retail news in context, analysis with attitude

If you want to understand how the lack of transparency affects consumers, go shopping for a sewing machine. Trust me, you won’t enjoy it.

Obviously, sewing machines aren’t the hottest selling item in the US these days, but they still exist and my wife, an avid quilter, finally decided to get a new machine. She soon regretted that decision. Buying a sewing machine will remind you of the way so many products (cars, houses, etc) were sold in the days before any sense of transparency and clear pricing.

Although sewing machines are sold on line and in department stores, the best varieties are sold in fabric stores. Once in these stores the array of machines and the technology they employ is simply incredible, but you won’t find a price tag or a simple list of attributes in sight. So the customer has to wait for an employee to come over and then, almost by magic, quote a price out of the air. As my wife moved through this experience I watched her emotions range from disbelief and mistrust to frustration and anger. Simply put, she stopped believing anything she heard.

In the process, this arcane system turned a purchase that started with excitement into an excruciating war of attrition. She turned to long searches on the internet for prices from around the world to get a sense of what was and wasn’t a good deal and read countless comments from other shoppers complaining about the very same thing. And every comment offered the same warning: don’t believe the price. It reminded me of the buyer’s remorse we used to experience when buying a car with no knowledge of the right price.

The good news is that at last she found a highly informed salesperson who walked her through options and features and got her excited again. But the bad news is the salesmanship we saw for most of this journey would never do anything to get anyone excited about sewing…which isn’t exactly a booming area these days.

Transparency builds trust. The lack of it, builds nothing but problems. Keep that in mind always.

That’s my Thursday Eye-Opener.

- Michael Sansolo
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