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Watch Seller: Putting Right Face on Hands-On Business

When shopping at Tourneau, a Swiss watch store at South Coast Plaza, customers are faced with an array of timepieces ranging in price from $80 to $1 million. That’s why sales clerk Max Sotodeh thinks the most important part of his job is educating the customer.

“We sell more than 10 brands and there are many styles. It’s overwhelming for a lot of people, since a fine watch is a very personal item and most people like to put a lot of time into their decision,” Sotodeh said. “I try not to rush them. They might need to visit the store several times before making a decision.”

Sotodeh prefers a low-key approach based on gaining the customer’s confidence. “Watches are actually quite interesting and people like hearing about the workmanship and history behind the companies, since we sell some of the best watches available,” he said.

When helping customers make a selection, Sotodeh first tries to find out a little about their lifestyle or the lifestyle of the person for whom they are buying the watch. “Then we discuss a price range and I am able to help them narrow their selection based on price and style,” Sotodeh said.

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During a typical day, Sotodeh assists 10 to 15 customers. “I spend the whole day explaining and educating and most days go by very quickly. Holidays are always extremely busy in a store like this.

“Someone trying to work into a good retail sales position needs a lot of patience and the ability to keep learning. It takes hard work sometimes, but it’s important to make the customer feel like you are always willing to help.”

OCCUPATION: Retail clerk

* What’s involved: Assisting customers in selecting and purchasing merchandise; handling sales transactions and, in some cases, arranging financing.

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* Qualifications: At least a high school diploma. Many stores conduct in-house training seminars to improve employees’ product knowledge and customer-relations skills.

* Outlook: By 1998, number projected to increase 10.4% to 40,960.

* Salary range: $5-$10 per hour; some earn additional income through commissions.

* Pros: Most full-timers receive medical and retirement benefits. Some are able to earn $40,000 per year or more in commissions.

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* Cons: Often required to work holidays, evenings and weekends.

* Advancement: Can move to supervisory and administrative positions, such as vice president of sales.

* Quote: “The most important thing is to make the customers feel comfortable and gain their trust."--Max Sotodeh, Tourneau

Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times

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