Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Service of What Are You Good At?

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This subject came up in conversation with a friend the other week. (She does everything well.) I thought of it at Trader Joe’s on a day one of the employees split in two the long line waiting for a cashier, yelling out, “Every other!” meaning the people in both lines should progress at a crucial point, one after the other, as you would braid hair, to again form one line.

If long enough, the line in this store cuts across an aisle artery so an employee is posted to feed customers to the other side so the next marketing cart or shopper won’t cause gridlock. The young woman at that spot that day was terrible at this mindless job. She ignored the second, parallel line, ushering ahead only customers in the first. It required another staffer to straighten things out. The young woman was probably terrific at something else.,

My friend asked me what I’m good at. What came to mind immediately is what I’m not such as anything to do with numbers or drawing, handwriting or games. I’m good at making lists, spending money, meeting deadlines, growing some indoor plants, shopping, hugging, PR strategy, spotting trends and baking pie. I love taking photographs and writing blog posts.

Does even the simplest job require training? What are you good at? When you think about the question does what you don’t do well come to mind?

Two lines waiting to check out at Trader Joe’s, Manhattan

Service of Double Check/Confirm or You Could Be in For a Nasty Surprise

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

Confirm or forever hold your peace—this seems to be a crucial strategy these days, another time sponge just when folks are busier than ever.

I went to Williams Sonoma last week to buy something that on the website appeared to be available instore. I know, I should have called. They didn’t have it. (And the store couldn’t be more inconvenient for me to reach. I have only myself to blame.)

I share Nancie Steinberg’s frustrations which were the inspiration for this post. She wrote about two exasperating experiences that happened recently, both involving websites with out-of-date information.

Her examples:

Restaurants post their menus online but when you arrive you too frequently learn that the prices and options listed are different. (And the prices are never less.)

“On a recent trip to Michigan,” she added, “I was referred to a taxi shuttle that was cheaper than a standard cab. It turns out that the shuttle hadn’t updated its website!! The price was not as much of a bargain as that posted on the website.”

I plan to meet friends over the weekend at a restaurant that opens at Noon according to the website but elsewhere on the web I saw 2:00 p.m. –so I called. It’s noon. Do I feel secure about the information?

Have you been snookered by an out-of-date website? How much time do you spend to confirm information?

Online menu

Service of Checkout at Retail: Standard or Do-It-Yourself?

Monday, December 5th, 2022

Self-checkout at Uniqlo on Fifth Avenue, NYC

I usually avoid self-checkout for any number of reasons: Will the coupons I sent to my card register? At Target, I like to go to the cashier. When she/he checks the online price it’s often less than the in-store one. I’m charged the lesser of the two which doesn’t happen if I check myself out.

At Uniqlo the other day I was disheartened at the line for standard checkout and was forced to look into the do-it-yourself variety that had no line [photo above]. The process was amazing and so much fun I wish I had more things to buy there. An assistant who saw my look of “what do I do?” took my purchases and put them in what looked like a spotlessly clean large white garbage pail and within seconds, up came each of the prices on a screen to the left of the station as well as the total. I popped in my credit card, bagged my purchases and was done in less than a minute.

Next to me was a young man holding a bunch of things who clearly didn’t know what to do. I suggested he put the scarves, pants and tops in the pail. He did and was as stunned as I had been when his invoice arrived so quickly. The mystery is how the receptacle captures each item when the collection of goods is randomly placed inside, the price tags tucked here and there.

On another day I was in a small store which had a sale on all full-priced items. The only way to pay was at the cash register. The cashier called out the total and I questioned whether I’d been given the discount. Nope. She explained that the register hadn’t been programmed to give it. So much for my preference for using a cashier.

The moral: Pay attention no matter which method you prefer to pay.

Have you experienced any fabulous checkout devices like those at Uniqlo? Do you prefer self-checkout —even if you have coupons sent to your online company card—or the standard cashier-at-the-register kind?

Service of Who Took the Children Out of Christmas and Hanukah Department Store Window Decor?

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Bloomingdale’s Louis Vuitton holiday window made of Legos

I guess Christmas and Hanukah and their iconic symbols designed to enchant youngsters no longer inspire NYC holiday windows, or so a few major retailers made me believe. And what children appreciate the senior members of their families often do as well. For decades trains and marching soldiers enthralled New Yorkers and tourists of all ages. Some things never get old. The last year Citibank installed a major train display in Manhattan there were lines to see it daily. I visited with my husband. I can’t forget the dad at the front of the display who had to tear away his three-year-old who screamed in protest when pulled off the line to make room for others. The crowd was mesmerized.

