I had an experience a few weeks back that made me think about how we buy. Every Saturday morning we do a light cleaning in the Showroom. That day I got out the vacuum cleaner and started to work on the floors. I soon realized that there really wasn’t much dirt being pulled up and when I tried to use the hose attachment there was too little suction to do anything.
I checked the warranty and found that I’d have to take it to a service center to get fixed. I didn’t have time for that. I just wanted it to work. So I looked up the troubleshooting guide to see if I could fix it. I quickly discovered that this machine had three filters which could be easily clogged by fine dust (we are near a highway and so fine dirt is a problem). A quick cleaning solved the problem.
Now, each time I use the vacuum I must remember to remove and clean the filters so it will be ready to use the next time. Of course if I had known that clogging filters was a potential problem I would not have purchased this machine. But I didn’t know. Why?
This all got me thinking about how shopping has changed over the years. It was not that long ago that a shopping trip involved significant interaction between buyer and seller. It gave the consumer a chance to ask questions and gave the seller a chance to make recommendations. The store clerk usually had knowledge about the products and was happy to help.
Much has changed. For one there are simply many more products available today. More significantly, I believe, has been the growth of self-service shopping. Grocery stores, gas stations, warehouse stores, home improvement centers, department stores and the Internet all rely on the customer to find what they want and to buy it with minimal help from sales staff. The idea is to make shopping quicker and cheaper but does it really work? Does it really give us more choice at less cost or is a good, knowledgeable salesperson still key part of a successful purchase? As my experience with the vacuum suggests, a good salesperson is still a valuable asset.