The Retail Experience in 2012

Reading through comments on the story about Best Buy, it struck me that there hasn't been much editorial focus on the world of selling electronics. There are multiple angles to consider, and the issue is ripe for a full-length Verge editorial.

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I worked in retail for three years at Radio Shack, starting as a seasonal hire for the holidays and working up to a position as Store Manager before quitting in frustration. I saw my company waste unknown amounts of money on a failed and unjustified re-branding effort (Radio Shack became The Shack). I found it very difficult to hire knowledgeable and dependable workers who could properly represent the company. The company really seemed to be lost and only trying to stay afloat by using the same tactics and schemes that were pervasive in retail. By doing this, they failed to stand out as a unique alternative in the world of high-pressure sales.

It's hard to think of a company that seems to have eschewed the norms of top-down pressure and accountability at only the lowest levels. One exception is Apple.

There are a few perspectives to consider in the story of the retail sales experience. I'll break them down with brief descriptions.

Customers

They're always right. They're the lifeblood of any successful company. Yet, they have grown to distrust the American sales force due to sales tactics that focus on accessory and service plan attachments. G-tec-100108-bestbuy3-144p

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While customers should expect to be offered additional products and services with their original purchase, many sales workers are so pressured for attach rates that they take a hostile view to customers. The feeling then becomes mutual.

Sales force

At some electronics retailers, there seems to be little discretion in the hiring process. Employees who care about their work may succeed, but burn out long before retirement and find another career path. Wouldn't you want to discuss your purchases with someone who was comfortable enough with their job to see it as a career? Most of the people I worked with only saw Radio Shack as a job to help pay for college. It was a stepping stone for all intents and purposes, and I imagine the same is true of many other retail companies.

Management

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t takes a special type of person to succeed as a retail manager, and in my experience, it wasn't the type of person who cared primarily for the customer.

Analysts

I think analysts may be to blame for poisoning the shopping experience for customers and retail workers. There was a time when speaking with a knowledgeable salesperson was exciting. Now, even the most gadget-crazed buyer sees the salesman as a barrier to their purchase. Hence the success of online sales.

Online vs Brick-and-Mortar

Aside from the clusterf*** of product suggestions at checkout, the online purchasing experience has become pleasant enough to change the game of retail over the past few years. Of course, overhead is lower, and online giants can have use similar dirty schemes to pressure customers.

I can't write an article that comprehensively covers the multi-faceted issues of modern retail. I don't have the means to report it properly. It would be great if the Verge staff could flesh out some of the angles to cover, and apply its unique editorial finesse to this topic.

I know this isn't a legal issue, but it concerns industry and seemed to fit in here better than the other fora.