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Archive for the ‘shopping’ Category

We recently set up several appointments with local companies to get estimates for a home project. Long story short, we have a couple outdated bathrooms that need to be gutted and brought into the new millennium.

After deciding exactly what jobs we wanted the contractors to complete, we met with two companies last weekend. And buddy let me tell you, it became crystal clear that first impressions make the difference — no matter what you do in life.

Estimator/contractor No. 1 arrived 15 minutes late. She was friendly, but a disheveled mess. What’s worse, she refused (or couldn’t) stay on track with our project, continually explaining projects her firm routinely does that were totally unrelated to ours. After repeatedly explaining exactly what we wanted, she took a few measurements then sat us down for a one-hour discussion about materials. While the products she offered were in line with what we wanted, the rabbit holes she kept running into were frustrating to us. At the end of two hours we had to cut her off and asked her to email or mail us a bid on the project, which she refused to do.

Estimator/contractor No. 2 arrived on time wearing a clean jacket with his company logo. He spent 10 minutes asking questions about what we wanted to accomplish and took measurements. Andy was friendly, knowledgeable about the capabilities and services his company provides and he listened to our needs. He worked up cost estimates and walked us through the project costs, pricing and time frames needed to complete the work.

Guess who gets the job?

The lesson in this story for anyone working with people/providing a service is to focus on the consumer and represent your business as if your livelihood depends on it. After all, when you make the wrong impression, you’re taking yourself out of consideration.

And business owners: Pay attention to the people you send out to meet with customers. Know them. Set expectations. Train them well. Above all, never allow someone represent your business who you wouldn’t “buy” from yourself.

-end-

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In the past couple weeks, much has been written about electronics retail giant Best Buy. I can only recall a handful of stories that generated the kind of attention and social media reaction Forbes writer Larry Downes has gotten with his post about Best Buy going out of business…gradually. But when you hypothesize that one of our country’s great business success stories is about to crumble, you might expect a little attention.

Buttons have been pushed. Nerves touched. Wires crossed.

In the end, retail shopping is about consumer experience. Let’s face it, the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer is never going to make every transaction a pleasant “win” for both the consumer and the company. It just can’t happen. That said, Best Buy must strive to be better than its previous best. The company must hire savvy store managers, train its floor sales people thoroughly, streamline its checkout process, and take every possible step to curry favor with consumers. All that while it expands its Internet business to compete with the likes of Amazon and other mega online retailers. No small feat.

For all the comments (mostly negative toward BBY) that Downes’s blog post has received there are, no doubt, millions of happy Best Buy customers who don’t make time to vocalize their public support of the company.

I’ll take the time.

In 2011, I purchased a 42-inch Insignia television from Best Buy. The sales rep was extremely helpful. The checkout and pickup process effortless. I was asked once, and only once, about my need for HDMI cables and an extended warranty plan. I declined both offers, paid for the product. End of story.  Did I mention the sales rep was extremely helpful. He was no more than 20 years old, but knew his shit when it came to TV technology. And when his store didn’t have the size that I wanted, he found it at another location convenient to me.

And that’s how customer loyalty is won.

Granted, Best Buy has hiccupped its way through the holiday season. But rather than estimating that the doors of this company will be shuttered and locked within 24 months, I’ll place my bets that the world’s largest electronics retailer will figure out its next growth step…and nail it.

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Grumpy Old Man

I’m grumpy.

Maybe it’s me, but lately I seem more irritable. This is not a good thing given we’re entering the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.

My mood exudes foulness for various reasons.

First, I’m getting old. At 45 I’m definitely in the middle-age-phase of life. Perhaps I’ve recognized my time is short on this earth. So little things like traffic jams and waiting in line at a retail store check out make my fuse burn faster. Plus, my body is breaking down in areas that mystify me. Twinges in my cervical vertebra; a plantar wart on my right foot thanks to the fitness center shower at work; a sty on my eyelid that refused to go away for months (sounds like I belong in a belltower, doesn’t it?). These medical issues never occurred to the old, young me and if they did, they didn’t last for weeks on end. Apparently reaching 45 also means maladies and conditions that, in many cases, should not be mentioned in writing. Thank God for WebMed.com so I can self-diagnose myself better than my Aunt Martha did back in the ’70s.

Secondly, my gorgeous wife and I are remodeling a bathroom in full DIY mode. We’re both competent, but we’re also learning that days quickly turn to weeks and suddenly the little master bedroom bath project is already a month old and we’re behind schedule. Add to it the war wounds of remodeling – cuts, bruises, sheetrock dust everywhere, and working in a small space with large power tools and only one tiny window for ventilation – and the thought of the project now makes me frown. Fortunately, my wife is my mood counter balancer. We’ve yet to have short words with each other over that little project. We just want to get ‘er done.

The other thing making me angry (at the present moment) is all the Christmas advertising that is invading my space. It’s not yet Thanksgiving, but every retailer in town began airing their TV spots in early November. As if I’m not aging fast enough, the Best Buys and Targets of the world want to rush past Thanksgiving and head long into the Christmas shopping season to make me older, faster. Ummm. No thanks. I’ll wait until after Thanskgiving before I start my Christmas shopping or break out the decorations. Why rush a good thing?

There. Now you know. I’m angry. Don’t cross me.

Or at the very least, don’t ride your brakes in traffic and make me curse you. After all, it’ll be Christmas…soon.

