retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reader Carl Jorgensen responded to yesterday evisceration by Michael Sansolo of the Best Buy shopping experience:

I had a similar experience at Best Buy recently. After exhaustive research on the best tablet for both personal and business use I settled on the Microsoft Surface. My wife and I went to Best Buy to make the seemingly simple purchase. The sales person we were finally able to snag proceeded to convince me to get the Surface Pro on the basis that it had the full-function Microsoft Office suite, which I use every day in business.

Although it was more money than the Surface, his reasoning seemed sound. I got the tablet home and discovered that I would have to pay hundreds of dollars more to purchase Microsoft Office!  Needless to say, I promptly returned it. I next went to the Microsoft Store. They have taken a page from the Apple Store, and provided the best, most well-informed service I have experienced in years. They explained that the Surface has Office already loaded, and while not as fully functional as the full version, it has more features that I would ever use. Later when I had a problem with the tablet I went back to the store and they simply handed me a new one. I think Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for getting this retail experience absolutely right. What a contrast with Best Buy.


From another reader:

Michael Sansolo’s Best Buy experience describes all of my trips there to a T.  The lack of urgency and always being seemingly understaffed is exactly why I stopped going there five years ago.  I’m almost happy to see I haven’t missed anything in five years.  They just don’t get it.  Never have, and apparently never will.  All the cosmetic changes mean nothing if you don’t address the glaring inefficiencies in customer service.

But MNB user Jim Marr had a different experience:

Prior to my recent experience at Best Buy, I would have agreed with you 100%.  I went to Best Buy to look at a new computer on 02/17/2014.  My intention was to just get ideas on a potential buy since I have not bought a computer in 10 years.  I encountered a sales representative by the name of Majeed, in the Dublin CA store.  This individual was Mr. Customer Service.  He was knowledgeable and operated with no pressure.  He answered every question that I had and was definitely versed on computers.  He wanted me to fully understand that he did not work on a commission basis, but would like an honest review on line since he would be able to get additional work hours for a positive response.  The bottom line is that I bought the computer from him.  My wife has went back to get the computer since it involved a data transfer and the geek squad operated in the same manner.  I highly recommend these individuals.




On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

I witness the ongoing debates between the “tough love free market conservatives” and the “socially progressive and concerned liberals” (my characterizations being inadequate, as I assure you I understand).

Both are seasoned by the occasional pure wing nut who is so far from what we once called mainstream I am surprised they can exist in the presence of other people. But most are apparently sincere, if not particularly analytical. This always bothers me because I was taught in another age where we tried to use facts and reason to find truth, not merely to restate our own positions.

Every  once in a while someone uses a fact or two, or a partial fact, or a an opinion disguised as fact, to support a position. Most people these days seem unable to tell the difference between these – and aren’t listening anyway, sadly.

But this one “got me” today:

“Your rebuttal as to whether a publicly traded company should reinvest income into higher wages is naive at best.  Management and boards are entrusted with delivering shareholder value which in most cases works directly against increasing expenses.  I would also argue that minimum wage should be tied to inflation given the basic economic formula that the only justification in increased wages is either a corresponding increase in productivity, or inflation.”

OK – let’s be honest for a second, There is some truth here. Many boards and management DO interpret their mission as a narrow service to stockholder value. This is not, by the way, the original description under which corporate law and charters were established, but never mind.

Here’s a fact – at least in retail, these companies are almost  always outperformed by companies that are much better at balancing shoppers and employees interests with (and have presented to any number of retailers and suppliers) that more people in direct service to shoppers DIRECTLY correlates to increasing sales per square foot. In other words, people really ARE an investment. One that pays off. And trained people retained through career progression, are more productive and capable than high levels of turnover of untrained people. Which means minimum wage should not be a long term proposition for any company that wants to succeed with shoppers and consumers. (I can’t speak to industrial jobs on that one, I have experience there but no data as it is not my area of study.)

Second point – “the only justification is an increase in productivity or inflation”  - OK, suppose we agree. Does anyone think we have not seen dramatic improvements in productivity in the last 25 years? Check it out – depending on the industry, productivity has enjoyed a major increase no matter how you measure it – dollars per foot, per man hour, profits per dollar, per ounce, per transaction - you name it – the US economy as a whole has been extremely good at increasing productivity especially around labor as a percentage of finished product (manufacturing) or of delivery and transportation(supply chain) or of many levels of  operations, including store operations, when defined as man-hours per customer served.

But minimum wage did NOT reflect these improvements.

And it doesn’t take much memory to realize how inflation has risen steadily on the past couple of decades – fuel, housing, cars, food, education, health care.

But minimum wage did NOT reflect these increases.

SO – like the man said – if we accept that productivity and inflation are the only justifications for increasing starter (minimum) wages – then raising the minimum is a simple matter of fairness combined nicely with enlightened self- interest.

My grandmother used to say, “let your ears hear what your mouth speaks.” I wish more people would follow that.


Agreed.

KC's View: