mattwnz: The time a sales person spends on a customer may not initially result in a sale. But if the customer has a good experience, they may come back in the future, or they may tell their friends about it, so it is a form of marketing, and it is about get the word out there.
When I started in retail 28 years ago, I'd have to totally agree with you.
In my area there were 4 or 5 stores selling the same sorts of things, but only two or 3 main ones and it didn't really matter if the customer went to one of the other stores a week later and just purchased of them.
We would get our fill of customers, they had seen first, coming to see us.
But this game has changed.
Today customers will head into a store to look at the goods, talk with someone to ask a few questions they weren't sure about from what they'd read, and then head back to their web browser to make a purchase.
I suspect this is why many of the major retailers now have really great web sites so they can pick up their share of that business.
But I have to disagree with you about the value of that in store experience with customers coming back.
Having said that, I did just spend $20 more purchasing something in Toy World the other day than I could have paid ordering the exact same product from a US web site.
I paid the difference because I want my child to be able to enjoy the magic of a toy store next year and figure that if I don't support the local retailer then they won't be there.
It puts real price pressure on though which is not good for the consumer in the long term because the level of service they can expect will drop, just look at the problems with getting service from telco's and ISPs.
Ps: OP, glad to hear you got a good outcome, lucky :)