We take an in-depth look at the budtenders behind the front lines of cannabis
Welcome to Budtender Insider, our new interview series for Shop Talk where we take an in-depth look at the dedicated budtenders behind the front lines of retail cannabis. In our first interview of the series, we talk with Alex Gusinow of Cannabis & Co.’s Sorority House location in Eugene Oregon about what makes a good budtender, top retail trends in the Eugene area, how best to train your staff and much much more!
Store: Cannabis & Co. Sorority House
Address: Eugene, OR
Budtender: Alex Gusinow
Marijuana Retail Report: Can you tell us how you first decided to get into the cannabis industry?
Alex Gusinow: I first got into cannabis when I turned 18 and I got my medical card. I got that because I have restless leg syndrome, and a lot of people who have restless leg syndrome can deal with it with pills. I think there’s like a 5% grouping of that have extreme severities of it. I’m one of those 5%. I found that taking pills simply wasn’t enough. I started looking at cannabis, and basically got into the medical program and since then have been medicating and learning. Right now I work at Cannabliss. That is the Eugene location, The Sorority House, and it’s named that because it’s located in an old sorority house. It’s an amazing experience because again getting to see the marijuana industry kind of grow. There is a double-edged sword to that as well with the medical side, but to see it grow and to become much more accepted has been really wonderful. Every day brings an opportunity for a new product to market.
Marijuana Retail Report: What are the retail trends right now in Eugene?
Alex Gusinow: I’ve definitely seen flower and concentrates being the top sellers. Edibles I think are a close third, but it really seems like flower still reigns supreme. People love buying ounces or joints. Concentrate is still new in a way, still exotic to the consumer. It also appeals to a different audience than flower does. I’m sure you’ve seen people will have bong carriers. Just padded backpacks for their bongs, but then you have this new age of some people having these crazy like military style hard cases for their dab rigs with an e-coil (coil for dabbing connected to a battery.) It’s like what? It’s just progressed so fast.
Marijuana Retail Report: You said flower reigns supreme, in your location what types of species of plant are you seeing as being the trend? What are your top sellers?
Alex Gusinow: I definitely say hybrids. I do see a lot of people who come in and they just want something to sleep. It’s like, “Okay. I want this indica or I want this sativa,” but really, in general, it seems to be hybrids. For our top selling strains, it’s unique because at Cannabliss one of the big draws here is that they are able to stock a lot of different strains from a lot of different growers all the time. Just on one shelf we have 30 strains. It’s really difficult to pinpoint one, but I can tell you 9 Pound Hammer has been really popular and Hindu Kush and Pure Kush have been very popular indicas. Sunset Sherbet and Banana Kush are popular hybrids. Gorilla Glue or I guess GG4 now is such an incredibly popular strain, and it continues to be so. Sativa side a Pineapple or Super Silver Haze. Those are always great. Cookie strains are also always popular.
Marijuana Retail Report: How did your store deal with things like training and maintaining best practices with your retail staff?
Alex Gusinow: I think the best experience in general or how to obtain the best experience really is through doing it, right? You can read all the books you want, but you got to actually live it. At Cannabliss, how I was trained was you start working at the front desk. Check medical patients in and check IDs, which is the most important part. You’re around the product. You’re around people, but you’re not really selling anything and you’re not really responsible for inventory. You’re responsible for keeping menus up to date, the webpage up to date, things like that. It’s not easy by any means or a slacker job, but it is a way to introduce you to the industry slowly. At Cannabliss, it’s not just you’re front desk. You’re front desk for maybe three or four days, then they move you to another shift like rolling joints or doing the pre-rolls, and doing maybe some budtending on the side, some slight budtending after being at the front. Then you start having full shifts as a budtender Basically everyone Cannabliss does every position. There’s not just one person that is a budtender and they are always a budtender or one person that is a receptionist that’s always a receptionist. They make everyone do every position available, besides the manager and the obvious higher up positions. Everyone gets training in every aspect. If people need menus updated, it’s not like they have to wait for anything. They can be like, “Okay. I just check this off and then send a quick little message to the front, and the people will know what to do.” That’s really the training there is of course we do have the manual we go through, but the training also is very hands-on. You have a teacher with you in layman’s term. Someone that’s been there longer that you do that helps overshadow you. Once you’re good, then they kind of set you free and see how you do. Really it’s up to you to make sure you’ve taken the training because they’ve given you everything you need. Now it’s up to you to show them that you can apply it.