Bloomingdale’s holiday window featuring giant camera

Yesterday I was looking at Bloomingdale’s holiday windows as was a couple with a toddler in a stroller. The little one was staring at the windows without expression. His blank look—and the subjects of windows there and at Saks—gave birth to this post.

At Bloomingdale’s, I didn’t get the connection to holidays other than accents of red and green plaid ribbon and a giant plastic teddy bear. Louis Vuitton’s window was slightly child-oriented because it was designed with Legos. But the static design—a blue and white checkerboard tree with a “skirt” of multicolored Legos heaped in piles and a blue and white background–was bleh and not eye-catching to a little one. The oversized camera and scissors in other windows didn’t score nor did the child manikins dressed in bizarre fur onesies.

Window at Saks. Photo: Nancie Steinberg

What about Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows?  Nancie Steinberg’s images didn’t shout children either. In fact, I had to read media coverage to understand what I was looking at. Do you think a child would think, “Aha! I recognize the toys inspired from ‘special gifts from years past,’ also described as ‘nostalgic’ and ‘heartwarming,'” according to press reports? Only two examples of toys of yore were referred to: a kaleidoscope and rocket ships. And boy were those references subtle.

In addition, Justine Golata reported in secretnyc, “Saks has teamed up with Sir Elton John for this year’s holiday campaign to support the British singer’s AIDS foundation, The Rocket Fund, which includes a $1 million donation and dedicated holiday window displays. People can also shop the Elton John x Saks Fifth Avenue special holiday collection where $500,000 in proceeds will go towards The Rocket Fund, regardless of sales.” Now I get the rocket window.

I’m all for charity at any time of year and I like Sir John and his work. Did Saks really need to import him to attract store traffic? And what does he have to do with Christmas or Hanukah?

How hard would it have been to honor Charles Schulz, who turned 100 this year, featuring his ever-popular Peanuts gang? Or for those who insist on breaking from tradition to be trendy and fresh what about a contemporary setting through which trains might travel—it could be enchanting.

Anyone remember the windows at Lord & Taylor? The lines in front were four+ people deep.

Could it be that adults don’t like to shop with their children in tow anymore so commercially, windows that would enchant kids are not viable? Are the windows I mentioned fabulous and visually over my head? Or do children take a backseat as a retail priority during the December holidays these days?

Saks holiday window. Photo: Nancie Steinberg

Service of Backorders

Monday, November 21st, 2022

This old Hamilton Beach iron served me well

I’ve not needed a fridge or kitchen cabinet or car, so I’ve not been impacted by typical pandemic backorders—until now. Guess what? The Wall Street Journal published a story last Thursday “Fading Supply Chain Problems Signal Holiday Season of Stocked Shelves, Lower Prices.” I hate being the exception to the rule.

My trusty steam iron bit the dust in a most responsible way on Saturday night. It started to beep at me and then I saw smoke–not steam. It was entitled to retire. It has served me splendidly for years.

Was I surprised when I tried to order one for same day pickup in a Manhattan store. I couldn’t find one at two likely suspects and many irons were out of stock even for shipping. The wait time for delivery for the available ones ranged from six to nine days. I found one at a third vendor that was to arrive three days later—on Tuesday. But I received a notice from the vendor on Monday night that the delivery date moved a week. An aside: This iron had better be as good and long-lasting as the Hamilton Beach I bought at a long defunct discount store. For one thing, I paid 3x more for it.

Here’s one reason for the delay in my receiving the iron: It took some journey to get to Manhattan! It left Chandler, Ariz. and stopped in Phoenix, then Tucamcri, N.M., next Phillipsburg, Mo., on to Quaker City, Ohio, and Keasbey, N.J. and was sited at a warehouse in Long Island City, N.Y.

In another surprising example, I knew that the flannel shirt—from an iconic brand for such things– I bought days ago was backordered a few weeks until November 18. Then the delivery date was moved to December 6. And it’s holiday time!

I shared frivolous examples as they surprised me. What about the shortage of meds for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [A.D.H.D] patients who depend on Adderall that New York Times reporter Dani Blum wrote about? Without their daily dose they “face withdrawal and despair.” She reported that the issue should be resolved within the next month or two according to the FDA. “Rates of Adderall use in the United States have been rising for 20 years. The use of prescription stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. doubled from 2006 to 2016.”

Have you experienced delays or disappointment lately for items you needed or wanted? Were you surprised?

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

Service of Who Cares II

Monday, September 12th, 2022

I’m not the only one who has noticed a surge of overt indifference by retail employees lately and it’s not been exclusively in NYC where I start.

