retail news in context, analysis with attitude


by Michael Sansolo

No matter how open-minded any of us might think we are, it’s easy to get surprised by changes that just make you say, “Wow!”

At least that’s what I told myself recently.

A week ago, my wife and I pulled into the local shopping center and saw a group of those ‘wow’ moments.

A car directly behind mine had a flat tire and, no surprise, AAA was on scene to handle the issue. All pretty simple right.

The first surprise was the AAA vehicle. I’ve had occasion to call those folks myself and I am used to the sizable wrecker that shows up prepared to handle all manner of suburban problems. Not this time though.

Instead of a wrecker, the AAA vehicle was a small, white Scion, one of the smallest vehicles on the road. But the AAA worker was well equipped with all the usual professional equipment stacked inside that teeny car.

As for that worker, that was surprise number two - a very nice young woman who was clearly very skilled at changing the tire. I know that gender shouldn’t surprise me, but it did.

I spoke with the couple whose car was up on the jack and found their reactions were similar to mine. In fact, the gentleman commented to me that in his youth he (like me) could quickly change a flat tire. But today, with scissor jacks and locking lug nuts, he was completely out of his league. The young AAA worker chuckled at our comments.

I told him there was a time I felt comfortable doing some basic work on my cars. Now I’m terrified to open the hood of my Prius because nothing inside looks like anything that resembles a car engine. Instead it looks like something designed for the Jetsons. Stuff changes!

Now let’s get beyond all those moments that clearly place me in an older age demographic than I’m happy being in. Let’s get rational.

First, it makes tons of sense for AAA to use a micro-car like a Scion to jobs like this. Imagine how much gas that service station is saving and clearly the car has just enough room for all the quick jobs that dominate AAA calls (flat tires and dead batteries). The wreckers can be saved for the heavy towing jobs, but the Scion makes great sense for what I assume are the overwhelming majority of AAA calls.

Second, why wouldn’t AAA have women handling this job? There’s no reason only men can change tires - or at least that’s what I told my daughter - and in times of labor shortages no company can avoid considering half the population for any job.

I share the parking lot moment for several reasons. First, so you can all know, without question, that I’m no where near as enlightened as I think I am. But more importantly it reminds us that we live in a time of rule breaking, innovation and experimentation.

There are times when replacing a massive wrecker with a Scion, literally and figuratively, makes a ton of sense. It just a change we don’t think about until someone actually does it.

I’m giving AAA an A-plus for innovation this time.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.














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