The President's Message

July 2008

Paul Westefer

Chain stores that sell computers are singing the blues because they are taking in less green. Some have gone out of business, and others have closed a number of their of outlets. Granted, some of the decline in sales is beyond their control. But the owners have at least some control over many of the complaints we hear. Let's go shopping and point out a few.

You enter a Really Big Store and look for the computer department. There are either no signs, or the signs are incorrect, or they are hidden by other signs. You ask a clerk where the computer department is. The clerk doesn't know and makes no effort to assist you. Instead the clerk resumes a conversation with another employee.

You look around. There are no other employees to be seen. Rooms full of shelves, counters, and merchandise but no employees. After a long search, you finally find a clerk and start to ask a question. A telephone rings. The clerk answers it and spends so much time serving the caller you finally walk away.

Luckily you find the computer department and a computer you are interested in. There is no place on or around the computer that shows the price. By this time, you have been in the computer department for 20 minutes, and no one has offered to assist you. All the associates (clerks in the Computer Department are called associates) are either stocking shelves or taking inventory - sporting events designed to block the aisles and keep customers away from the merchandise.

Spotting an associate who looks weaker than yourself, you drag him over to the priceless computer. You point to a LARGE SIGN which says SALE!, but no price. The associate says he doesn't know the price, and often employees are not informed of coming sales.

He calls the manager from a cell phone and learns that the SALE SIGN is in the wrong place. Seconds later, down the aisle comes a smile beamed at you by the manager himself, Mr. Bait N. Switch. "This is your lucky day. The computer you inquired about is obsolete - unless you are addicted to Word Perfect and floppy discs." "Well, actually I originally came in because of the Hyped Hyper model you advertised in this morning’s paper. You know, Price Reduced 75%." (Note: The ad didn't mention that the advertised model was never actually sold at the quoted price.) "Unfortunately, we are sold out of that model."

"But I came in 10 minutes after the store opened."

"Unfortunately, we only had one in stock. The shipment didn't arrive on schedule." "Didn’t it cost a lot to advertise when you only had one in stock?"

"You are a clever lad. Tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm going to give you what you really need, our Highly Hyped Hyper model, at my cost price. I know you won't mind paying the sales tax on the pre-discount price. Now about your extended warranty. We recommend our Infinity Plan, which covers the computer through a simple codicil to your will even after you expire."

"That sounds expensive."

"Not to worry. You can put it on your credit card at a really reasonable rate, unless of course you miss or are late with a payment. Now just step over to our 21 checkout counters - four of which are actually open. Just join the line. You will meet a lot of fellow customers there."

"Thank you Mr. Switch. Just one question. Where is the nearest exit?"