business news in context, analysis with attitude

We wrote the other day in favor of continuing the moratorium on Internet sales taxes, and this apparently struck home with a few people. MNB user Richard A. Cognetti Jr. for example, wrote:

“I agree. I would hate to see my golf ball dot com prices increase!!!”

Earlier this week, we wrote glowingly about, and received several emails questioning our judgment.

MNB user Gail Ginther wrote:

“Fulfillment would be a nice thing to get from an on-line shopping service. The one and only time that I ordered from Amazon it took two weeks before they acknowledged that they would not be able to fill the order. Imagine what I thought when I went online and searched for the title again within a month and found they were still listing it as available. They lost any credibility they might ever have had with me on that transaction.”

And MNB user Barbara Perrin wrote:

“I, for one, could ask for a lot more from an e-tailer. I received a note from Amazon asking me to try the new store and tell them what I thought. It was loading soooo slowly (and I'm a very patient broadband user) that I finally gave up and wrote to tell them of my experience, as requested. A little while later, I received a reply from Amazon, thanking me for my customer service inquiry and directing me to a "frequently asked questions" page that they hoped would be of help. This does not increase my loyalty to Amazon.”

Okay, Amazon isn’t perfect. We’ll concede that. So would Jeff Bezos.

But we had dinner the other evening with a woman who told us that she had placed an order with Amazon so late last Christmas that the e-tailer informed her that there was no way she’d have the gift in time for Christmas…and then, she said, late on Christmas Eve, the doorbell rang and “there was Amazon with a box-full of presents.”

Now, we pointed out to her that it wasn’t actually Amazon at the door…it more
Likely was FedEx. But in her mind, it was Amazon, and the company hade gone above and beyond the call of duty.

So, everybody’s got a story…

On the subject of loyalty marketing, MNB user Charles Young wrote:

“It seems to me what retailers really want is to establish a relationship with their customer. They issued cards that made people a "member of the club", and the checkers had a generic card in case you complained. Members of this club got discounts on peanut butter and sardines, even thought they were allergic to those foods.

“The employees (especially the manager) did not know who was a member and who was not.

“But cards helped since they were simple. Now it appears we are going to the next step, computerized carts, with built in special offers for members. Maybe the deals will be great, but I doubt it,,, but at least it won't be sardines! And the manager still won't know your name.

“Technology is great, helping both productivity and customer satisfaction... but when are the stores going to look at the human equation. Disney's parks did it for their transient visitors, Nordstrom services their regulars, even places like Wal-Mart do a better job of smiling at the people than do most supermarkets!

“Use technology to track, to alleviate the unpleasant experiences... then invest and train people. If you want loyalty make like Cheers... create a place where ‘everybody knows your name.’”

On the subject of Safeway and Dominick’s, we got the following email:

“I am an employee of Canada Safeway in Canada and am not surprised by the employees position in this matter. Safeway is trying to bring down wages and benefits nationally. We are heading into our contract negotiations in April 2003 and Safeway is already looking for concessions.”

And concessions it shall have. Or you’ll be working for some other company, my friend.

We commented yesterday that we didn’t understand why medicine ever tasted bad (in response to a story about a product that flavors medicine for kids), we got the following email:

“Medicine is supposed to taste bad. That way kids won't drink if they happen to come across it accidentally (that's why citrus scented bleach is a product liability suit waiting to happen). Bad taste might also discourage kids and parents from using the stuff when it's not needed.”

Good point.

And we'll see you tomorrow...
KC's View: