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New dispensaries opt for hands-off approach when it comes to customers

March and Ash (2835 Camino del Rio S., Suite 100) likes that its retail space is set up differently than most San Diego dispensaries. The roughly 2,200 square-foot Mission Valley store has patients check in at its reception, but then allows them to roam freely without assistance from the budtenders that are often the hallmark of other dispensaries. At its opening event on Sept. 22, customers examined and picked up products at their own leisure, while flagging down the store’s retail associates (March and Ash calls them “cannabis concierges”) if they had a question. It’s much more common for dispensaries to use the typical budtender model. However, dispensaries like March and Ash and Mankind Cooperative (7128 Miramar Road, #10) opt for a different shopping experience in hopes customers will come away more educated about cannabis products. Blake Marchand, CEO of March and Ash, says his store’s setup emphasizes education by encouraging patients and customers to inspect products (with help from a cannabis concierge) in order to find a product they love. Still, Marchand emphasizes that cannabis concierges are there to assist, but not push products onto customers. “These other dispensaries, I'm not naming them, but a lot of them will push certain products on their customers. They'll push sales goals on them,” says Marchand. “We don't even allow our vendors to offer incentives to our employees.” Marchand says he’s seen budtenders that work on commission (his concierges don’t) and push products onto customers who aren’t as savvy when it comes to cannabis. As a result, patients leave with items they may not need or dislike. Customers are willing to return, he argues, when they find products they like. “Every patient that walks in, [concierges] will approach them and find out if they're a new patient and what they’re looking for, and if they have any questions," says Marchand. "We get a lot of returning patients right now, but there are a lot of newbies as well. So when they come in for the first time, we do want to walk them around the store, help educate them on the products, and find out exactly what they’re looking for and make recommendations.” Mankind Cooperative in Miramar is set up similarly to March and Ash. Customers can inspect products and smell jars of flower in the small store without help from budtenders. “Cannabis consultants” are on hand if customers have questions. Cathy Bliss, Mankind’s director of community outreach, says this model is helpful because it’s less anxiety-inducing for customers and allows them to self-educate by reading product descriptions. “The idea that you don't have to just wait in line and then know that there's 100 people behind you,” says Bliss. “The model that we have is that you can take your time and compare different products in the same category.” Both Bliss and Marchand add that dispensaries that operate without counter service are not required to have a different sort of permit than ones with budtenders. Urbn Leaf (1028 Buenos Ave.), a dispensary in Bay Park, also shares goals of consumer education. But Josh Bubeck, who’s in charge of Urbn’s product purchasing and brand development, says the store uses budtenders because they help consumers find the right product by explaining each item. “[Cannabis] isn't as common as shoes and shirts and your traditional retail,” says Bubeck. “We're creating a whole new industry. So the biggest key component to this industry is going to be education.” Bubeck says budtenders also help the store churn out a greater volume of people especially during peak hours. Budtenders can assist customers in getting what they need faster than if they tried to navigate the store’s many products on their own. However, Bubeck insists Urbn doesn’t rush customers. “There's not a time limit. Of course we have what we shoot for when it comes to our customers’ average time,” says Bubeck. “But no, it's definitely not like, ‘you have to have the five minutes or you're out of here’ type of thing... That would hurt the experience for the consumer.” [Article Source Link]( "Article Source Link")