-end-

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The Thanksgiving holiday brings about many opportunities for epic proportions of everything.

First comes the Thanksgiving feast. Massive turkey combined with plates and plates of carb-laden potatoes, stuffing and other side dishes followed by a row of pies in nearly every flavor, results in even a Jack Sprat-like family feeling obese at the end of the day.

Black Friday provides shoppers with the “biggest shopping day of the year.” Consumers camp out overnight at their local Best Buy store so they can trample employees in a mad rush to buy the specially-marked-down Bette Midler Christmas CD…errrrr…something like that.

On Friday night, more crowds to elbow in order to snap up tickets for an epic movie. This year’s offering, “Australia,” with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. With at least three movies within the movie, the two hour, 45-minute production included far too many slo-mo shots of a shirtless Jackman. But the sell-out audience didn’t mind the cliches and obviousity of the epic film complete with happy ending. What would you expect?!

The gynormous weekend activities continue. Twelve-foot-tall Christmas trees lashed to the tops of Toyota Priuses; massive front-yard light displays; and miles and miles of gift wrap in order to make those purchases from Black Friday look presentable under the tree.

It’s appropriate, then, we get Thursday through Sunday to eat, shop, sleep, eat, queue in check-out and ticket lines, eat, sleep and decorate for the next major holiday. What better way to start celebrating the Holiday Season?

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It’s the holiday season. Rather than wander endlessly through crowded shopping malls and electronics retailers trying to identify an oh-so-perfect gift for the guy in your life, shop with a purpose this year.

Here are 10 gift suggestions practically any man would love to open up on Christmas morning – none of which involve a gift card (boring) or spreadable cheeses (that’s just wrong).

In no particular order…

  1. Rayban Wafarer or Oakley Flak Jacket Sunglasses – Celebrities aren’t the only ones who appreciate signature eyeware, although it’s more affordable for them. Still, a nice set of shades wrapped up in a bow tell your significant other that his baby blues, browns et al need proper protection from those damaging UV rays.
  2. Blue Ray DVD Player – Now that Sony won the battle of Blue Ray there’s no reason not to upgrade. He may not notice the picture difference, but he’ll say he does. What’s more, he’ll tell all his friends, repeatedly, about how his wife/girlfriend gave hime a Blue Ray player for Christmas.
  3. “Unforgiven” Two Disc Special Edition – Four Academy Awards, Clint Eastwood starring and directing along with Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman.  This is the ultimate Western movie for any guy’s DVD library.
  4. Art – the hanging kind. That poster of Daisy Duke on a nail in the home office was put there as a placeholder. Make the upgrade with an architectural line drawing or black and white photograph, add a nice frame and he’ll be sure there’s something extra special in your stocking…next year.
  5. Multifunction Tool – Even the most unhandiest of men need ready access to a tool that cuts, twists, drives screws, and opens that stubborn beer bottle in a pinch.
  6. Under Armour Gear – It’s not only for athletes. In fact, donning Under Armour’s Contender Armour Stretch Pants, for example, might make guys feel more athletic. They’ll certainly look the part.
  7. http://www.mywebsite.com – Unlike pet rocks and mood rings, I don’t think the Internet is a passing fad. Find a website developer and do it up right. Nothing will scream Merry Christmas like his very own dot-com address.
  8. Fender Guitar – To be specific, the Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster guitar.  If owning something cool is the objective, this autographed custom guitar puts cool on the map. I can’t play a lick, but seriously, who wouldn’t want this as a conversation piece? Amp not included.
  9. Navigation System – The technology running these devices only gets better making it nearly a shame for any vehicle not to have a portable nav system telling us where to go. Tom Tom, Sony and Garmin all have systems starting at around $200. You can’t buy humility back after asking for directions for that price.
  10. Sigg Water Bottle – with all the plastic filling our ditches and dumps, isn’t it time to stop with the unnecessary buying of bottled water? Give the “gold standard” in reusable water bottles this year. The Sigg Classic is durable, leak proof and sophisticated (that’s what the web site says, you can’t make that up!).

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On Target

Target corporation is based right here in Minneapolis, and yet conversations with friends, family and co-workers often go something like this…

“I love my new neighborhood’s Super Target!”

“Oh really, you have a Super Target? Mine is just a Target Greatland.”

“I wish we had a Super Target in my town. All we have is a Wal-Mart and it’s not so nice.”

“Well, my Super Target has it all. I could easily spend $200 there every time I walk through the door.”

“So what’s the difference between a regular Target, a Greatland and a Super Target?”

The answer is quite simple. Super Target has it ALL. From deoderant to shoes to a full-line grocery store, to a full-service pharmacy, as well as Starbuck’s and Pizza Hut built into the store, Super Targets are designed as a one-stop shop for home needs. It will also include large seasonal floor space with elaborate displays at Halloween and Christmas. Here is a photo of the Super Target that is within walking distance of my home. My daughter works the Starbuck’s inside this location. It just opened on Oct. 9, along with four other new Super Targets in the Twin Cities metro area. That is 750,000 square-feet of new retail space people!

Super Taraget

A regular Target store is about half the size of a Super Target and carriers just basic department store items: clothes, office supplies, some electronics, etc. A Target Greatland is right in the middle in terms of size and inventory. Some grocery items are carried including milk, and the store also features a food counter.

Now you know the difference between the various Target options. And if that’s not enough, Wiki has a great page on Target including its stores and dominance in retail.

Happy shopping!

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