Many moons ago when I was a young child I used to visit the Ritz five and dime on the way home from school. Everyone knew everybody in the small town of Cowansville, Quebec population of 5,000 people. If you needed anything you bought locally from the Mom and Pop stores and never considered looking outside the box unless it couldn’t be found on the main street. Then, and only then, would you venture to the next largest town and visit the only local chain store to find what you needed.
My Grandfather owned the only electrical retail store in town and Friday nights would be busy with customers shopping for light bulbs and fixtures. If people did not have the money you could buy on credit and my grandfather was one of those that believed in good service and helping people. In the end my father lost the electrical business of 40 years because he kept too much credit on the books. I will always remember him saying that he had no regrets because it was the people who kept the business going for so many years and they had done their best.
I opened my retail store in 1974 and when I closed it in 1997 I was proud that I too had followed my family’s ways and always believed the customer came first. Everyone was greeted and treated with respect and any of my staff that did not tow the line with customers was let go.
As I watched the years pass the chain stores started moving in and slowly replaced the Mom and Pop stores. I saw one after one disappear and so did the personal service. It was soon replaced by people working minimum wage and some with attitudes not conducive to dealing with prospective buyers. Retail evolution continued with shopping centres and the big box stores arrived on the scene and cutting costs were put over personal service.
Yesterday came the news that Wal-Mart’s greeters would no longer man the front doors during the 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift and they are now moved into the bowels of the store to help shoppers find what they are looking for. Granted these greeters are very uneasy about their new change in duties.
According to Huffington Post: Gloria Pascale, 86, of Renton, Wash., who has worked as a greeter for 15 years, said she has to work to pay her mortgage and help support her children and grandchildren.
"I'm worried," she said. "I like greeting. With the changes, I won't be able to do that."
She said she was recently told at work that her duties would include some lifting and other activity beyond what she's physically able to do. She said she is under treatment for congestive heart failure.
Another retail store evolves once again and after 32 years tries to eliminate personal service for profit. Sam Walton was like me; he liked to make people feel good about coming in and believed in old fashioned retail values when he was alive. Of course underneath it all he also knew that the smiley folks with the blue vests were also keeping an eye out on what might be going out the door. I know that Wal-Mart has ‘asset- protection’ teams that are trained to monitor theft so why move the greeters if theft it is not their primary function?
Of course it is unclear how the public will react and now there will be risk from possible higher shrinkage and unhappy customers. But, all they see now is how much they will save and it is worth it to them to see if it might work.
“Camille Schuster, who runs retail consulting firm Global Collaborations Inc. in Escondido, Calif., said she applauds the company for experimenting but said it should have tested the move on a limited scale first.”
"The greeters are a Wal-Mart fixture in the consumers' heads. Why are they doing this across the whole chain without knowing the consumers' perception? I think it's a rash move," she said.
A victim of recession, it now looks like Sam Walton’s’ greeters will soon be a thing of the past. Will the greeter’s job now be to circulate around the store helping customers find cheap Chinese underwear or unload trucks? I don’t like change like the next person but I just hate to see the greeters be put into moth balls like everything else that makes sense in retail.
Richard Brown, a greeter in Tempe, Ariz., said he welcomes the changes.
"My primary feeling is the new position is going to give us a greater opportunity to help our customers feel that this is family.”
I know the world hates change as in essence change is the only thing that brings about progress. My local Wal-mart uses Police Officers as greeters now; do we call this progress or family?
Linda Seccaspina- 2012
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