Natural Foods Merchandiser
Secret shopper: supplement for seasonal affective disorder

Secret shopper: supplement for seasonal affective disorder

Each month, NFM’s secret shopper heads incognito into a natural products store with a question. The employee’s answer—and our expert’s evaluation of the response—is reported here. Our aim: to help you improve your store’s customer service.  This month's question: Can you recommend a supplement for treating seasonal affective disorder?


The question: Can you recommend a supplement for treating seasonal affective disorder?

STORE: Small natural foods store in Southern California   

Store: Vitamin D3 would help.

NFM: How does it work?

Store: I don’t know exactly what the brain chemistry is, but it impacts the neurotransmitters.

NFM: Other suggestions?

Store: St. John’s wort. Are you on any prescriptions?

NFM: No, why do you ask?

Store: The St. John’s wort can interact with pharmaceuticals.

NFM: OK. Thanks for your help.

Comment: Ashley Koff, RD, founder of ashleykoffapproved.com and featured nutrition expert on the CW television series “Shedding for the Wedding.”

Right off the bat, this store employee commits a significant foul. The responsibility of an employee is not to treat, diagnose or in any way lead a customer to believe a retailer can address medical issues—doing so can set the store up for liability issues. The best response would be to address this limitation and offer suggestions based on sound research. The employee is correct that St. John’s wort and vitamin D3 have been shown to help with seasonal affective disorder, so he did a good job there.

If an employee isn’t sure how a supplement works, he should request the help of a supervisor. An additional tool would be to provide a resource that toplines key information about nutrients and herbs.

I do like that the employee asked about prescription medications. Because supplements are not sold the way medications are, health care practitioners forget to mention how supplements interact with medications.

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