Friday, October 01, 2010

The lowest price is no longer the law

Final letter
London, ON

May 2009

[Click all photos to embiggen]
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores parallel this week. Got anything that remotely qualifies? Feel free to follow your mouse here if you do. Or even if you don't, as we're an equal opportunity photographic nurturer.
Before Wal-Mart paved the low-cost superstore landscape in Canada, there was Zellers. Well, if we're being absolutely precise, there still is a Zellers. But it's difficult to understand how it can compete against the menace from Bentonville when the average store is a haphazardly stocked zoo with employees who, when you manage to find them, don't seem to know how to connect you with the things you need.

In 21st century retail, it's the little things that matter. And a store that abandons its "lowest price is the law" tagline but neglects to paint over the shadows that remain when the sign is removed sends quite a different message to customers and potential customers. It suggests it doesn't sweat the small stuff. That it misses the subtle details of customer service that today's consumers look for and, indeed, expect. I'm all for supporting Canadian business, but it's hard to feel enthusiastic when it routinely drops the ball on the most basic things.

But the store anchors the southern end of the local ginormous mall, so it's difficult to miss when you're there to gawk at the lap-walking seniors as you munch on something decadent from Cinnabon. When I found myself in the parking lot one morning last year, I thought I'd have some fun with the sign high up on the wall. Corporate ineptitude aside, there's a stark simplicity to the Z that just works - and I'm not just saying that because my middle name starts with a Z.

I attracted plenty stares from strangers who probably wondered what I was doing standing in middle of the parking lot with a DSLR in my hand, but I didn't let that stop me. I figured whoever the store hired for security was probably too busy watching Family Feud on the wall of screens in the electronics department.

Eventually, I tired of exploring this antediluvian retail aesthetic and headed home. I found the whole experience a tad depressing, for some odd reason. So when I got back to the house, I plunked myself down in the kitchen and tucked into my danish from Cinnabon. Nothing like a little sugar therapy to ward off the gloom cast by a business that time apparently forgot.

Your turn: Businesses that fail to keep pace. Please discuss.

Oops, almost forgot: Happy new month! Because new years only come once a year, but we get 12 new months.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

For me the companies that fail to keep the pace are the ones who outsource to foreign countries.. I am not the only one who has had a problem understanding the person on the other end of the phone... Language is difficult enough and its worse when that person on the other end of the line reads from a manual a set answer and not really hearing what the person is asking... Case in point, I called AT&T for an internet issue... AT&T does not outsource abroad and they keep it here in the U.S. Do u know how relieved I was not to have to listen extra hard to try and decipher thru an accent? I realize pay is cheaper if the work is sent abroad.. but do the companies here really realize they are setting themselves up to sabotage themselves? I no longer have an acct. w/Chase bank- they evidently sold me the wrong rewards acct.. they did it to my daughter...HP is another company that outsources..and if the problem is not resolved they hang up in 20 min..I could go on and on but I think u get the gist of what I think has failed.

Karen Sather said...

Ty and happy October 1st to you. Now I've heard it twice today guess people forget...Funny thing what people stare at-I had fun with that last night looking for parallels, especially taking a shot of the floormat outside our library! and per your question, lately I find "greed" kills customer service and the customer is key no matter what it is. As for your striking Z, remember when you wrap the alphabet in say a song it comes before A! it's an unique letter!

Catherine said...

I agree that there's something special about a Z -and a New Zealander can spot a Z in a page of text faster than anyone else..

Twain12 said...

Zellers is not to bag in Fredericton, but you are right that walmart took over.

Twain12 said...

meant to say to bad lol

Anonymous said...

When I was younger a trip to Zellers when visiting Canada was the best part, sad to here it is no longer the same

Karen Sather said...

Walmart has been taking over here for awhile now. But we have Target and a few Kmarts left that are giving them a run for the money. But it's the small ma and pop stores, diners, cafes, Print Shops, etc. there are disappearing. We took a trip to Hartford, Conn. and it was tough finding a shopping center that wasn't exactly what we have back home. It seems in the United States we can close our eyes and pop up anywhere and once we open them again mostly, it all looks the same, as if we never left home! so the hunt for the unknown is always beckoning........

Mustang Sally said...

Love the Z

Actually, I prefer the slower (smaller?) pace that was before Wal-Mart. Such a shame that we've lost so many people oriented, as opposed to bottom line oriented businesses. "Progress" is not necessarily a good thing, although I expect it is inevitable.