ONLINE SHOPPING REVOLUTION OR CONSUMER REBELLION? – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve been thinking about shopping.

Does anyone remember in those last ten years before online shopping came into full flower? That was when you’d go into a nice shop and discover there was no one there. No one to help you find the right size or style … or even the correct department. More than half the cash registers were closed and the people who worked the counters were actually working multiple counters so wherever you were waiting, they weren’t there.

I remember not buying a watch in Kohl’s because there wasn’t anyone at the jewelry counter and the cash register was closed. I looked everywhere and I didn’t see a single store worker.

There was absolutely not a soul willing to help me find the right size or choose a different color or size, or even say, “That looks nice.” Or do anything that might encourage me to buy something.

Shopping went from being fun to being work.

By the time online shopping was readily available, most of the brick-and-mortar stores had cut down their staff by more than half. Returning something meant standing in long lines for the one individual who handled all returns and you’d better have saved that receipt!

They did themselves in. They treated their customers like WordPress treats us … and the results were exactly what you’d expect.

When the day there arrived offering us a real choice, shoppers were ready. Instead of fighting for a parking space and wandering around a mall trying first to find the right store, then searching the shop and discovering there was no one on the floor to talk to. Hoping to get some assistance in finding an outfit and realizing there wasn’t any.

All of which was followed by another ordeal, searching for an open register.

Suddenly, you could order clothing and return what didn’t fit or what you didn’t like. In the meantime, just to make what was already difficult just a bit harder, many city malls began charging customers for parking.

Free gift wrapping was not free. You couldn’t even get plain boxes to wrap without paying for them. The quality of the clothing went down while the prices went up. There were no more departments where you could get clothing altered, either.

It wasn’t just the Internet that ruined “real store” shopping. It was the attitude of the store’s owners and managers. They decided they “owned” their customers and we’d show up anyway, no matter how bad the service. It must have been a rude shock when they realized not only did we have a choice, but we weren’t coming back.

So they can blame their demise on Amazon and the Internet, but they can also look in the mirror and realize when you treat your customers badly, eventually, when times change, they won’t be your customers.

It’s a lesson that cable companies are learning, cell companies are just beginning to learn … and it won’t end there. I fought with my cable company for years to get them to give me a package I could afford … and when I finally gave up and cut the cable, suddenly they filled up my email with all kinds of tempting packages — for ONE year only.

After which they would do what they always did: jack up the prices by 100% and we’d go through the same thing again. There are only so many times you can anger and disappoint customers without expecting them to hit back in the only way that matters: financially.

You never own your customers. They own you. Eventually, they will let you know how they feel about you. Count on it.

55 thoughts on “ONLINE SHOPPING REVOLUTION OR CONSUMER REBELLION? – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I was talking to my daughter and granddaughter about ‘shopping’ the other day. You and I grew up when shopping meant going to the store, my daughter remembers that option, but doesn’t prefer it, and my granddaughter just forgets that it is even available. As for customer service, we remember when every company had a department dedicated to taking care of customers. Not so much anymore. My husband made three calls to the same company yesterday, talked to three different people, and only the third one could help.

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    1. He’s lucky even the third on can help. As often as not, I call, I call again, and finally, I work the problem out on my own. It is demoralizing to realize that I know more about another company’s products than they do. With all the qualified people looking for work, why doesn’t someone HIRE any of them?

      Remember when you went to an expensive store and they lavished you with attention? Brought you outfits in your size, went out and brought you different colors and sizes too? It was what made it worth the effort of shopping. You got treated not merely with dignity, but you were made to feel important. Now, you’re lucky if you can find someone willing to take your money.