At a Manhattan branch of T.J.Maxx I heard a lively conversation of what turned out to be three sales associates hovering in housewares. I interrupted them to learn whether the store carried an item I needed. I was surprised they were so bold to turn the sales floor into a catch-up-around-a-water-cooler-like scene for such a long time.

At Home Depot, also in Manhattan, where I’ve always been treated courteously by sales associates, a guard on street level, seated in a wheelchair meant for customers, was slumped over his phone oblivious to his surroundings. My grocery cart accidentally slammed to the cement floor, the handle making an alarming clatter, and he neither budged nor looked up.

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

The same week I heard from EAM who shared examples of apathy towards customers during a trip to California. She visited Gumps, a favorite haunt of her parents. It was 4:40 pm, she wrote, and the store closed at 5 pm. She was looking at jewelry and “they started pulling it from the cases, one man throwing velvet covers over some, putting the jewelry onto trays as well.”  While this was going on, one salesman was attentive and answered her questions. She continued: “Overall, I was appalled by this experience–that a high-end store would treat people so rudely. One saleswoman had made an assessment, based on my appearance, that I wasn’t a serious customer. In fact, my parents, over the years, had made some significant purchases.” 

That same week EAM reported on a booth selling art glass vases in the $200+ range at a craft show. “To ask a question my sister literally had to interrupt the four salespeople in the booth huddled in conversation. They seemed clueless about their dismissive sales approach. She returned to check out the vases before purchasing one and was so turned off by their lackluster attitude towards her that she left. They lost a sale.”

Is something in the air? Are we all exhausted? Were these interactions coincidental? Is it because businesses are shorthanded and have lowered their hiring standards? Have you noticed similar lack of enthusiasm at retail?

Service of the Impact of Being Deep-Sixed: A Forecast

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

Hold on to your hats: Here’s a forecast of a few changes that will cut off some from access to crucial services and might put others out of business.

On the Road Again

Was NYC always so discriminatory?

I’m happy with my MetroCard that New Yorkers use for bus and subway rides. It’s easy to add money and is featherweight.

By the end of next year it will be extinct Anna Rahmanan reported in We’ll all be using OMNY vending machines that take money from a swipe of a smart device or a contactless chip credit or debit card. OMNY stands for One Metro New York.

This sounds great if you own the proper device and welcome a link between your smartphone, smartwatch or fitbit and your credit card or bank account. No such links for me. By next year I assume that all credit cards will be updated with a contactless chip.

Will the OMNY machine know who is eligible for half priced fares? What about those who don’t want to use their credit and debit cards for this purpose or don’t own the devices or cards? Does NYC have a contingency plan for them? One can only hope.

Attending to Business

Alex Harring predicted in The Wall Street Journal that traditional business cards are being replaced by QR codes, jewelry with business details or implanted chips. He calls the traditional cards germ swappers.

He reported that “The technology chief at Boingo Wireless Inc. had a chip inserted, between his left thumb and index finger, that carries his contact information. New acquaintances can use their phones to download the details.” If the recipient doesn’t have the app installed on their phone the technology doesn’t work. Oops.

Harring continued that some use “physical cards with QR codes, scannable digital cards or chips embedded in physical items that allow people to share contact details with a tap.”

The technology had best be flawless and operational wherever people network. Maybe a person should carry a few germ swappers just in case–yes?

What Did You Say?

What’s going to happen to the audiology business now that the FDA has approved over the counter hearing aids?

Woof and Meow

As soon as New York Governor Kathy Hochul signs the anti puppy mill bill there will be no more pet store sales of dogs, cats and rabbits here. Future pet parents are to go to breeders. According to, “‘The Puppy Mill Pipeline legislation would allow retail stores to partner with area shelters like Bideawee and like ACC and rescues to adopt animals,’ Bideawee CEO and President Leslie Granger said.” Full disclosure, all my pets have come from animal welfare agencies and shelters except one who was rescued by a friend from an abusive home. Are legitimate pet store owners in New York State expected to close the door and walk away from their investment of time and treasure?

The questions for this post are highlighted in each section.

Service of When Over the Top Marketing Blows Back

Thursday, September 1st, 2022

‘Tis the season which the following note illustrates. The email arrived at my inbox recently.

