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.
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.