One of my regular Blogrige readers and harshest critics, my wife, complained that my recent posts have been too pedagogical and lacked my storytelling instincts. So this post is for her.
Have you seen the recent commercial about buying a used car? It compares the experience to a dinner out and asks whether you ever worry about having to haggle over price at a restaurant. It then encourages you to shop at a specific used car dealer where you don't have to bargain about price. Well, my wife and I recently bought a new mattress.
So now you are asking what does that have to do with eating out or buying a used car. The answer is simple, my order of preference: eat out, buy a used car, buy a mattress.
When you buy a used car, you can compare prices among dealers and even look up average prices for your make and model on the web. You also can look up the blue book value. You can walk into the negotiation as an educated consumer when the salesperson tells you that you are taking food out of the mouths of his or her young children with the price you want to pay. How do they ever stay in business?
Fortunately, I buy a mattress even less frequently than I buy cars (run them to the end of their life is my philosophy). Mattresses are not like cars. Every store is always having a half-off sale as the entry point. Tells you about the list price for starters. Then you are expected to bargain down from the half-off price. Comparison shopping -- forget it. Every dealer has different names for the various mattresses from each major manufacturer. The salesperson who we eventually bought our mattress from, even showed us her commission on the mattress for the price we negotiated. Her kids were going hungry on that commission, but she needed the volume. (I hope she isn't married to a car salesperson or I could be partially responsible for a whole family dying of starvation.) And the deal was so good that she needed her district manager's approval, which he reluctantly gave according to her report back.
So, I should have felt either great or guilty leaving the store. But, I felt neither. I felt like I had to go home and shower to return to normal.
Who wins in these negotiations? Maybe the dealer (car or mattress) feels this is necessary to earn a decent return. I never feel good after the negotiation. Why does this practice pervade a few retail industries and not exist in others?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if these retailers used the Baldrige Excellence Framework? How would they answer questions in the Customers category? A few I would like to see answered are: How do you listen to potential customers to obtain actionable information? How do you build customer relationships? How do you manage customer relationships to manage and enhance your brand image, retain customers, and exceed their expectations? How do you determine customer requirements for product offerings and services?
Did I get a fair deal on a good mattress? I wish I would ever know. Or better yet, I wish I didn't have to think about it because I knew that I got a fair quality/price ratio. All I want is a fair transaction for the dealer and for me. Is that asking too much? How about you?
And for those of you who are curious, I let my wife preview this post and she approved!