The man who changed the way we buy furniture passed away this weekend. Ingvar Kamprad, who started IKEA in 1943, was 91.
Kamprad was a controversial person. Known for his frugality, he also apologized for his interest in the Nazi movement, asking for forgiveness for his ignorance.
His stores were noted for affordability and convenience. Rather than waiting 6-8 weeks for furniture to be delivered, customers simply browsed through the showroom before grabbing their purchases in the warehouse. They may also have enjoyed a dinner of Swedish meatballs or hassle free shopping while their children played in the ball pool.
It was bad enough that two employees were talking on the sales floor while people all around them went unserved, but it was their discussion was what put it over the top.
(I share the story only to illustrate the types of discussions that should not be held on the sales floor.)
The first employee was asking the second one how they had been. The first employee then went on to describe that flu that she had suffered through. She said that several times when she ran to the bathroom she could not decide whether she should bend over or sit down as “it was coming out of both ends!” I expected the other employee to be a bit put off by such a topic on the sales floor within ear shot of customers. Continue reading →
Admission here. One thing that I truly disliked working in retail was steaming clothing. I understand the importance of making clothing look nice and I would do it but I did not like it. I would look for anything to do other than steam clothes, particularly helping customers.
With that being said, I was a bit dumbfounded when I visited a local retailer this past weekend in the middle of the afternoon. I walked in and there were only three other customers so the ratio between customer and employees was 1:1. I was not greeted when I entered as I started to circle the floor. I looked at a book. I tried on a mid layer. I was touching and looking at lots of items. Yet I was never approached nor greeted by an employee.
As I circled through the back of the store, I saw three employees involved in steaming clothes. Three employees with only one steamer. I was not sure what they were busy doing. What ever it was it was more important than helping customers. I am not sure what they were working on but they spent a lot of time talking about what bars they wanted to hit that night. Bar talk also seemed more important than helping customers. I left soon after and while I was inclined to make a purchase when I came in, I found no reason once there to spend money.
Heading to the BART Station today and I happened upon the former I. Magnin location in Oakland. I. Magnin was a high-end department store that was founded in 1876 and at one time ran locations in six high-end hotels throughout California. This Oakland location opened in 1931 and was noted for its distinct terra-cotta exterior. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, it closed in 1995.
I recently completed my relocation to the Bay area and was excited to see both a used and a new bookstore in my neighborhood. Today, I got off work early, so I headed out to check my new bookstores.
The first was a used bookstore with high quality hardcovers, mostly pre-1960. The owners were welcoming and friendly. I bought a number of books there.) I will write about them in a future post.
The second was bookstore featuring mostly new books. I spotted Sam Shepard’s bio and a local walking map, picking them up I headed to the cashier. The cashier greeting me and scanned the books. Then she asked, “Are you a member of our readers club?”
Interested, I replied,”No, I am new to the neighborhood.”
What I expected was her to launch into a pitch for the readers club to which I would have dutifully signed up. Her response was to say “Oh” and had me my change. I walked away confused.
Could she at least tried to promote the readers club. All to often retailers miss the easy marks.