      So these days, unless there’s “size” issue and you need to try things on, there really isn’t any reason to go shopping and this problem started long before the Internet and Amazon showed up. Stores all decided we didn’t need all that help and just let people go. It was like all the tech companies who decided to not bother to write manuals for their expensive devices. The result is people don’t go shopping unless they have no choice — and no one expects customer service to serve customers. It’s like our government in miniature. We have a lot of useless people supposedly running the show.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. And this morning, my husband pointed out he needs a new jacket because the old one doesn’t fit anymore — and it doesn’t look good, either. It IS 20 years old and time has not been kind to it. I suddenly realized “OH NO! We’re going to have to go to the mall!” The dreaded mall. Oh well. At least it’s no longer crowded.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember going into Godfrey’s, a store in Hobart that sells vacuum cleaners. My old one had just died and I needed a new one. The store has a good variety of machines and good prices and I was ready to buy something. I stood there for ten minutes and was ignored while a staff member demonstrated a machine to someone else but didn’t acknowledge me with a “be with you shortly” or similar. No other staff member spoke to me either. I felt invisible. I had a bus to catch so in the end I left and bought one online from the same store. However, if I’d had the demo I might have discovered that the machine I liked was very difficult to disassemble. I can do it but changing heads on it is awkward. Try before you buy would have been much better.

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    1. I like standing there for half an hour while the “service individual” chats on the phone with someone. If you say “Excuse me?” they point out they are on the phone. There are plenty of people who WANT to work. Why not hire some?

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          1. I agree and I meant the stores can afford to hire more people but they don’t. Nobody likes rude staff or to be ignored. A regular at our Op Shop said she popped in on a day when two other volunteers were there and said hello to them but they didn’t even acknowledge her the whole time she was there so consequently she told us she won’t shop on the days they are there. Even if you are busy you can say hello.

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      1. True but in this case it wouldn’t have helped me. To remove the head there is a metal button to push in and I can’t apply enough pressure. I found I could by using a pair of pliers to push, and it doesn’t hurt my hand. A nuisance though.

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          1. I have good days and bad. This was a better than average day because I could get up the stairs all by myself. Usually, I need the chair for the second set of 6 steps. But overall, it’s not going to get better. I’d be happy if it just stayed the same and doesn’t get worse.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. While I certainly see (and am, in a way, part of the problem) the customer disservice tactics that you outline above at the store I work at… I don’t see the effects at all. We are booming… I mean BOOMING. I have never seen the store as busy as it’s been the last year or so. And not just my Mecca, where we’re about the only game in town now, but at Meccas in other cities that have plenty of other shopping alternatives. I think Mecca may actually own its customers, who will complain loudly about how they were treated in their shopping experience, but continue to return again and again because saving pennies matter to our clientele. Online shopping isn’t, and I don’t think ever will be a very big deal in the more urban areas, and definitely not for the basic goods. I’ve heard the prophecies of doom for brick and mortar for a quarter of a century now, and while e-commerce has thinned out the weak… the giants continue to reap the benefits. I’m more confident in my job security now than I was ten years ago…

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    1. I think Mecca may be the ONLY store that IS thriving — other than grocery chains. The malls that aren’t ghost towns are half empty. The parking lots are empty. Yup, Mecca is busy all the time and so is Best Buy. Otherwise, it’s a cold, cold world for brick and mortar shopping.

      I think Mecca shoppers never expected service, so they don’t mind not getting it. Grocery shoppers are very focused and other than occasionally asking where whatever they need is located, rarely have much to say — except to other shoppers. And Best Buy customers are looking for bargains which they often wind up buying online once they’ve checked the prices at the store. Target has been losing customers by the bucketful. Radio Shack? Department stores of all kinds? Some of the stores, I miss … and appliance stores will always have some walk-in business. When you need a new fridge, you need one now. The lumber yard is busy, too.

      There are things that are very hands on and they will stay in business, but the “big stores that carried everything” are mostly gone. And local “mom and pop” — now ALL run by newish immigrants — are doing very well, at least out here because you don’t have to go into town for the dozen eggs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Marilyn. Here in Oklahoma, most of our malls are ghost towns now, except for one or maybe two closer to OKC.

