Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Time Abuse

A very busy couple of days left me with no time to blog. Then, when I tried to post last night, Blogger wasn't working! Thankfully, it is, on with the post.

Scott Burns laments the changes he's noticed at the Home Depot in recent years, changes that have caused him to avoid a store he once loved. I think we can relate to his comments, even if not about Home Depot.

Today's consumers are often left to fend for themselves in enormous stores with little or no help to be found. Big discount stores offer rows of cash register lanes, but never open more than four or five at the most (I'm convinced many of those cash registers are fakes, and they have to dust them every day because no one ever touches them). Meanwhile, department stores have crammed their aisles full of clothes and other goods, but try finding a cash register with a sales clerk near it---good luck! The best way is to look for a line of people.

Burns' point that these stores are committing "time abuse" is an excellent one. Despite all of today's time-saving technology, we consumers often find that our time is being wasted, not saved. We waste time wandering around a store trying to find something because there is no one around to help us. We waste time waiting in line, seemingly everywhere we go. We waste time when the scanner fails to give us the sale price on an item vividly illustrated in the sale flyer we're holding, because the checker can't change the erroneous price until the manager finally arrives to do an override.

Businesses with an online presence are reaping the benefit of our anger at having our time abused. It's so easy to buy something online. No crowds, no lines, no searching for clerks. The only problem is that you can't hold the item in your hand. You can't flip through the book or try on the shirt. But if you're sick of retailers committing time abuse, it may seem to be worth the trade-off.

Some retailers are a bit more savvy about how to treat today's consumer. I was in a store called Coldwater Creek yesterday. It's a women's clothing store. The prices are pretty high, but the quality is good and the service is excellent. There are plenty of knowledgeable, friendly store clerks. What they don't have in the store you can order online while you're there, and it will be delivered to you free. I ordered a dress in two sizes....I can return the one that doesn't fit (or both if I don't like the dress at all), and if I bring them to the store, I'll get free shipping on the returns.

That impressed me right there, but it gets better: when I placed the order, the clerk typed in a code that took $25 off my total. That made me very happy :)

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