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Retail Musings

I read recently that Amazon.com is working hard to get same day delivery to customers. I am excitedly awaiting that, as I am same day delivery of groceries. I once worked for 4+ years in a small retail establishment, and we quietly told ourselves that we were "better" than Amazon or even our Big Box competitors because of the superior customer service and knowledge that we offered.

The more I think about it the more I think that is a load of hooey. I was an Econ PhD student working in a golf shop. Sure I was golf crazy, read all the latest magazines, watched golf at all levels and played a lot (haven't played in over a year now). But I was just one guy who did not hit every club in the shop or try every piece of clothing or other stuff. And I had not spent my life in the business. Compare the experience you would have gotten with me to what you now get on Amazon? I am thinking of purchasing a spotting scope so that I can enjoy our bird watching a little more than we currently do. And the myriad online comparisons and reviews from places like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology combined with the reviews of the products on Amazon (plus the neat feature that tells you what else people shopped for and bought) blows away any amount of customer service I could get in most non-specialty stores, and indeed even in some specialty stores (for example, I was once in the market for a low-end road bike, so stopped in a specialty store here and they couldn't help but tell me all about the snazzy $2,000+ road bikes they carried).

Think about all of the shopping experiences you have had in the last few years and tell me how good you think the customer service really is. I don't mean to tell me that the people were nice – many of the people I encounter in retail shops go out of their way to be welcoming. I mean what kind of knowledge do they really have? I for one would very much like a shopping experience where I felt like a neophyte when walking into a store, much like I had when I walked into this place a few weeks ago – those folks were serious! But they are the exception in my view.

Finally, I was walking through Home Depot the other day and I "enjoyed" seeing these side-by-side. Note that these are 60 Watt bulbs, the 100 Watters are a thing of the past. 

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