Reverse Economy fosters Poor Customer Service


Is it just me, or are my blogs getting longer…and longer…

Sorry guys, I talk a lot. Enjoy

Reverse Economy fosters Poor Customer Service 

Remember when cashiers would remember you by name and made eye contact and smiled when you checked out from the store?  I do.  There was a grocery store in my home town that wasn’t a huge corporation that spread over the continent.  As a matter of fact the store only operates in southern California, so there is no huge corporate conglomerate sitting God knows where sucking up all the profit.  And when I was a kid, the one in my neighborhood had the same cashiers working in it for years, slowly making their way up the management chain through hard work and good work ethics.  I even remember when one manager retired, he invited my family to his retirement party; he had watched me (and every other kid in the neighborhood) grow up in his store.  Employees had to go through rigorous training and lots of tests before they would be allowed to be cashiers.  They had to know a lot of prices and product location and be able to remember the code for 40% of the products in the store before they were allowed to be a cashier.  Sounds crazy right?  Almost sounds unfair or unreasonable based on today’s standards doesn’t it?  But it isn’t, it makes sense.  And despite the fact that this grocery store is not country wide, despite that it’s only customers are in an economy collapsed state, they are still going strong and showing no sign of collapse.  I wonder why? 

So far, my Wal-Mart survey has not reached a lot of people.  I only have 9 responders.  However, in even that small pool of people, over 60% of them say that Wal-mart has standard or less than standard customer service.  How is it then that they are still one of the most profitable stores in the country?  If your local “mom-and-pop” shop that baked bread and pastries treated you that way, how quickly would you quit shopping there?  Fast enough to make the average person suffer whiplash would be the most likely answer.  What about that local hardware place your grandfather used to go to?  Yeah, it’s small, and may not have the huge selection that Home Depot has, but I bet the employees know everything there is to know about nearly every product in that store don’t they?  And if they treated you the way most employees do at other stores, you would be just as quick to stop going there wouldn’t you?

So, why does the same logic not seem to hold true for our huge corporate chains?  You know what I am talking about.  The snot nosed, sagging pants teenager who is more concerned about her next break and calling her boyfriend that paying attention to the items she is scanning.  Or the rude snobby lady at the Macy’s that can’t even be bothered to give you more clear directions on where the bathroom is.  All you can get out of her is, “upstairs” without even a sideways glance in your direction.  (Not to mention the prices!!)

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that this kind of customer service is everywhere, all the time.  Yes, sometimes there are great cashiers and great customer service agents walking the halls in your various corporate chains.   But it seems to as though it is quickly becoming a fading reality.  So what does that have to do with this “reverse economy”? 

  Do you remember Economics in high school?  Or how about Economics 101 in college?  Do you remember a little thing called “supply and demand”?  How was that supposed to work again? 

We, the customer, ‘demand’ a product or service.  They, the company, ‘supply’ us with it.  Not to mention the fact that our level of ‘demand’ was directly related to the price of the product.  Yes, I know the level of availability had a lot to do with it as well, but without the ‘demand’ it didn’t matter if your product was nearly free, no one would buy it.  This also meant that if your product was wanted by everyone, you didn’t need to make it extra expensive, the price could be very reasonable and you would still make more than enough profit off of the sheer volume of sales.  (So what’s up with the gas prices then?)

A good example of supply and demand:  I used to work at this awesome little bagel shop.  A little mom-and-pop place, literally, the husband and wife came up with their gig and ran it together.  They made about 17 different types of bagels and delivered them to car dealerships, doctor’s offices, hospitals, warehouses, etc for about a 50 mile radius.  During open business hours they sold bagels and killer sandwiches made with the bagels, specialty in house made cream cheeses, orange juice and smoothies.  This company had a total of 12 employees, not including the husband.  They started baking bagels at 4 am, finished delivering by 7 am and opened for breakfast at 730 am.  They closed for the day at 1pm, just after lunch.  After paying for all their supplies, taxes, bills and employees, this company grossed, on average, 750,000 dollars!!  The year before mom-and-pop got a divorce was their highest grossing year every with 1.2 million.  Do you know how they did it?  Supply and demand, combined with phenomenal customer service, and an amazing product that was not short on quality.  The area wanted what they had, and they supplied it well and treated their customers amazingly. 

  The supply and demand factor worked well.  They didn’t bake 1,000 extra bagels that they knew they wouldn’t sell.  They made the orders they needed, plus the same extra that they usually sold every day.  If the jalapeno bagels weren’t really a hot seller did they make 50 of them the way they made 50 of the Onion that sold out every day?  The correct answer is – No. 

And my point is?  My point is this: do you think that this company would have made that much money, or lasted as long as they did if they had treated their customers the way Wal-Mart’s employees (or McDonalds, or Burger King, or Wendy’s, or Home Depot, or anyone) treat us half the time?  I know that not all places have bad customer service all the time.  However, if my survey shows that out of just 9 people the score for customer service was below satisfactory most of the time, how does that translate for a small company?  If you take that average and apply it to this small bagel shop, how long would they have lasted?  A year?  Maybe two?

