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Give the Lady What She Wants (Revisited)

August 22nd, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

That was the motto of Marshall Fields. The defunct department store lived by that creed. If something didn’t wear right for whatever reason or the person just didn’t like it. It could be returned without any argument. It was put out of business as the world moved toward a big box mentality. You paid more at Fields. You could ‘save’ at the discounters.

I bought my business wear at Jack Fox and Sons from Cliff Larue. I’d get chalked up and if the alterations weren’t right, Cliff would beat me in sending it back. Not cost effective but there was never a lump between the shoulder blades and it draped to enhance or conceal — take your pick. They are long gone too.

Now when someone returned something to Fields or Cliff sent my suit back for more alterations that affected the short term profits. But Fox and Field were in it for the long haul. As closely held entities, they succeeded over decades depending on repeat business.

Waffles – the last angry man – visited Best Buy recently. Best Buy is the typical big box. Recently, I was looking for a new range. I decided I wanted fancy. You know; one with a convection oven; a variety of 5 different size burners; features smarter than me. I looked at Best Buy (via the net) and then looked at a locally owned site. It was a bit more there but I was in their free delivery area and BB would charged for delivery and installation. Abt had online chat and I had questions and negotiated a small added fee out of the deal. All of a sudden they were cheaper and the chat showed me that if I had problems they were ready to talk reasonably.

There is a Lowes and a Menards across the street from each other. I’ve shopped in both. They are home improvement stores. Lowes is listed on the exchange and is controlled by the short term requirements that listing brings about. Menards is owned by one guy. He is a miserable SOB but my kind of such. There are things I don’t like about their business plan. But, when I go to Lowes and ask where the framitz is I get a response like “Try isle 23.” and at Menards the employee drops what they are doing and leads me across the store to show me the framitz and answer any questions I might have. And framitzs may go for a buck-twenty-nine.

I come from a different time. Then, you expected service and had a multitude of choices. While that seems to be gone, it is just more hidden. I’m sure there is an Abt type of business that survived the big box onslaught in Waffle’s area. He just hasn’t bothered to seek them out. They aren’t listed companies. Their ads aren’t as glossy. But, they depend on doing repeat business instead of next week’s circular. And, they end up far more cost effective.

So, I have only a little sympathy for Waffles. In a way, he got what he deserved. He took the route of least resistance and got bit in the ass. He didn’t look for the Abt or Menards. He looked at a glossy ad that screamed uncaring. So, don’t be shocked when they don’t care.


I am no saint in this regard. I let Walmart screw me over. I detailed that. It was a $630 mistake which trumps Waffles mistake. I also haven’t been in a Walmart in over two years and passed on some nice deals that carried the Toshiba label. It isn’t terribly cost effect in the short term but I’ve been around too long to only worry about the short term.

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  1. August 22nd, 2010 at 10:16 | #1

    I've had good luck at Lowe's. The staff know what they're doing and will actually help you (unlike WalMart).

  2. August 22nd, 2010 at 10:20 | #2

    Here's a story from ACE hardware. I had a screw pop out from the thing you rest your arm on in my car. I went to ace, but didn't know exactly what size to buy. The guy there picked up several sizes, walked me out to my car and tried them all until he found one that fit. I went back in the store and paid for it — 8 cents!!! Needless to say I went to that store for anything that I needed that I could get there.
    Are all ACE hardware stores like that? I'm sure they are not, so it's partially dependent on whether you get a staffer who gives a [insert word here].

  3. August 22nd, 2010 at 14:54 | #3

    I’ve had successes with Lowe’s too. But, the other is better. I got a floor model washer and dryer at a heck of a price — Fisher – Paykel. They’re as smart as my stove. But, sadly, none of them really go out of their way to talk to me or each other. No WiFi. 🙁

    Ace seems like that everywhere. I worked with them a bit at one time. Ace is interesting. The warehouse is a co-op owned by the members and so get the same economy of scale as the big box stores. Hardware stores, even with the Lowe’s etc., are a throwback to the era I mention. They seem as much a service industry as hardware vendor.

  4. August 24th, 2010 at 01:01 | #4

    Earlier this summer both our washer and dryer needed to be replaced. My wife decided on particular brands and models she wanted. Much to my chagrin, the best prices she found online were at Best Buy. However, our trusted repairman suggested we buy at a local shop. I went in and got a price, which was nowhere close to Best Buy's. I spoke with the owner, who gave me a new price, but still more than Best Buy. I told him thanks anyway — that I wanted to give the local guys a chance and really hated to patronize the national store. The owner reworked the prices so that they came out about even. So .. the local guy got my business, I didn't have to but from Best Buy, I got installation for free, and if I have a problem, the local guy will actually do something about it. It almost made buying two appliances kind of enjoyable.

  5. August 28th, 2010 at 08:55 | #5

    It's all about taking the time . . . we're split 50/50 on big box/local for appliances and stuff.  There are a few who won't do it, but many will – you just need to take the time to talk with them.

  1. June 12th, 2012 at 12:12 | #1