by John Sciacca
There is a disconcerting phenomenon in the retail world called “Showrooming” where stores are becoming virtual showrooms for on-line juggernaut, Amazon.com. I wrote about this back in August in a post titled “Are we becoming Amazon showrooms?”
The concern – from the retailer’s standpoint – is that customers are coming to stores with no real intention of making a purchase, but are just doing some hands-on research – and maybe gleaning a little salesman knowledge – before returning back home and finding the same item for the lowest price possible on the giant faceless, soulless, doesn’t need a check to feed its family, Internet and hitting click-to-buy.
And I have experienced this repeatedly myself. When someone comes in semi-informed, who asks very specific questions about certain products or for specific recommendations and then leaves and is never heard from again…? Yeah. You just got showroom’d, fool! It’s kind of like getting mentally pick-pocketed; my knowledge is my power, and when you take it away and give nothing back, yeah, it doesn’t make me happy.
So, I actually had a delicious role reversal of this happen on Saturday. I was manning our store, listening to my Gotye station on Pandora when our phone rings. The conversation went something like this.
“Good morning, Custom Theater and Audio, this is John, may I help you?”
“Do you sell and install TVs?”
“Yes we sell and install TVs.”
“You run the wiring through walls and hook-up the cable box and DVD player and mount the TV?”
“Yes, ma’am, we do all of that.”
“What does it cost?”
“Well, it really depends on what needs to be done. How much cabling, how much retrofit work, what all are we connecting, and how difficult the job is.”
“OK. Look. I’m standing in the Best Buy store right now with my husband and we’ve been trying to find someone to sell us a TV, but we can’t get anyone to help us and this is becoming ridiculous. Will you sell us a TV and come and install it?”
“Oh, that’s great. So what do we do?”
“Well, can I come to your home first and see what you need and what will be involved?”
(pause) “You do that?” (said with an inflection of hopeful disbelief like I told her that I had have a machine that spins hay into gold and I let people come over and use it any old time they like)
“Of course. It’s the only way to see what will be involved on the install.”
(sounds of relief; like she has been in an on-going hostage situation, and just heard that SEAL Team VI is stacking up on the door) “Oh my gosh, yes. That would be wonderful. When can you come?”
“How does Monday morning sound?”
So, this morning I head over to their home with a clipboard and a tape measure. I talk to them for a bit, ask them what they are looking for, take some measurements, look at their cabinetry, check the existing wire situation, sit on their couch and discuss mounting options and site-lines, talk about different source components, and we come up with a game plan. We’re going to go with a new TV, a sound bar for better audio, a smart remote to make it easier for frequent guests to use, a new WiFi router for the Internets, and a streaming Blu-ray player so they can add Netflix. All told, $3000 worth of work.
As I’m getting ready to leave the couple stood up and shook my hand and thanked me for coming.
“You know, we were in Best Buy when we called you.”
“Yes, I remember you saying that.”
“We just wanted to buy a TV. We went up there planning to buy. But the whole experience was just so exasperating. The salesman waved his arm at a wall of TVs and said, ‘Which one do you want?’ We don’t know what we want; that’s why we went up there! Then he started asking, ‘Do you want 120 megahertz, 240 megahertz, 480, 3-D…' I don’t know what any of that stuff means. Then he said, ‘Do you want the top of the line from 2012, 2011 or 2010.’ I said, ‘Do they still make them from 2010?’ And he said, ‘No, they’ve been discontinued for a while now.’ Now, why would I want to buy a discontinued TV? Then he said, ‘You can buy this one and it comes with a free Blu-ray player…except we’re out of the Blu-ray player.’ And he kept asking up if we wanted gesture control or voice control or some other kind of control. We just want a damn TV! This shouldn’t have to be so difficult!”
“Well, it’s my job to make it as easy as possible. I’m going to go back to the store and put this quote together.”
“Thanks. We can’t wait.”
So, thanks, Best Buy! I truly couldn’t have done this without you!