Mar 28, 2013

It Has Come To This...


Yahoo News had a genuinely thought-provoking article for a change, yesterday.

A store in Brisbane has begun charging people five dollars who come in "just to browse", inquire the staff about the prices of certain items and then go elsewhere to buy them. This charge is waived if the consumers actually purchase something.

While this strategy is rather extreme (in the long run, it may discourage potential shoppers), it is easy to understand the reasoning behind it. Consumers want to save some money, and more often than not, will go to some big name retailer instead, even though the small business might offer competitive pricing and service. Also, this story reminds me of the scandal two years ago when Amazon was encouraging people to go into places like Chapters, use their iPhones to scan the barcodes of items, and Amazon in turn would offer competitive pricing.

Toronto's independent video store, Eyesore Cinema, has gone one step further and published a response on its Facebook page, explaining how this general problem has specifically affected its business. Namely, people wander into the video store to look at titles for ideas on what to watch... and then go home to download them instead of renting the movie right there. Here is their post (reprinted with permission):

Dear lord, it has come to this?

As a video store owner, I've had people use my shop to browse titles to download. Even going so far as to ask me if I tell them what sites would feature certain title or to ask me if this or that titles is on Netflix.

I would loathe to have to resort to this but it seems that consumer culture is eating it's own tail at this point. The comments are hilarious and truly born out of consumer ignorance.

"Why don't they just lower their prices to compete?"

Well, in my case, I have rent to pay (downloads have no overhead)... and I can't buy in massive bulk like HMV and Amazon, who often sell items well below wholesale prices (intentionally, as a strategy to kill off local competition)

My strategy has been, and always will be, to strive to provide friendly, accommodating and attitude-free "service" based on expertise and product knowledge as well as sourcing and stocking items that are simply not available through big box retailers. Downloads are, of course, another problem since they are "free".

What consumers fail to understand is the effect that this has on their local culture... a landscape of corporate conglomerates that are soul-less and life-less and contribute nothing to the community outside of "low prices".

Just look what's happened to all the great indie booksellers in T.O. ...it's a damn shame that a city once so rich and rife with unique shops of all stripes is being reduced to a giant shopping mall of globally branded crap.

...but hey, you saved a dollar, so it's worth it. Because, after all, in a "consumer culture" all that really matters is how much you can consume and how cheap you can get it.

This is what happens when all we care about is money.

Maybe it's time for a paradigm shift in human evolution... maybe we should start striving for something better than exploiting every last resource (animal, vegetable, mineral ...and human) just to satisfy our fleeting desires for new crap every fifteen seconds.

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