Monday, August 11, 2014

Capitalism and Retail: Do You Understand Business in America?

If there is anything that pisses me off more than ignorant Americans who are in politics it's ignorant American consumers. You know the type, they're the ones that walk into stores and get upset at employees because the store doesn't carry, or is out of a particular product, or when the employee is simply follow the policies and rules of the business they work for, or because the store is short handed. You've most likely been in a store and overheard some of the ugliness up at the customer service counter or other parts of the store, or have been apart of it.

You know, the old saying, "the customer is always right" is one hell of a farce. Some customers come into stores saying things like, "I'm looking for that one piece that fits into the other piece for this water thing I'm hooking up that I can't explain to you because of how complex it is." And usually the associate follows up with something like, "Oh, you mean a nozzle for the end of your garden hose?"
Some customers have no idea what they are looking for, they just know that somehow or another they need it, and the associate has to know exactly what it is. This ignorance in the search of one's product can lead to customers to feel inadequate, which can almost always lead to defensiveness and hostility upon not being understood.

But that's not the only place that hostility can stem from, especially when a customer believes that they are being as clear as day when describing what  they want. They are never wrong, however they can never remember exactly what the product is and rely on an under paid associate and better know exactly what the customer is talking about, or else.

But the ones that really get me are the ones who don't even understand how business even works in our society. They get up to the cashiers to pay for their items and they are just insulted by the lack of employees waiting to service them or the lack of employee knowledge about every item in the store.
At my employment I have been witness and victim to all of the above mentioned, and more. 
But what get's me is that being in this business for as long as I have, I have noticed that most customers, rude or not, have no idea how business works, or capitalism for that matter.

For example, I have had customers yell at me because we don't have a full compliment of staff in the store. They tell me that they were in the store the other day and there was a lot of employees waiting to help, but today there are hardly any. Then they tell me how horrible the company is and that we will be going out of business very soon. Sometime they end their argument with, "It's all because of Obama."

These are sometimes hilarious conversations, and other times they are very frustrating because I can tell that these people are just pissed off because they can't have their way. They think that they know better than the educated CEOs and CFOs and other experienced management personal of the company, as well as historic marketing trends.

I sometimes wonder if a lot of these people are Republicans, and I don't mean to generalize on this, but some of the conversations I have had with these people usually end with, "Look at what your generation has done," or "the liberals are ruining this country," or, my personal favorites, "it's all Obama's fault," and "this is because of Obamacare."

So let's get one thing clear here, folks; this is capitalism. And if you don't like your capitalist system, then why are you so in favor of it when you go to the ballot boxes?

Let's use a simple example to explain this situation from a business stand point. Lets says that on August 4th 2011 my company made $130,000 dollars in sales. That's a great sales day!

August 4th, 2012 I made $135,000!

August 4th, 2013 I made around $130,000.

See the trend yet?

August 5th, 2011 I made $96,000

August 5th, 2012 I made $95,900

August 5th, 2013 I made $96,100

It would go without saying that typically August 5th isn't such a great sales day. Now here comes the critical thinking part. On August 5th, would it be a good idea to spend as much money on payroll as I did on August 4th? 

 Going by these trends, I would figure that I do not need to pay as many people to be out on the sales floor on the 5th, because historically we never made anything past one hundred grand. So all I need are a few of my harder workers out there on that day, and I can save money in payroll and make more money for the store. 

However, if I do somehow manage to make $105,000 on August 5th, 2014 that would be stupendous! But does that mean that next August 5th I'm going to give people more hours?Why would I, when I have just proven that I can make more money on that day with less people on the the sales floor?
This is just another way companies make money so they can stay in business. Profits and expenditure ratio. It is a business model, and a successful one at that. Because at the end of the day the bottom line is "how much money did we make today?"

This is business in a capitalist society folks, the system you wanted.

Now I am not saying anything bad against capitalism. The only thing I will say is that I think businesses are greedy and will stop at nothing to make more and more money at the expense of others. What I am saying is that I find it absolutely amazing how many people there are in this country that don't know how the system they favor the most even operates.

People go into stores and expect it to be like a fairy tale, where they are swept off of their feet by handsome and intelligent floor associates who use their clandestine magic to make the customer's every wish come true. And hey, it's not one hundred percent the customer's fault in believing this at all, because the businesses themselves are the ones who are training customers to behave this way. They want the customers to think this way, because the more sunshine that get's blown up their pants the more they are willing to come in and buy shit that half the time they don't even need, making the company even more money. I can't tell you how many customers have said to me, "came in and got way more than I wanted or needed."

This isn't just an isolated issue either, so I don't mean to to seem like I'm bashing any one type of party for this. It's a cultural thing for sure.  It's almost like we've all become addicted to this drug, and when we go into stores and can't get our fix due to things we can't understand like pesky payroll, marketing trends and business models we tend to get quite grouchy. And it's all based around this ignorance of how business actually works.

Carl Sagan said it best, although he was talking about technology I think it can be applied here when he said, "“We’ve arranged a society on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it.”

The same goes for capitalism and big business. We created these things, we asked for things to be this way, and we love it, yet we don't even know how it works, we don't want to know how it works. It's an inferiority complex that we are each guilty of giving ourselves. Instead we just lean on the notion that it's so much easier to blame it all on someone else, like the cashier, the manager, or the bank teller, than it is to look within ourselves and see the true root of the issue. 

It's time for all of us to take a step back from what we are use to and view this situation from a different perspective. How much do you really actually know about the system of government you favor if you can't understand why businesses can't or won't do everything you want them to?

How can you expect to understand the world around you if you don't try to learn about it?

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like they're being turned into a blind society, that would go as far as to trample their fellow men for the latest hot product on discount, by the very businesses we love, that we don't even understand?

So the next time you get pissed off at the guy behind the counter at the super market, stop and think about the monster you're feeding. That's the only way we're going to wake up.

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