Saturday, November 13, 2004

Don't call it a comeback

My laptop has returned from the dead once more, this time after undergoing hard drive replacement surgery. The doctors at the local Best Buy recommend going easy on the new Windows partition until the sutures heal, and limiting my file intake to no more than three or four megs at a time...

Seriously, I'm pleased to have the machine back, especially in light of the fact that I've been able to recover some more writing I'd presumed lost forever - including the first 2/3's of "High Tide", which is as embarassing as it is a relief, since it demonstrates how little I've written since going back to school over the Summer. I could still swear that I have another CD-ROM or two kicking around with even more recently-saved works, but frankly I'll take what I've been able to recover thus far.

Okay - since when are Best Buy tech troubleshooters now referred to as "The Geek Squad"? They have special nametags and everything. Now I know that it's long since been cool to be identified as a geek, but isn't it different when a heartless retail chain does the labelling for you?

Speaking of Best Buy, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal a week or so back featuring the CEO of the blue-shirted box store and his recent adoption of the "Top 20%" fad which is sweeping managerial circles these days. Put simply, the theory divides one's customer base into "Angels" and "Devils", the former corresponding to the top 20% of your profitability and the latter referring to the bottom 20% - the "Top 20%", being the source of one's profits, are aggressively courted, while the bottom is actively discouraged from shopping at your store. Angels typically consume without paying any heed to things like affordability or practicality; they're the people who are first on your block to have the surround sound theatre system hooked up to their gigantic HD plasma screen television. The devils on the other hand are smart consumers - instead of their Pavlovian counterparts at the other end of the spectrum, they actually pay attention to sales, take advantages of price-matching guarantees, and are the only people who go to the trouble of filling out the rebate forms which Best Buy tacks onto everything so as to foster the illusion that the store is one giant close-out sale.

In other words, Best Buy has chosen to court its big spenders and screw the loyal smaller customers who dared take the company up on its advertising promises. The article reported that rebates and discounts will be going the way of the dodo, as will advance notice of upcoming sales via mass mailings; and aggressive customers who take too much advantage of Best Buy's fairly-generous return policy and used product rates will be asked to patronize another chain store. This is all well and good, but how many plasma T.V.'s can a store actually sell? Best Buy made its name on offering consumers nickel-and-dime prices in the traditionally-expensive world of electronics. By longer offering the "Best Buy", what will the company pride itself in? And how long will it take for the chain's loyal base to chafe against being demonized by its CEO and go to some other store that (gasp!) actually values every sale, no matter how small...

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