Saturday, November 18, 2017

The price of 1 smiley

We love to shop at a particular warehouse chain of which I am a member for several years now. If we need something and it is available at that place, we buy it; no cross shopping, no price comparisons and no second thoughts. I love this warehouse to a point where if I have nothing to do, the first thought that comes to my mind is to take a stroll at this place. My wife and daughter are not so much of a fan, but my 3 year old son seems to like going to this warehouse. The attraction for him seems to be the smileys that the associates draw for him on the sales receipt. He almost snatches the receipt from us and rushes to the store exit to get a smiley on it.

I was looking for something a few days back and had called the warehouse location I frequent, to check if they had it in stock. I was told, that location had ran out of stock and was directed to a different location. My wife and daughter stayed back, and only my son and I went to the other location. I found what I was looking for and bought it. My son promptly took the sales receipt from me and handed it over to the associate at the exit. The associate checked the items and gave back the receipt without drawing a smiley. My son took that receipt and turned it over looking for the smiley. He handed the receipt back to the associate, but the associate gave it back saying it was reviewed. My son started crying that there is no smiley on the receipt. There were not many people in the line behind me and so I requested the associate to put a smiley on that receipt for my son. The associate shook his head and said he was busy.

I remember my daughter used to look for smileys on the receipt when she was little. We have been to several locations of this warehouse across the country and in a rare instance when the associate forgets to draw a smiley, they would always put it once the kid requests for it. It only takes a few seconds to draw a smiley. I have seen associates draw a smiley every time a kid hands them the receipt, however long the exit line is. This is the first time I have seen an associate return the receipt to a kid without putting the smiley even after been requested. I tried to console my son as we walked back to the car but he did not stop crying. Once I put him into the car seat I drew a smiley on the receipt and give it to him. He stopped crying only after seeing that smiley.

I had forgotten about that incident until this last weekend when I told my family that we will drive to this warehouse. My son heard me and said he did not want to come as there is no smiley. I was surprised and ignored at first, but he did not budge. He was clear he will not come and we finally decided not to go.

I have a membership at a large online retailer. I also have membership with 2 different traditional warehouse chains. In addition, I have a membership with a traditional bookstore. I prefer a brick and mortar store over an online retailer, unless I am in a hurry, or there is an extremely good deal online. I have an e-book reader but I prefer buying books at the traditional book store, unless I specifically need an e-book. My reason for this preference is that, the way the online retailers are growing, my kids might not have anything called a mall or a brick and mortar store by the time they grow up. I have nothing against the online retailers, but I am ok spending a few $ more at a brick and mortar shop just to continue seeing them around.  

I did a little thinking about the smiley incident and my shopping preference. A traditional store can provide a personal experience to the shoppers which is not possible in online shopping. This I think is the single biggest advantage they have to attract kids, the next generation shoppers, and addict them with shopping at a traditional store. Hooking the next generation to a brick and mortar store is the only way traditional stores can ensure survival. And, scribbling a smiley on the sales receipt for a kid is a great easy way to attract future shoppers.

Since we did not go to the warehouse last week, I bought the items at the online retailer and they were delivered in 2 days. I actually saved money and time doing so. If it continues like this, I think I may cancel my membership at all these traditional stores and shift to a complete online shopping.  I know I will save money doing so; but these brick and mortar stores will lose 1 current customer and a potential future customer. And all this for 1 smiley, or lack of it. Wonder what is the price of 1 smiley?


~Narendra V Joshi

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