Friday, February 29, 2008

The Age Of The Greeter ~ Retail's Salvation? Or Is It Desperation?


So called "big box retailers" are different, whether a warehouse club like Costco, an inside "lumber yard" like the Home Depot, or a specialty store like Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. It's mostly all self service, and then you go through the check-out line. Finding a sales clerk like in the old days is next to impossible. You run into plenty of people restocking the shelves but for the most part they don't know much about what they're restocking.

Instead, what we have now are "greeters" just inside the door welcoming you to the store. On the plus side, they do seem to know where things are, can tell you how to get there, and maybe even walk part way so they can point and say "It's three aisles that way". For the most part they still don't know squat about the merchandise, just where to find it.

I'd gone to Bass Pro Shops in Dania, just south of Fort Lauderdale, to buy some new boat shoes. The flyer that came in the mail had them at an attractive price. The greeter was somebody I'd met before, and we briefly chatted about fishing while I shot off a few frames. He sent me the requisite "Go two aisles down that way, then walk to your right about fifty feet". That took me through the shirt displays and a few tables of "specials". Then, sure enough, there were the shoes. It was the first morning of the sale and the shelves were near empty, none in my size. You wonder sometimes if the sale flyers are more to just get you in the store, and they never did order enough of the stuff on sale.

As I walked back towards the door I notice one rack of fishing shirts that weren't in the flyer, but they were on sale for half price at $19.95 each and I picked out four of them. Then in another display I found some pure silk sports shirts with printed patterns of palm fronds marked down to about $30 from way-too-much money. What the hell, I picked one out! When I got to the register the scanner rang it up as $12. The girl said that happens a lot with sale merchandise.

A couple of days later I went to Hopkins-Carter Marine, got waited on by an old friend who is a member of the family that owns the place, and got my shoes for the same price Bass Pro was charging. On my way home I stopped off at the Home Depot. I wanted to pick up a four foot long flourescent shop light for my back porch. The greeter was a guy I've fished with before. I told him what I was looking for. He leaned close and whispered "Walmart has a better one, and it's four dollars cheaper".

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