Enter what I have decided to call: Reverse Economy.  Supply and demand is a thing of the past.  No longer does it matter that we do not need it.  No longer does it matter that we cannot afford it.  No longer does it matter that we have no idea what it is.  We will buy it anyway because we have been convinced we should.  The newest gadget?  Gotta have it.  Does it matter than I already have one that works very well that I only bought 1 year ago?  Nope.  This new one has a .45” bigger screen…..gotta have it!  Does it matter that the phone companies you use charges you out the whazoo for everything, taxes each individual item on each individual phone, and locks you into a contract that isn’t really what they say it is?  Nope.  You will complain and gripe, but you aren’t paying that cancellation fee and by the time your contract is up in two years you will have forgotten all about this and sign up again.  Not to mention the fact that you paid them FAR more than you ever would have had you just cancelled.

The fashion industry changes what is “hip” about every 2 seconds, which also translates into….buy it now!  It won’t be here tomorrow!  Already have 15 pairs of shoes?  So what….these are blue!  You don’t have a pair that is blue and it’s the only thing that will match with the one dress you have that you wear once a year.  I swear the average woman has at least 4 different kinds of everything: shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream, foundation, mascara, etc.  How many of us, right now, could go into our closet or drawers and pull out enough underwear to last two weeks or more without having to wash clothes? Does this same logic seem to apply to the corporate chains?  At first glance it might seem so, but if you really started paying attention, you would find this to be false.  They stock large quantities of what’s “in” at the moment, food included. 

They do not have to spend the time and money trainging their employees on good customer service,

because they know that you will be back tomorrow anyway.  They do not have to spend the time and

money trainging their managers to handle disciplinary action paperwork on the employees because

they know that you wll be back tomorrow anyway.  You have to have what they have on their shelves,

and they have you sold hook line and sinker that its just so much easier to get it from them than to go

somewhere else.

I do not believe that we create the economy we shop in anymore.  They create it for us and we buy it, because we believe we have to, or truly believe that these things are needs and not wants.  I use the current trend of teeny tiny shorts as my example.  I will NEVER buy my daughter those shorts.  EVER!  I do not know what moms ever started to.  What I want to believe happened is this:  Someone somewhere in some fashion place said they were “hot” and “trendy”.  So the stores stocked them.  The choices were limited, much as they are now.  I believe that originally there were the regular shorts available, but a higher amount of teeny shorts were stocked.  Thus, once the normal shorts were gone, moms felt pressured to buy what was there because their kids “needed” those clothes.  This created a false sense of what was popular and thus the cycle continued year after year with the selection of modest shorts shrinking exponentially and the selection of teeny shorts multiplying exponentially.  Not to mention…..getting shorter and shorter exponentially. 

No one can ever convince me otherwise.  Call it ignorance if you wish, I don’t care.  I cannot bring myself to believe that millions of mothers are truly, honestly, willingly sending their daughters to school in hooker shorts.  I believe they do it because they just don’t stop and think about the fact that there are other options, their daughter will not truly die if she does not have them, and they should be the ones in control of the product available to them and not the other way around. (Not to mention the amount of “sex” shoved down our throats in every media outlet on the planet). 

Our credit score is even geared for consumption.  No longer is a good credit score gained by honest spending.  No longer is a person considered a good credit risk if they have NO debt.  Now, if a person has debt, they have a good credit score.  What the heck is that?  You mean, if I spend MORE money than I make, I get a high credit score?  I don’t know about you, but that kind of math doesn’t work in elementary school.  If Tommy has $10 and wants a toy that costs $15 dollars does Tommy have enough money?  The answer is no, plain and simple.  How is a parent supposed to teach their children good spending habits?  I can teach my child to not spend more than they have, to save their money and use it diligently, and make their money work for them.  Then they leave home and they operate the same way.  After college they want to buy a house.  What does the bank tell them?  “I’m sorry, you don’t qualify, you don’t have any credit.”    

Say What?  You mean, that because I have no debt and obviously am not delinquent on the debt I do not have, I have no credit score?  I have to basically mismanage my money and spend beyond my means to get the credit score I need to buy the house I want.  And, the banks will tell you that you qualify for a larger loan that you could ever realistically pay on a monthly budget.  I could go off on a whole other subject with that, but, I won’t. 

That is what I call a reverse economy, an economy that controls the consumer instead of the consumer controlling the economy.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve had control issues for a long time, I do not like being told what I can and cannot do (or buy).  So I am fighting back.  It won’t make a difference to their bottom dollar, and I hold no dreams that it will.  But it makes a difference in my household.  It makes a difference to the type of money spending habits that my children see me exercising.  It won’t make a difference to the corporation’s bottom dollar today, but maybe, just maybe by the time my children are adult consumers, or my grandchildren are adult consumers, things will have changed and the American people will be in control of the economy again.  Maybe.  


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