retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

I recently had the chance to spend time in Boston for a conference. Stayed at a very nice hotel - Loew’s, which, as it happens, used to be Boston Police Headquarters on Berkeley Street, just a couple of blocks from the corner of Boylston, which is where Spenser has his office in the series of novels by Robert B. Parker. (I’m a geek about this stuff. Sue me.)

Boston is just a few hours drive from where I live in Connecticut, so I just drove up - it was a lot easier and more convenient than taking the train or a plane. All good. But when I went to get the car out of the lot and the valet went to get it, it took, 20, 30 minutes for the car to be brought around. That seemed pretty inefficient for a hotel that ordinarily is extremely efficient, but when the car finally made it to the front door, I found out why.

I drive a Mustang convertible, you see. One with a manual transmission. And the guy they first sent didn’t realize it, and didn’t know how to drive a stick. So they had to find somebody on staff who did.

I did a little checking on the internet, and it seems that in 2006, just a dozen years ago, 47 percent of cars were available with a manual transmission. Last year, that was down to 20 percent. In fact, last year just two percent of cars sold had a manual transmission.

I’m a little torn about what the right thing to do here is … does a hotel really have a responsibility to make sure that the guys who drive the guests’ cars are able to drive a stick, even if just two percent of those guests - at most - are likely to have such a car? I’d argue yes … and that at the very least, they ought to make a notation on the claim ticket, just so they know that for Coupe’s Mustang, they need to get Harry. Or Joe. Or Mary. Or whoever it is that knows how to drive a manual transmission. (It’ll probably be Mary. In my family, other than me, only my wife and daughter can drive the Mustang. Not my sons.)

This also strikes me as a good metaphor for so much of business. At what point does a consumer base get so small that a business no longer needs to worry about serving it, or having the products those customers want? It probably depends on how profitable and regular those customers happen to be … which is yet another argument for having - and using - as much data on customers as you can assemble.

I’m still thinking about it … and did, for much of my drive home. With the top down. Because it was a beautiful day.

That’s what is on my mind this morning, and, as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: