July 14, 2022
Setting up in a new location requires far more shopping than I am used to. Daily trips to the home improvement store will continue for the foreseeable future, and probably provide many ideas for this blog. Our new house has a much larger lot than the old one, so a riding mower was high on my list. My father was a devoted patron of a now threatened retail giant. A trip to one of their stores was preceded by a thorough study of their voluminous catalog to learn what was on offer so as to avoid tying up too much of their salesmen’s time. In most things they had multiple models — at different price points — that were categorized as good, better, and best. The old man was a big believer in “better.” His logic was that “good” was just “cheap imported junk” while “best” was simply “the better thing with fancy buttons I don’t need.” At the store, however, he would listen to the extremely professional salesman’s description of the product and why he advised a particular model for our purchase. Dad thought highly of these people, even though he knew they were highly compensated on a commissioned basis to get customers to buy the top-of-the-line version. He would be very disappointed at the current version of this store. The internet has, of course, replaced the catalog for pre-selling the customer. And that professional salesman is long gone; the staff knows very little about the products and seems surprised at customer questions. The products themselves are no longer “exclusives” either; the exact same lawn tractor was available in a different color combination at three other stores and within a half-mile. With no product differentiation, no sales pitch, and no price advantage, is it any wonder that this once proud retailing giant is on life support? Sadly, the giants of our own trade seem to have suffered a similar fate. How many still have truly professional sales people who can explain the good, better, and best solutions to application problems?