"You said your company is promoting an 'automatic order' program for your regular customers?" I asked over coffee with a friend. The Juke Box Junction attracts a diverse clientele ranging from families and teens to business types and retirees.
"Yeah, they're pushing it really hard." Walter sighed. "And it's really bad! Customers sign up for it, then don't accept the auto order 95% of the time. Then we have to return it to stock, creating lots of double and even triple work." Walter has spent his career in retail, first with small drug chains, now with a national big box retailer.
"Why would they promote a program so heavily that doesn't work?" I asked--already knowing what was coming.
"The people in corporate pushing it haven't worked in a store in twenty years!" Walter replied, almost shouting.
Miriam dropped her spoon on the table and interjected, "My kid brother was a buyer for a chain of dollar stores and he drew up those little diagrams to tell the stockers where to put the merchandise. He never worked in a store in his life! When I heard he was doing that, I asked, 'What the hell do you know about stocking shelves?' He said he just works off the numbers, you know, how much of each item sells, the customer demographics, stuff like that. He wouldn't know a box cutter from a butter knife!"
It all reminded me of my early days at Eckerd, back in the eighties. The CEO had come from personnel and we always laughed about how they didn't have any cash registers in personnel. It was our way of lamenting how out of touch the occupants of the corporate suites were with the sales floor and the stock room. When was the last time you saw a blue suit take off his jacket and tie and help unload a truck? Most of my career has been in retail, with a brief hiatus in direct sales (adult education and then life insurance). The seventies and eighties had been great years for Eckerd in Louisiana. Our division manager, Tony Spedale, taught everyone in middle management to be sure to visit with every associate in the store during visits. He wanted us to stop by each department and make sure that everyone knew someone from management was in the store and had stopped by to see them. Those were the good old days.
Pass the cream and sugar, please.
Rex, the pharmacist in our coffee group, chimed in with this story. "It's about to be January. January and February are usually the doldrums of the retail business and every year the corporate gurus send down the edict to cut payroll because sales will be off after Christmas. That's true enough for the non-pharmacy part of the business, but the first few months of every new year usually feature the flu season, so we need extra help. Not the time for us to cut payroll. Customers complain enough already about long waits for their medicine."