The Wow Factor

Before Mom fell and fractured her arm and our house turned into a nursing home, our lives had devolved into an existence that was so boring, so hum-drum, so devoid of any outside stimuli that, when we heard a story on talk radio about a national technology/appliance chain (aka Best Buy) upping their game by changing their marketing strategy to compete with online sales, we decided to go check it out for ourselves.

We drove to the near-by mall and located the store among the many perimeter parcels.  We parked and walked inside, prepared to be wowed.  The first thing we noticed was the lack of a greeter.  I think there’s some kind of child labor law that requires periodic YooHoo breaks, so that might have been the reason.  Or maybe they went to the land of the lost ex-Wal-Mart greeters.  Or maybe they didn’t meet the new, high-tech, world-wide-web wow-criteria.  Whatever the reason for the absent greeter, we had to find our way into the store without the benefit of a robotic “Hi, welcome to our store” to get us started.

The next thing we noticed was the complete lack of help – qualified or otherwise.  After all, we surmised, when you’re on the internet, you have to wander around, haphazardly stumbling from one link to another in your quest for whatever it is you’re seeking, so why spoil in-store customers with real human contact.  We assumed this was a tactical decision made by highly paid executives in order to give the customer a true internet experience.  It was probably brain-stormed and developed by recently graduated marketing majors who were now employed at corporate headquarters and could offer their weeks of real-world experience toward the implementation of this ground-breaking plan.

But then, wait!  We finally spotted a young man who was wearing, what appeared to be the employee-required royal blue polo shirt.  He was casually milling around the flat screen TVs.  We approached, tentatively at first, just like online when you carefully study all the menu options on each web page to determine what your next jump should be.  As we got closer, we switched from tentative to stealth-mode because we didn’t want to startle this rare and elusive creature into bolting before we reached him.

We finally made it to within a few feet of where he stood.  He had his back to us, riveted on a Disney movie – Madagascar 2, I think – when I said, “excuse me,” in the softest, most non-threatening voice I could muster.  It didn’t help.  He stumbled back, then twisted around clockwise on his left foot, which caused him to trip over his right foot.  He toppled backwards into a pyramidal display of clearance DVD players, knocking off the top two rows before finally righting himself.  He stared at us with wide eyes popping out of an adolescent, pimpled face and squeaked in a voice that hadn’t quite changed yet, “Can I help you?”

I looked at Bill, who simply shrugged, shook his head in disgust and walked away.

“Probably not,” I replied, walking in double-time to catch up with my husband.  “As you were,” I called over my shoulder.

When I got alongside Bill, he looked at me and said, “I don’t see anything that’s different than before, do you?”

“Nope,” I said.  “Not a thing, except maybe there’s even fewer people here to not be able to answer your questions than before.”

“What a waste of time,” he muttered as we exited the store and walked through the rising waves of shimmering, 109 degree heat coming off the parking lot blacktop.

“Well, honey, what did you expect?  I asked.  “How hi-tech can a block and mortar store get?  Besides, this is the most exciting thing we’ve done all week, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but it’s only Tuesday!”




2 Comments on “The Wow Factor”

  1. Karen says:

    I am so on the edge of my chair awaiting your next Big Adventure! My social life evolves around visiting my friends at Publix every Saturday morning. They adore me, or so I’m made to feel every time I walk into the store. So I spend more money, and make more Publix friends 🙂

    • Patt says:

      OMG – I soooo miss Publix fried chicken! The last time I was in Atlanta (for work in spring of ’10), I went to the Puplix that was closest to my hotel in Alpharetta and brought it back to my room for dinner. It was almost better than… well, any way, I sure do miss it. I even sent corporate an email when we lived in Boise, begging them to come west. That was 5 years ago, so I’ve stopped holding my breathe for a response.

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