Binders and Bogans

Retail gives one a skewed view on the way we interact, fed, no doubt by the utter mindlessness of it all.

Take today, for instance. Sundays are coupon day, which means those who care about such things find themselves motivated to drive to Bait & Switch for a bargain. The “bargain” forces them into purchasing a specific type of bait for a small discount; one dollar on seven, to give the most consumer-friendly example.

The point is that inducements to purchase like this are not about creating a lasting vendor/customer relationship. They don’t move either party to greater understanding of the customer’s needs, nor do they encourage them to learn more about the range and quality of the vendor’s goods. It’s a strictly pro/john deal.

Which is all fine. Incongruence keeps the mind off-guard, but coupons are the opposite of integrating the new. Coupons reinforce the notion of the buyer (mistakenly, and delusionally) getting one over on the shopkeeper. The conceit is that there is some imperative for the price reduction, which is a patently absurd construct. But so is the human imagination/delusion complex.

 

I Don’t Agree

The Stalinist Soviet allowed no dissent, and neither does the Bait & Switch organization.

When the new boss arrived, he noted a doctored print ad someone had placed in the mess hall. It showed happy customers and smiling employees, to which some people attached pithy notes. As criticism goes it was so mild it actually looked like praise.

That’s gone now of course. The putsch to clean up malingerers and non-believers cleansed us all of any thoughts other than deification of the almighty owners and their politbureau. How could it be any other way?

It might be otherwise if someone understood that internal dissent is normal. It could also be the best management barometer of employee feelings. All the 360 degree review and other B-School nonsense won’t get to the hearts of people as much as watching the under-the-radar stuff, of the type recently removed.

You could even take that idea and go so far as to encourage open dissent. Provide a place for it – a whiteboard or similar – and critically, anonymity. Simply expressing a contra-viewpoint oftentimes relieves the pressure of daily work drudgery. Being heard, I think it’s called. Smart managers also listen.

Focus

A lesson learned sometime around the time Shakespeare was writing is that specialization is the way forward. William, for example, stuck to what he was good at and look at him now.

Look at Bait & Switch. Their strength is creating big stores selling bait to fishing addicts, and that’s what their focus should be. Right? Right. But they try to be all things to all anglers. Not only do the stores carry the cheapest bulk bait at wafer-thin margins, they also have high-end product for Richie Rich, that most desirable customer. We can serve both ends of the spectrum.

Except we can’t. Management require behavior that the Big Man expects when he’s spending a lot of money. That means spending time talking and hovering, cajoling and validating. However, they only staff and arrange the workload such that we floor people can only effectively stock, sign, tidy and deal with Mr Pickuptruck; he’s only interested in price.

We have two masters, which doesn’t work for either one. If you want to serve high-end folks, then set up an appropriately functioning store. If you you want to serve the dollar-conscious, likewise. Either way it’s mugs like me who get squished in the middle…all for no money. Blech.

HaHa

Short shift today, 6.5 hours in the middle of the day. It should have been a doddle, a busy-ish Friday with everyone in a good mood.

It should have been, but there’s something about the new Store Manager that puts me on edge. As a colleague noted, the new management group takes this operation waaaaay too seriously. We’re selling to addicts; it’s not difficult. We can be relaxed and be just as profitable as being uptight and making the same amount of money. Let’s choose.

I can’t quite figure out what kept me off-balance, but I did get a partial resolution. At one point I sought some information from the SM on behalf of a customer, who was standing beside me. The enquiry was pretty boring, and it was unlikely he’d have a precise answer, but it was an opportunity for him to make a connection and possibly a positive impression.

The convo turned to baseball, and I made a mildly mocking comment…he says he loves whatever team the customer likes…which I thought was nicely inside baseball (ahem) and self-deprecating. It was a slow ball, center plate for him to hit out of the park. He had the opportunity to make himself look humble and sharp simultaneously, but no, he went the defensive route.

Ugh.

The customer walked right over it, but the point was made; he’s slightly insecure and not at all interested in taking the human route. Everything is flatly about profit and “serving the customer”. Just like a Stalinist.

Lord, save me.