Marijuana Retail Report: In your opinion, what’s the best way for a budtender to possibly deal with a new customer who maybe unsure of the product?
Alex Gusinow: The best way is to first tell the person your name or introduce yourself, so you’re not some nameless salesman. That’s the first thing. Always introduce yourself and ask the person what they’re looking for. Don’t ever suggest, “Hey, these is our sales today.” First thing is, “Hey, what can I help you with,” right? Establish that you’re there to help them because we’re not basically allowed to say anything’s a fact. Like we can’t say, “Oh, this is going to cure your cancer,” because there’s no way we can prove that. You can’t just come up and be like, “Hey, how are you doing? Oh, you have a leg problem? This is going to cure it.” You have to be like, “Okay. Let’s see what we can do. This strain is known for this or this. Like RSO oil is known to help with this.” Really you first want to make sure you know who you’re dealing with if the person comes in and they just want a joint. For instance, like “Hey, I’m Alex. I’ll be your budtender today. How can I help?” “Just looking for a joint.” That’s it. If you’re again dealing with the people who are more first timers or whatever, I think there’s two types. The first timers where it’s more of a fun thing, like it’s their 21st birthday, then it’s more just let them look at everything. You know what I mean? Now on the other side there’s the people who are more hesitant of course. Not scared, but more shy to come in. With them it’s the same thing almost. It’s let them see everything. Let them have a really positive experience. Really don’t try to push anything on them. More let them tell you what they want. your job as a budtender is to make sure you recommend the best product that you think would give them relief. Make a connection. They may go to another store and have some person be really cool with them. That’s the one thing about budtending is it’s so different from retail. You have to make a connection with these people. They will come back because you made the experience for them.
Marijuana Retail Report: In terms of, what do you call it, in terms of best practices again for retailers, what would be a tip as a budtender to say an entrepreneur who’s looking to start a dispensary? What would be a tip that you could give to that retailer that would help him formulate his business for his budtenders?
Alex Gusinow: I’d say the first thing when you’re hiring, hire people that are passionate about cannabis, passionate about the world around it, the culture, as well as someone who wants to work hard. Make sure that you get people who are energetic. That goes without saying, right? Number two is when you have your budtenders, make sure that they all, at least I would hope, that they’re trying to sell honestly. I know that it’s hard to work at a store and try every single product. That costs a lot of money. The products you do try and the people that tell you, the feedback you get, I’d just say sell honestly. Don’t try and push a product on someone, especially someone that is kind of newer. Like for instance, at my store we have a lot of foreign students because the University of Oregon has a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds there. If you have someone that comes in that doesn’t really speak English and they want a joint, you should not sell them the biggest most expensive joint unless they ask for it. They don’t know. That’s what I mean by sell honestly. If they’re like, “I just want something for sleep,” get them something that you know would be good for sleep and it’s not going to be nefarious. Because for instance, we have joints that come in like half grams, full grams, grams and a half. It’s like just be an honest salesman. Because the more you do that, the more I can guarantee you have people coming back to your store for those budtenders as trustworthy advisors. People will only come for those budtenders. They will drive 15 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever, just to go to that store versus any another store to see that budtender. It’s not even like they’re an attractive thing like, “Oh, it’s that hot guy or hot girl.” It’s, “Oh, that person’s going to sell me something because they listen.” That’s the third thing too is have the budtenders listen. Sell honestly, first. Be a good person, but three, just listen. I’m sure you know. People come into dispensaries sometimes and just want to talk about their day or say, “Oh, my day is this or that. I need something for this,” and they want to just keep talking. Just listen. Don’t like listen for 20 minutes but as you’re working just be willing to have a mindful ear. If you’re just someone that’s cold or just wants to sell something, or doesn’t really care, or just wants to talk to other budtenders, or be on your phone, then what separates you from every other store? Why should people come to you and spend money with you? It really boils down to that.