Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Good Old Days

I dislike hearing people describe how great things were in the good old days. There is nothing we can do about "progress" and change is inevitable. But the past held many benefits. Before television, people had actual conversations. The imagination was used for things like reading and other creative pursuits.

Earlier today I ventured forth to see if the department stores held any post-Christmas bargains worth scooping up. The trip was dismal and frustrating. It wasn't the selection of merchandise that caused problems. It was a complete lack of customer service.

During the heyday of the last century, stores recognized that customers might want someone to show them merchandise or make suggestions. Stores hired people to assist the shopper and handle the financial transaction. These people were usually friendly, polite, well-groomed and knew the store's inventory. Alas, customer service has gone the way of the corset and buggy whip. Today's customer must not only search for the merchandise but must also search for someone to take their money.

Several years ago, I vowed never to wait in line to purchase merchandise, apart from waiting in the obligatory grocery check-out or perhaps movie ticket line. I have stuck with my pledge and refuse to wait to give up my money. There is something obscene about doing so. It makes sense to return the merchandise to its place and simply walk away. Few items could be so fantastic as to require my waiting in line.

Today I did find a bargain or two, items that I needed and which were on sale. It took a great deal of time to find someone to wait on me who wasn't either stocking merchandise or busy telling another sales person what she got for Christmas.

Media news reported today how business had slumped during the holidays. A few retailers indicated they will be closing stores. Wake up store managers everywhere! There might be a reason why brick and mortar buildings are in trouble. Why drive to a store, search for the correct merchandise, look for a sales associate to ask a question and eventually search for a clerk to ring up the purchase. You can transact the same purchase online in seconds. You will also know immediately whether a product is available in a certain color or size and how long it will take before it arrives.

That is the method which growing numbers of us are using for shopping before and after Christmas. Why not? Shoppers don't see the need for making trips to the mall. There are other ways to get the same result.

I wish the retail world good luck. But they need to step back and take a look at the reason for their gradual demise. Like many other aspects of our society, retail needs to re-evaluate its goal and help revitalize customer service.

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