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2012/01/11

"Did the HTTP Headers tell you about Comcast?"

There's some buzz about an article in Forbes called "Why Best Buy is Going out of Business ... Gradually" (and the followup) about how specific decisions (such as training their workforce to talk to people about buying other stuff, not knowing what's in the store) is hurting their customer relations. Long article, go read.

Part of it is telling the story of a trip to Best Buy, looking for How To Train Your Dragon in 3D, when a sales person with no knowledge of Blu-Ray placement came up and tried to push him onto another cable system. I've come to expect that when I walk into Best Buy. It doesn't deter me from shopping at Best Buy yet, the way that the old-school, "ask for a page of personal information for a $2 cash purchase" kept me from shopping at Radio Shack for over 15 years, but it is annoying.

I went to Menards yesterday. I had three things I was looking for: stuff I saw on Make or Lifehacker or something where you dip the handles of your tools to get a comfortable and insulated grip (called Plasti Dip and to be found in the the same aisle as the Leathermen), cheap masking tape and Dremel tools I could use to recess the bottom of my son's Pinewood Derby car so the weights don't drag on the track. What I did not want is a young woman to try to sell me on Comcast. In my apartment complex, I have the choice between DishTV and cable-cutting, anyway, so I'm not the market anyway.

First guy I talked to didn't know about Plasti Dip, so he called a co-worker who directed me right to it. I don't count that as a customer service fail at all. What I do count as a fail is the free-range Comcast girl interrupting my tool-hunting experience, for two reasons. First, when men shop, they are expected to know what they want and where it is, or at least use the game-seeking sections of his brain to scope out the environment and find it. It's a hunt. There are people there whose job it is to maintain the game preserve and point out where to find the beast. The shopper respects the worker by interrupting him only after looking for himself first, and the worker respects the shopper by being available to ask questions but not forcing an interaction before the hunt has finished. That is the male way of shopping, and the Comcast girl breaks that.

Second, cable TV connects to home electronics via a coaxial connection in the back of the unit. It's more than a natural fit, it's an engineered fit. You're looking at big HD TVs? You'll want something to watch on it, and man, I have just the thing. Cable TV is as much a fit for hardware stores as Legos or tampons: not much.

I first heard of something like this in college: at the bar, a cute girl in a tight Jagermeister T-shirt comes up and asks if you've ever tried Jager, which you try because, hey, cute girl. Maybe there's even a Jager Face contest and she has a Polaroid camera (OK, think back to 1991 on this one, OK?) Suddenly, everyone you know drinks Jager shots and beer. I guess I don't mind it in the bar, in part because I don't do that anymore, but I increasingly mind it in the stores. I hope this is a dying trend.