    When I was young, I enjoyed window shopping at the malls. Now that I am older, I enjoy online shopping, I don’t have to walk, park, worry about someone mugging me, although cyber crimes are real.

    I am seriously looking into dropping our cable too, there are other choices.
    P.S. This is “swoosieque” from cancer is not pink. Won’t be writing much more on that blog. Following you from this one! 😀

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    1. It’s good to hear from you from anywhere you want 😀

      I liked shopping when (1) I had money and (2) parking weren’t such a big issues, and finally (3) when I walked a lot better than I do now. I’m very happy to get things delivered and we have a much better package from YouTubeTV than we had from Charter anyway. But of course, they are raising their Wi-Fi rates. One of these days, we’ll nail the bastards.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We need to work on our telekinetic powers so we won’t need any of this cable stuff. I’m dropping our cable company next week, but keeping its internet. As you said, those rates will be soaring as more and more people drop cable t.v.

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        1. We now pay MORE money just for internet than we originally paid for our entire package — including the telephone. They will keep gouging us until one day — soon, I suspect — there’s another way to get Wi-Fi. And then we will dump them faster than our dog hits the doggy door.

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                1. It will happen sooner in places where there’s competition. Here, we have a choice of Charter, Charter, or Charter. There’s no choice except Direct TV which we can’t use because of all the trees. So it may not happen here, but I think you’ll see it in the suburbs and cities.

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. Unless you live somewhere where there’s competition, you’re just outta luck. We are too because we’re in a very small town and our “town leaders,” whoever they are, made a deal with Charter. I’m sure someone’s getting paid off.

                      Liked by 1 person

  5. Three tales:
    Target – returning two rolls of film to “Guest Services.” They asked for my id !?. I asked the “service” lady if she asked her guests for their ids when they came to dinner. A blank stare. I kept the film, still have it, now a collector’s item, almost never shop Target.

    JC Penney – One of my students waited on me. Embarrassed, she told me she needed to see and record my id on a check. “You know who I am,” I said. But she and I were trapped by corporate-bozo America. When JCP decided to stop being a store for working folks and become Macy’s II, that was their second mistake – after insisting that a teacher’s student had to ask her teacher for id if he bought anything. JCP will soon be gone, but the real JCP, the old store, has been dead for decades.

    Radio Shack – remember them? Returning a phone there I reminded the recalcitrant salesboy that “the customer is always right.” “Not any more,” said he. No more Radio Shack.

    There are those who seem to enjoy being treated like sheep – the Walmart shoppers – and they’ll keep rushing to that store. That’s fine with me – keeps ’em out of the stores I will frequent because they still give good service.

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    1. That’s why I don’t line up with the “Oh how terrible! Online shopping killed the malls!” The brick and mortar shops killed themselves. Now cable companies and cell phone outlets are in a dive for the hard ground below. They just don’t GET it. Customers are not “tossaway” items, who will always come back no matter how you treat them. It was never true. Even in the old days, if one store didn’t treat you right, you went somewhere else.

      Between the government — who REALLY don’t get it — and customer service or what used to be customer service — common sense is not common OR sensible.

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  6. I don’t shop on line and rarely in person. Who needs all that stuff anyway? On the few occasions that I have gone to a physical store I’m often impressed with the new and different (but still don’t want it).
    Leslie

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    1. Today I had to get Garry a new lightweight rain resistant jacket because his 20-year-old one doesn’t fit anymore. Otherwise, mostly online I buy dog food (I can’t get the brand I want anywhere else), coffee (much less money, same brand), electronic stuff (the Roku, my son’s iPad, Garry’s Chromebook when his computer finally went kaput) (no, he can’t share mine). Actually, I buy most of the dog and birdseed online. It’s cheaper, better quality — AND THEY DELIVER IT. Those 40-lb bags of kibble were getting hard to manage! The only clothing I buy is underwear (it wears out and it seems to wear out faster than it used to), socks … and I finally gave in and bought the glop we need to paint the deck online because we couldn’t get it locally (we really ARE in the boonies).

