business news in context, analysis with attitude

The current edition of Newsweek features a “My Turn” essay by a woman named Allison Wood in which she argues against the plasma TV screens that seem to be popping up in so many retail environments. Some excerpts:

• “I like TV. Hanging out with Jack Bauer and Jon Stewart often beats spending time with almost anyone who isn't related to me. But I am sick of stumbling across a television set every time I go out to run an errand. Whose groundbreaking customer-service idea was this? … My time is precious, and I choose carefully how to spend it. The choices I feel good about rarely involve staring at a screen that someone else just flipped on.”

• “The issue is, why have TVs cropped up in so many public places? Are they there to pacify hyperactive kids? To keep bothersome customers from chatting up the clerks or annoying other shoppers with efforts at conversation? I'm afraid their real purpose is to separate us all by yet another degree, a shiny plasma wedge meant to divide and further isolate us inside our individual techno-bubbles. Here's a news flash: just because we have the technology—and a 24/7 font of information—does not mean we have to infuse it into every last molecule of available time.”

• “Serving your customers means giving them something they need. I don't need a TV in my face when I enter your place of business; I need your attention and your assistance. I'm assuming you need my money. I think this will work if we can just keep those objectives in mind.”

KC's View:
What Wood doesn’t seem to realize – because she’s a customer, unaware of the inner workings of these televisions and networks – is that they exist for only one reason – to generate ad dollars that are spent by manufacturers and that go back to the retailer and the network provider. And I continue to believe that they don't necessarily build brand equity for the retailer and don’t really offer usable information for the shopper.

Ubiquitous isn’t the same thing as unique.