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A turkey…..is a turkey

11/30/2009

It was this time last year in the run up to Christmas that UK retailer Woolworth’s went out of business and last week we saw the long-awaited demise here of Borders. Cue much hand wringing, questions about the state of the high street and statements of how wonderful these retail institutions are.

But if we stop and take off the rose-tinted spectacles for a moment something else becomes apparent. The reason Woolworth’s went out of business was because it was a shit shop. The reason Borders is in administration is because it is a shit shop. These stores are not providing what the customer wants in a way that is financially effective. It’s not because the customer is wrong. It’s because the retailer is wrong.

I feel sorry for the staff and their families. No-one deserves to hear that they will likely be out of a job this close to Christmas. The reality, however, is that these businesses were badly run and out of time and step with consumer needs. We might not like this, we might not want this. But that my friend is the reality.

Take two examples. I ordered an advent candle the other day for the little HRD’s to enjoy in the run up to Christmas. Three weeks later I hadn’t heard a peep from the retailer, so I dropped them an email only to receive a reply saying that the candle was out of stock they were not sure they were going to be back in stock but don’t worry they “weren’t going to charge me”. Wow….thank you! After a glass (or two)  of something with hints of blackberries and undertones of goat leather, my reply was thus,

“Thank you for your email. I have to say I think this is ridiculously poor customer service, given that I placed this order three weeks ago (that’s 21 days if you need some help) and only heard a response after I decide to email to chase today.

Clearly a product of this kind is time critical (let’s be honest, delivery in January would just be a disappointment). I guess I could roll up a newspaper and mark 24 parts for my kids to burn each day instead?

I’d be interested to hear why you think I should ever shop with you again?”

Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly I have never heard from them. And guess what? They will never be hearing from me again either.

Then yesterday I was ordering the HRD family Christmas cards (oh yes we are THAT swanky). The website was being cranky and so I had to place two orders instead of one missing out on a discount and generally causing me grief. I sent an email laying out the problem and this morning less than 24 hours later, I receive the following:

“Our apologies for that, I have passed the information on so that any technical issues can be resolved. I have also organised a refund for the amount that you would have saved had you been able to purchase your cards in one order. Apologies again for any inconvenience. Your cards have been printed and will be dispatched today.”

No prizes for guessing where I will be shopping for cards next year.

Sure there will be a few examples or exceptions, but retailers, indeed businesses in general, mainly go out of business because they are badly run. Let’s stop apologising, let’s stop theorizing and accept the realities. Sales less cost equals profit. If you can’t make it add up its no-one else’s fault than your own.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen (Sayya26) permalink
    12/01/2009 12:50

    Where I come from- customer service sucks ALL over the place. So like you when I find somewhere that actually cares, I stick to it and when I don’t- they never see me again.

    You’re right though- many times it’s the organization that is out of sync with the customers. They feel like if they’re big enough they don’t have to care about the few that they never see again- but eventually it catches up to them and then they’re done for.

    Good post.

  2. 12/02/2009 13:55

    @Karen or is it Sayya! – Thanks for your comment. The lazy retailer or business is a one on its last legs in my opinion. Particularly when people are finding money tight they are choosy who they will spend with. Don’t treat them right and they won’t be coming back.

  3. Karen (Sayya26) permalink
    12/02/2009 14:24

    oh- you may know me as Sayya from blogspot. karen is my real name.

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