Vintage Business #10: Say Goodbye to Service
Ever try to actually get help at those big super stores like Wal-Mart? It’s a joke. The commercials for Home Depot make it look like there’s a fella’ at every aisle just waiting to help you with your next project – eager to show you in intricate detail how to build your child’s new tree house.
Yeah right. We all know how it goes down. It takes an eternity to even find someone to help you, and when you do actually flag somebody down they are either (A) hopelessly confused, (B) extremely put out by you, or (C) both A and B.
Of course, the guys mixing your paint, flipping your burgers and bagging your groceries are paid a salary that is well below the poverty level, they receive no benefits, and have absolutely no job security (and thus no company loyalty) whatsoever. If I were in that situation, there’s no doubt I’d be a disgruntled SOB and develop of white hot hatred for customers.
And while it’s true that there’s still employees out there that are helpful and appreciative of their job, the service oriented jobs simply do not exist anymore. A lot of these jobs we used to take for granted are now long gone. A few glaring examples…
The Grocery Store
It pains me to see women, with kids in tow, trying to get their groceries to their car. No one is there to help her out. The friendly butcher who you got to know is also largely a thing of the past.
The Gas Station
I know Oregon still requires gas stations to be full service; however, most everywhere else you are doing it all yourself. Long gone are the days when a guy would check your oil, tire pressure, wash your windows and pump your gas.
The Department Store
Every department used to be manned by a team of knowledgeable salesmen. They’d be camped out in the washer and dryer section, in the stereo department, in the menswear department, in the TV department, all dressed in a jacket and tie. Sure, they could be overbearing at times, but they were there to help.
The Airline Industry
Look no further than my "Groovy Age of Travel" posts to see how far away from the friendly, comfortable service we've come. Gone are the meals (unless you're traveling around the world four times, then I guess they have to feed you), the beautiful airline hostesses, and the pleasant airport experience.
I could go on and on. I could mention the ushers at the movie theater, the Al Bundys at the shoe store, the doctors who made house calls, the guys at the barbershop, the coat and hat checkers, the mechanics…. the list goes on. When you take time to look at it, you start to realize that, when it comes to spending our money, we’re on our own.
I suppose there’s a reasonable explanation for all this. Businesses simply realized it wasn’t cost efficient to hire a team of salesmen to man the refrigerator department and give you the best price at Sears…. especially not at a living wage!
And perhaps it brings the cost of those refrigerators down when you do not have to pay a qualified sales team. So, in the long run, we benefit, right? Or does that extra cash go into the CEO’s bank account in the Camen Islands? I don’t know – I’m not an economist. But I am qualified to say this sucks big time. I want my service industry back.