Better Business Bitching

Ok, this has nothing to do with families or relationships, but I need to sound off. That’s what blogging is all about, right? Please bear with the tangent. Family relationships will be back next week.

This morning I went to the Verizon store to purchase a gift card for Fathers’ Day. I walked in and a host told me there was a wait. “Do you mind waiting?” I told him I just wanted a gift card and he offered to put my name on a list.

I said, “I’ll come back” and went to Home Depot next door.

I came back about 10 minutes later and a different host said, “Oh, they can help you in just a few minutes. You can look around the store.” At what? Different colored gift cards? I’m not buying a phone, Bozo. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. I watched as a transaction appeared done, but the clerk and the customer chatted and chatted, the way Washingtonians will do. They won’t tell you anything real, but they’ll chat for hours about nothing. But that’s another story.

Anyway I got fed up and left in a huff. I was still mad when I got home, so I called Verizon customer service to complain about the store. The customer service person was very nice and took my complaint. I told her that this was not the first time they’d had an unacceptable wait time and asked why the hosts were not qualified to sell a freakin’ gift card, for crying out loud. After I hung up, I felt better. (By the way, if you’re happy with your wireless carrier and your coverage is comparable to Verizon’s, please let me know.)

My husband, Matt, had a similar experience last week. Well, several. He set out to spend his $100 birthday gift on his lunch hour. He walked into Men’s Wearhouse, where they’re usually very solicitous. No one even acknowledged him. He walked into the Nike store, carried a $100 golf shoe around the store, wanting to try it on. No one came. He walked into Victoria’s Secret (because a gift for me is a gift for him), saw four young shop girls chatting on their work-issued headsets. No one approached him. Frustrated and disappointed, he went back to work empty-handed.

He complained to me that night about the shop employees, “We’re never going to get out of the recession if people don’t work anymore. These kids grew up coddled and spoiled and they don’t know how to work for a living.”

“It’s all that not scoring their soccer games. They’re just not competitive,” I agreed.

“They just don’t give a shit is more like it,” he said.

“I bet there are plenty of people who’d like to have their jobs, too,” I said.

Ultimately we agreed that apathy in business is the lynchpin of the recession and if no one’s going to sell anything, no one’s going to buy anything. I’ll go a step further and say that innovation and good marketing is what will get our economy going again. I’m not an economist, not by a long shot, but I’m pretty good with common sense. We must get people to spend money and they will only spend if we meet their needs. And we have to stop ripping people off. Safeway responded to the Edy’s/Dreyer’s shrinking package/same price move by pointing out that its Private Selection brand was still the same size. Guess which one I bought. That’s the kind of marketing we need.

We need a serious attitude adjustment, too. All those kids with their crappy retail jobs don’t realize that their job performance will follow them to their next job, and the next, and the next. I’ll hazard a guess that the Victoria’s Secret manager was Generation Y too, or the girls wouldn’t have gotten away with their behavior. But somewhere up the chain there’s a good businessperson who’ll notice their performance, can them and hire people who will do a good job.

We need innovators. And though I can think of a few things I’d like to see on the market – like a body-pillow case that zips up one side so it’s easier to use – innovation does not require inventions. Rather, it requires inventiveness. In the Outer Banks, North Carolina, there’s a chain of drive-through convenience stores called Brew Thru. People love them and they do tons of business. Why? Because people love the convenience. Before I became a mom, I didn’t have much of an opinion about drive-throughs, but now that I’ve got two kids I’ve got to unbuckle, assemble, control and then rebuckle just to get one thing at a store, I wish everything was available at the drive-through. Brew Thru isn’t the only drive-through convenience store chain, but it is a mom and pop success story.

Matt had another remedy for the recession (which, in economic terms, is over) – tax incentives for employers to hire and retain employees. Right now, American companies are working their few remaining employees to death to maintain their market share. Although I doubt Matt’s idea would fly with the current Congress, his financially-savvy boss pointed out that lowering taxes improves the economy. Historically, he said, every time we lower taxes – business and individual — we see an economic boost. “It’s the Wal-Mart effect,” Matt said, “They have more money so they spend more.”

So there you have it. My recession rant. Again, I am not an economist, just a haggard consumer, but I stand by my conviction that innovation, marketing and a vested interest in our jobs, whatever they may be, are the keys to building our economy. And since Matt mentioned it, tax incentives based on jobs aren’t a bad idea, either. Thanks for letting me sound off. I feel much better.