Trust and Discrimination

We have a hard time trusting our institutions, and breaches seem to occur frequently and everywhere. We must have multiple layers of protective filters on our computers to keep malicious intruders from compromising our data. We buy “insurance” designed to monitor our online personas to ensure no one has stolen our identities or ruined our credit ratings.

In the political realm, the percentage of citizens who trust our public servants is so low it makes you wonder about the few remaining folks who still have faith. And in food, we have come to expect regular breakouts of food-borne illness, with Chipotle being only the latest large example.
Of course, in our niche of the food industry, we are used to having a bunker mentality, waiting for the next negative headline to torpedo a new layer of society that might otherwise have considered shopping with us.

So what, if anything, can you do to inspire trust in your customers and potential customers? Being active in your community sends a powerful message that helps instill confidence, but this takes you away from your store.

The single most powerful tool I believe you have is your product guarantee. When you are willing to take back even an empty bottle, you send a very clear message that you trust your customers. Now every store has its abusers, those folks who repeatedly buy big and return big. Well, here is where you must discriminate. Your team must alert you to chronic returners, and you must address them—in a neutral setting away from the store. Tell them you are having a hard time satisfying their needs, and that they may be happier shopping elsewhere. You’ll be surprised: this simple personal acknowledgement may resolve the problem, and turn your abuser into one of your best customers! WFJay Jacobowitz

Jay Jacobowitz is president and founder of Retail Insights®, a professional consulting service for natural products retailers established in 1998, and creator of Natural Insights for Well Being®, a comprehensive marketing service designed especially for independent natural products retailers. With 39 years of wholesale and retail industry experience, Jay has assisted in developing over 1,000 successful natural products retail stores in the U.S. and abroad. Jay is a popular author, educator, and speaker, and is the merchandising editor of WholeFoods Magazine, for which he writes Merchandising Insights and Tip of the Month. Jay also serves the Natural Products Association in several capacities. He can be reached at (800)328-0855 or via e-mail at

Published in WholeFoods Magazine June 2016