retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

You may have seen this story on Friday, because despite the fact that they only do a weekend show on National Public Radio, the retirement of Tom and Ray Magliozzi got a lot of headlines.

The Boston-based Magliozzi brothers have, for 25 years, done a show called "Car Talk," which is an idiosyncratic and comic auto advice show.

"My brother has always been 'work-averse,'" said Ray, 63, of his brother Tom, 74, and their reason for retiring. "Now, apparently, even the one hour a week is killing him!"

Slate reports that "fans of the show ... won't have to live without their weekly 'Car Talk ' fix. NPR says that it will use a combination of repurposed portions of old shows and the occasional update from the Magliozzis to produce new shows that will continue to air on member stations. The brothers will also continue to keep up their website and their weekly column."

I thought about the Magliozzi brothers a lot this weekend, even though I was only an occasional listener (if I happened to be in the car on Saturday mornings) and my knowledge of automobiles is limited at best. (I know how to put gas in the car and how to change a tire. Beyond that, I'm pretty much useless.)

But the Magliozzi brothers and "Car Talk" are such a great example of how to make what can be arcane or even esoteric information accessible to everyone, with humor and style and passion.

More than ever, retailers - whether they are selling food or clothes or cars or whatever - are in the information business, because consumers have more of it at their fingertips than ever before. But, as we all know, too much information can almost have a paralyzing effect ... and so it falls to the retailer to help the customer sort through it, to find what is applicable and relevant.

One could do worse than to use "Car Talk" as a role model. I have no idea how to change a gasket. But I could listen to the Magliozzi brothers - or Click and Clack, as they referred to themselves - talk about it for hours.
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