The Shopping of Yesteryear

It’s no secret that the economy has been in a state of uncertainty for quite a while. Empty shops and going-out-of business signs are no longer just an occasional sight. Now they’re pretty much the norm.

Stores that are still in business have had to cut corners – eliminate the niceties – which is understandable, but somehow a little sad.

We’ve probably all become used to mall shopping trips where our carefully selected purchases are rolled in a ball and absent-mindedly stuffed into a plastic bag, but I’m old enough to remember when shopping was an “event”.

In those days, we couldn’t make purchases willy-nilly; we had to budget for them, so a little extra flourish at the store counter helped to magnify and enhance an experience that didn’t happen all that often.

At that time, clerks in even the moderately priced stores would carefully fold your garment and wrap it in tissue paper. If you were buying a dress or a coat – it might even be placed in a box. Sometimes the box would be tied with string and then a little wooden handle would be attached to make it easy to carry.

Recently, I was shopping at a local mall. The 60% off everything signs in the window of this old-time retailer caught me eye and I ventured inside to browse.

I found something I liked and as I was paying for it . . . I experienced a bit of déjà vu. The clerk handled it very carefully. She wrapped it in tissue paper and sealed it with a sticker carrying the store’s logo.

During those moments at the store counter, it seemed as if my purchase was, well, important. My hard-earned money was appreciated. I bought this multi-colored summer shawl/scarf. It’s a wonderfully generous size (72″ by 40″) and the colors drift into a palette of pastel stripes.

It seems to me there’s a thrill in buying something pretty and then having it presented to you with a little fanfare. As I left the store, I felt a bit nostalgic for the days when a purchase was a big deal.

When you stop and think about it, there are probably many reasons why “event” shopping went the way of the telephone booth . . .

Besides the fact that stores are cutting costs to keep competitive, customers often own and buy more than they really need. The proof? Well, the internet is awash with advice on how to downsize, donate, and recycle. In this climate, I suppose it’s no longer practical nor environmentally friendly to have every purchase wrapped nicely.

But I can’t help thinking that things were more fun when shopping was an experience!

Your thoughts? 🙂



The Demise of Customer Service?

In today’s world, many of us are looking to develop our own online businesses. One of the master keys to success in any business is the repeat customer. If clients feel comfortable and appreciated, they’ll probably return to buy again and again. Providing excellent customer service can be a great way to set yourself apart from the competition – especially now, when so many companies give the impression that the customer is seldom right. 😉

As a consumer, I’ve been horrified by the rudeness that seems to be omnipresent in customer service these days. It’s not just at the chain stores, where often a large proportion of the sales help are high school kids. In fact, I could understand it a little better if it were just the kids. A bit of a pass might be granted to teenagers, who lack the experience and possibly the training to assist customers graciously. But lately, I’m noticing more and more adults, with the title “customer service representative”, that are way beyond impolite. It’s a disturbing trend that appears to be increasing in all types of businesses. When customers call their phone company with simple questions, or patients show up for scheduled appointments with the doctor, don’t they have the right to be treated courteously by the staff? Are business owners unaware that they may be losing customers because of poor, or non-existent, customer service?

We recently had a situation at our house, where we ordered a gift from a large and very popular candy company. There were many gift selections, at varying prices, offered on the company’s website. We chose to have the candy presented with an adorable glass candy dish. The gift arrived well packed, but there was a chunk of glass missing from the lid of the dish. We were disappointed, of course, because a gift definitely loses something in the presentation when right off the bat, there’s a broken part! However, we were mostly concerned that the dish was a potential hazard for the unsuspecting candy lover, who could be cut while trying to satisfy his sweet tooth.

So, we contacted the company and received a reply by email which stated that they were very sorry we received a broken dish but . . . (Are you ready??) . . . we must understand that their responsibility was to provide us with good quality candy, only.

Huh??? They sold us the dish! Their website described it in glowing terms as a beautiful accompaniment to the candy, and we paid extra for the candy with dish combo!

We wrote again and insisted that they ship another dish ASAP, and they did so eventually. The point is, though, how could that first answer ever be written and sent? Who is training these people?

You may have similar tales to tell! It’s important to remember that all of the experiences we’ve had as consumers can become valuable tools to use when formulating our own business policies.

How will you care for your customers? 🙂

For info on great customer service, click here, and also here!