Image by Grégory ROOSE from Pixabay

A contributor wrote: “I’m bombarded by both [political] sides and they cry disaster in order to coax $$ out of one’s pocket.  I think I could recite all of their ploys, which include  ‘weeping’ ‘last request’ (yeah right) ‘losing’ ‘packing our bags’ ad nauseam!  One request started by trumpeting that I am an ’embarrassment.’  I liked that one so much that I pressed the unsubscribe button.  Don’t count on those ads to relay real news — their motif is not fact, but enrichment.”

If you’re reading this post I bet you receive such missives especially if you’ve ever sent a politician even just a few dollars. They must sell donor contact info.

It’s not just political campaigns. I’m a former subscriber to a magazine whose publisher sends countless emails with drastic discount offers. Make sure, if you fall for one, that you’re signing up for more than just a few issues. These offers culminate with “this is your last chance.” For today maybe or until next month or perhaps in celebration of St. Swithin’s Day [July 15].

Clothing brands with dedicated stores and e-commerce operations use the same ploy. “Some discounts as large as 70 percent!” “Sale ends tonight.””Add another 40 percent reduction!” You can be certain that the cashmere sweater you coveted was sold out in every size and color two sales ago.

Were this approach not profitable we wouldn’t be bombarded. I suspect the cry wolf sales approach–“there will never be another deal or opportunity like this” or “without your money we’re doomed”–works for some while it irritates others. Where do you fall? Have you succumbed to the pressure of “now or never” or “Your $10 will make all the difference”?

Service of Handy Tips

Monday, August 29th, 2022

I suspect everyone has received frequent lists of tips forwarded by friends via email or has seen them on social media.

Here are a few of mine:

  • Ask the cashier at Target for the Walmart price. Here’s an example of an indulgence–ice cream that costs $10.99 a pint at a local grocery store–costs $7-something at Target. The Walmart price–the one I’ve paid–has ranged from $4-something to $6 and change, depending on the day.
  • Baking soda and white vinegar cleans residue off my coffee pot, the once white inside of often-used ceramic teacups as well as glassware with a clinging shadow of red wine.
  • This one addresses a longtime pet peeve–when someone asks me to call them back in X minutes when they are postponing a scheduled call. Can’t they call me? I used to waste that time concerned that I’d get involved in another call or project and miss the new appointment. The timer on my phone comes to the rescue. I can forget the call until I hear the buzz. This helps remind me of all sorts of things.
  • When making piecrust the quality of butter makes a huge difference. Use a well known brand and pay more if you must otherwise the dough is unmanageable. It’s also worth the money to buy Bounty paper towels: You’ll use many cheap ones to pick up a mess vs. one sheet of Bounty,
  • If you want to know what’s going on in the world of retail, you’ll enjoy a chuckle as well as well-researched, honest reporting at WarrensReport. Warren Shoulberg writes it. As he put it, he “knows home furnishings retailing. As a career business journalist, he has covered the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry, focusing on the home furnishings segment but also reporting on the broader business of retailing and wholesale distribution.”

What are some of your favorite handy tips?

Service of Apathy by Volunteers, Employees & Corporations

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Merchandise at Target to celebrate Memorial Day

A star volunteer just described a successful fundraising event she chaired with such enthusiasm and joy it was a delight to hear as well as a relief.

That’s because I’ve observed that many are dragging at their tasks lately. What once were teams of vigorous volunteers in chambers of commerce, industry associations, charities and parent teacher groups many appear, in the last few years, to have given up. They have lost their magic. Their behavior reminds me of a childhood game of hot potato only it’s adults are passing the responsibilities and tasks–not spuds–on to the next person to follow through. This person has no energy either. I suspect that many of the ones who gladly rolled up their sleeves became tired of carrying the ball for the chronically lethargic.

It’s not only happening for volunteers. Last week at a Manhattan branch of Target I noticed a vivid example. I was shocked to see favors, decorations and American flags to enhance Memorial Weekend celebrations tossed in a sloppy heap in a bin. There were no empty shelves to merchandise them properly although someone might have arranged them artfully, using the metal basket openings to hold the larger flags giving more room inside to neatly stack the wreaths, garlands and packages of small flags.

And what about the United States Postal Service? Yes, I still send bills and cards by mail. I feel constrained by the change that happened silently in my neighborhood. Where there were as many as 3 pickups at some postboxes, now there is only one at either 10:00 AM or 11:00 AM. The postman who delivers to my building told me his buddy’s job is to pick up the mail from these boxes and he has nothing to do all afternoon. As a customer, it’s more than irritating and I feel that the service is exhausted and doesn’t care. A 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM pickup would be better if there is only one.

Have you noticed apathy or enthusiasm lately in the way people are carrying out tasks whether as volunteers, corporations or employees?

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay
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