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Life Arts

Service? Declining Retail Sector Will Special Order It for You

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"No service?" ask two irate customers in a New Yorker-style cartoon as they pitch articles of clothing across the bar. "No shirt! No shoes!"

They may have even lit up a cigarette.

It's no secret the US retail sector is hurting as the holidays approach, having just reported its worst quarter since 1992.

But how much is its own fault with its ubiquitous anti-service signs like, No Food, No Drinks, No Strollers, No Change, No Restroom, No Soliciting, No Backpacks, No Refunds, No Exchanges, No Bills Over $20, No Credit Cards, No Special Orders, No Pets, No More Than 3 Students At A Time and No Leaning On The Counter (for the 3 students at a time).

Especially when the "No Strollers" store sells kids' stuff? And the "No Backpacks/No More Than 3 Students At A Time" store sells school supplies?

Twenty years ago it was an ethnic joke that God created WASPs because someone has to pay retail.

Today, the joke might be someone has to buy offline with internet shopping so easy and, sometimes, quicker.

Sure the "career opportunity" of checking customers out at the counter while taking orders on a Bluetooth headset and wearing an advertising badge that says "Preparation H on sale" must be degrading.

It is even more degrading to have that person keep you waiting for 14 minutes only to shake you down for the store's "valued customer rewards" program before ringing you up and register annoyance that you would presume to use cash--CASH--instead of a debit card. Pun intended.

About how about the poor lady born in 1945 who tries to write a check! Security--please come to the front desk.

And when did someone needing to order something not in stock become the imposition known as Having To Special Order?

Of course we didn't reach the point of stores trying to lock in your loyalty as a customer after ignoring you for 14 minutes overnight.

It is the logical outgrowth of service cutting--born when restaurants discovered people would bus, absurdly, their own tables and tip for counter, not table service--and personalization also spawned by restaurants who engineered the little, "Hello My Name is Dwayne and I will be your server this evening. Tonight we offer a glazed, skewered, marinated, caramelized bisque of ..." speech which produced better tips.

(Was this the beginning of videos replacing reading?)

Personalization With No Service is what bring you offers of jewelry and leather goods in your credit card bill as the company slips in a $60 dollar "service charge" because it can.

It's reductions in rental car, hotel and snorkel guide costs in a Golden Traveler Program that are exactly equal to their original markup.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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It all started when Ronald Reagan said "We ar... by Matthew Peters on Sunday, Nov 16, 2008 at 1:57:21 PM
The store signs should just be up front about it a... by Archie on Monday, Nov 17, 2008 at 12:47:43 AM