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    1. Those jobs were vanishing anyway. That’s why the stores in the mall were pretty much empty boxes: they had let go most of the people who used to help people and they didn’t hire new ones. Make no mistake: those stores did themselves in and when online shopping became available, everyone was sick to death of going shopping and not being able to find anyone to give them a hand or help them find the right size. If you’re going to shop all alone anyway, you don’t need a store.

      It’s easy to blame it on the Internet, but it would be nice if corporations occasionally took some responsibility for the bad choices they make, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Meanwhile…..
    In the UK….
    Because there was a spike in fraudulent use of credit cards, my credit card froze one payment as a spot check…..fair enough…..Except it was an Amazon order.
    Now despite four phone calls and e-mails I cannot get Amazon (and only Amazon) to stop refusing to process orders….what is worse when I cancel an order they still keep sending me e-mails telling me they cannot process the payment.
    In consequence Amazon does not have our custom.

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      1. I can reason with the people, they were fine, but in this case even they were floored by the computer system. We as people parted on good terms.

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        1. I had that happen between me and the state of New York. I had paid the ticket, but no one seemed to have ever altered the computer. This was a long time ago when computers used punch cards, so someone had to go and tell the computer. No one did. I finally got in touch with the state’s District Attorney. He fixed it. Who knew it would only get worse?

          Liked by 1 person

  8. “You never own your customers. They own you. Eventually, they will let you know how they feel about you. Count on it.”

    Politicians should heed this advice…but they won’t as long as the Koch Brothers, the NRA, Big Pharma, and Russian oligarchs are funding them. Unlike brick and mortar retail stores, those are their true “paying” customers.

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    1. I know and it is worrying. But. Big but.

      Trump may get their money, but I have a feeling that THIS election is not going to be won by the Big Wallets. I’ve been following a lot of stories about this. Trump didn’t get their money in the first round — he got other money, probably Russian. I suspect we will find this out after he’s OUT of office and oh lord, let me live long enough to see it.

      So they have a problem. They don’t like Trump. He’s too erratic. He doesn’t take orders, doesn’t follow up on his promises. They won’t finance a politician who doesn’t take directions from them. That leaves the Democrats. Can they buy one of them? I don’t think they want a Democrat. So those guys have a problem, but we have other problems. The biggest one we’ve got is sorting out the proposed candidates and finding a handful who have a chance of winning. Then we need to build a platform we can all subscribe to or at least most of us can live with.

      I think Samuel Jackson said it well on last night’s Colbert: “Oh. this time, everyone will vote because they KNOW what can happen if they don’t.”

      I’m mostly worried about the Dems getting their act together. Soon would be good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m more worried about Republicans in Congress, like Mitch McConnell, than I am about Trump. Even if the Dems can take back the White House, if the GOP holds the Senate, it will all be for naught.

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        1. WHICH is why I think some of our “presidential” contenders should rethink their positions and run for the Senate. There’s only ONE president, but there are a lot of Senatorial seats up for grabs this election. The Democratic party needs to get its act together.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. You know … that’s really stupid. First of all, Senators often become presidents and in the meantime, you can have a HELL of a lot of influence as a Senator. If you get good at it, you can have MORE influence than a president.

              Of course, you might have to do some work too …

              Liked by 1 person

  9. I still love to shop in the mall or in stores, but know I am mostly on my own. Smaller stores do offer service, Talbots, J Crew, but the larger ones forget it. I shop mostly online from the brands I know or from stores I know I can return to locally.

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    1. Me too. General stuff like coffee and dog food which offers brands I can’t even buy locally — that stuff is Amazon. But clothing I get from Bean and JJill and places where I know the stuff will fit AND they will take returns if it doesn’t. Most of these stores don’t have local outlets here anyway, so it’s a moot point.

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