house for days to scent the air. I thought what a waste of tea! Though at the same time I could see how that would be nice. lol

Cwyn said

I think he doesn’t really drink tea but finds other uses for it. Unless that is his sales pitch if he thinks people don’t like tea “buy it anyway, it looks good around the house.”

Uniquity said

I think he got confused from the manual – the point of the enameled coating is to stop the odors and flavours from sticking around, rather than trapping them like an unglazed clay pot. The same reason enameled cast iron seems to be a big trend in cookware at the moment – easy to clean, little to no residue. Poor guy.

That’s what I was thinking. I was like isn’t it the opposite?

Cwyn said

Yeah it suggests he doesn’t know anything and he really doesn’t drink tea, because the concepts here are fairly easy to understand even for very casual tea drinkers, nobody needs to be a food scientist to understand teapots. A little experience is all that is required.

Did you not tell the sales person to foxtrot oscar instead of following you around like a bad smell? That would lose me as a customer. Ask me if I need any help by all means but let me come to you if I want anything. Jeez.

Why do people put up with it?

Yeah, my boyfriend said I should have been more forceful, but I was hungry anyway so I saw that as a sign to just leave and get some food.

Uniquity said

@morebloodytea – I would rather shop elsewhere than put up a stink about sales-people (unless something was truly inappropriate). I tend to let my money do my talking rather than give people a hard time at their minimum wage job. This might be because I worked at a Subway as a teenager, or because I’m Canadian or just because I’d rather not fight with people unless there is something truly wrong. I think everyone here knows that the sales tactics come from on high. At least they get a discount on tea! :)

To be honest I don’t really see myself as “putting up a stink” about the sales-people, but rather sharing my experience at the Teavana store. It was my impression that this was the entire purpose of this thread.

Uniquity said

I was attempting to respond to morebloodytea’s question of why people put up with it – and why I wouldn’t tell the sales person to foxtrot oscar. I will amend my post to make that more clear.

Thank you, that makes more sense.

Jen M said

Something that I’ve found works REAL well if you’re a female with long hair and you’ve got a hovering sales person? Start flipping your hair. A lot. Flip it side to side, take it in your hands and twist it into a bun then shake it out, pretend to pull it into a ponytail and then flip it up in the air. Flip. That. Hair. Causes everyone within 15 m of you to take at least one step backwards.

And if that doesn’t work? “Hey, buddy? I know I smell good and stuff, I did just shower this morning after all, but hovering so close just to get a whiff of some of my sweet scent really doesn’t look good for you. How about you come over here, get one really good whiff, and then back off? I’ll even give you a hug if you want the smell to linger.”

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I still go there if I’m by one to look around. Nobody really bothers me beyond asking if I wanted to see something. Might get something if I was ever able to visit during a sale.

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