Why We Gripe: Is Friendly Retail a Lost Cause?

Although the comments are full of the self-congratulatory jerking that we bloggers do so well, there are some interesting points raised in response to a post by Mike Sansone about a bad experience at CompUSA. Specifically, “Does complaining about an employee online do anything besides push down cloying training materials from the PR and sales departments of large retail operations?” (Actually, that’s our question.)

Here’s the gist of Sansone’s complaint: He went to CompUSA and was treated poorly and given bad advice by disinterested employees. He went to Best Buy and had a good experience.

We are of the persuasion that disinterested employees are endemic to retail across the board. It’s just what happens when you pay people—often kids—a low wage. Even good-intentioned employees have a bad day. (God knows we blew off our fair share of customers in our retail years, and we tended to enjoy the ‘helping people out’ aspect of the job more than anything else.)

Blogging about the bad experiences is a start, but is there any need for shrill commentary like, “Is anyone at CompUSA blogging Mike? They need a voice in this conversation if they want to rescue their brand.” We’re right there with you, commentor Michael Wagner, but we try to save the hyperbole for our anal sex play metaphors.

So yeah, we’re totally calling the kettle black, but this is where part of our understanding fails on this particular issue. What can we expect from CompUSA in response to a single customer’s experience? Clearly, we all expect something, but if the last thirty years of modern shopping is any lesson, once retail became something other than a career, has any company discovered how to keep their employees engaged with the customer all day, every day?