This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Where there is customer service in America

Every once in a while I hear someone complain of poor customer service. Most recently a friend of mine went to Home Depot, and no one there seemed to know where anything was, and they couldn't give him any advice, and he went away without all of the parts that he would need to do the home repair. It took him two days and about four trips to various hardware stores before the job was finished.

And if you are wondering whatever happened to customer service, you are either old enough to remember it, or perhaps you came from a small town, where that sort of thing lingered on past mid-century. And rest assured that customer service still very much exists in America. Go have dinner at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, and you will see superb customer service is alive and well.

But what's that I hear you say? Too expensive? Well, yes, and that's why the business model for selling stuff in America changed after the post-WWII boom in the 1950s.

Yes, money flowed in America in the 1950s. And in spite of the prices seeming lower, although some were, adjusting for inflation, people were willing to spend a lot of money. And part of what they were willing to pay for was customer service. I'm not old enough to remember Department Store clerks that walked up to you, helped you find everything and then checked you out, but I've heard stories from my elders of how this was. Nowadays most big department stores don't have the well-paid staff for this, and it's up to you to wander around looking for help, or where to pay for stuff. And so while many old-fashioned Department Stores still exist with this model, they have mostly lost out to the new business model that was created in the 1960s - self-serve.

If you walk into any Target, K-Mart, Home Depot etc., in spite of the fact that someone probably greets you, and is willing to help you if you ask for it, mostly you are left alone. Everything is as clearly labelled as is possible. And there is a main check-out area where you carry your stuff to and pay there. And as a business model, this provides products at a much lower price. Since I grew up with self-service, it's hard for me to imagine paying $127.00 for a shirt at Saks Fifth Avenue. But people do it, and that's where customer service is in America.