May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I have a theory about why brick and mortar stores are going away.

It’s the internet.

No, I’m just kidding; we all knew that. My theory is that it all boils down to customer service. But not in the way the stores think. I mean, no one wants their local stores to go away. But getting packages is so exciting. Especially if it’s been long enough that you don’t remember ordering it. It’s like a present from your past self.

And meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores are sometimes a little more expensive because they have to pay for the bricks and the mortar. I don’t even know where to buy mortar. I think online. Whereas online orders come from fulfillment centers, which are made out of … I don’t know. But definitely not bricks or mortar.

But for the most part, it’s easier to buy most things without leaving the house. So the question is, what benefits do stores have that online shopping does not? Speaking as a lazy person, the main benefit of stores, to me, is that once in a while I decide to walk aimlessly up and down every aisle just to see what exists that I don’t know about. And then I say, “This exists?” and then more often than not I make an impulse purchase.

So that’s what brick-and-mortar stores offer — window shopping. Walking around and saying, “Hey, I didn’t know they made mayochup!” (This is a real item. Apparently, it’s one bottle containing mayonnaise mixed with forehead hair.) Window shopping!

The problem is that what the stores think that they have to offer is customer service. Or, more specifically, employees that come up behind you and catch you off guard to ask what you’re looking for. “Are you finding everything okay?” Waiters. That’s what they have to offer.

Listen, I don’t want their help. Not because I’m a man who can’t ask directions. It’s because most of the time I know what I’m looking for and I can figure out how to find it in a lot less time than it takes to explain to the person what I’m looking for. Because they never understand me the first time. Like I’m catching them off guard. They always ask me to repeat myself.

Like, you ask, “Do you know where I can find the brooms?”

“The what?”

So you say it as clearly as you can: “Biroooommms.” What did he think you said? Are you pronouncing it wrong? You’re even in the right aisle. You can see them behind him.

“The what?”

“You know; like to sweep a floor?”

“Mops?”

“How did you hear “mops?” Put it together with what I just said!”

But you can’t say this, because he’s trying to help you. And then half the time he has to call over a colleague to ask this question, like there’s this “sarei chamishim sarei asaros” situation. And you have to stand there, in sight of the brooms, wondering at what point you can just walk away and grab a broom and not seem rude.

“Oh, you found them okay?”

“I don’t need the attitude, Roger!”

But again, you can’t say that.

On the computer, you can even misspell the word if you want, and somehow you’ll still get the correct results.

Also, sometimes the store has a system where each employee knows only his aisles, so if you’re actually in the wrong section, he will be just as clueless as you are. He’ll just blindly send you somewhere else. In fact, for all he knows, you were probably blindly sent to his aisle by another salesperson.

And then. if the guy does point out the item, he stands there until you make a purchasing decision, just to make sure he was successful. So at that point you no longer have the option not to buy it. If you’re there to price things out, too bad. Or else you can pick up the item and then leave it on a shelf in someone else’s department, which I always feel horrible doing, but I don’t want to have this conversation with my wife again:

“Why did you buy this?”

“To make the salesman happy.”

“We don’t need this!”

“It’s okay; I’ll return it the next time. The returns department has different people.”

The problem is that stores are never going to stop this because they think that this is how they’ll stay alive — customer interaction. Like if you don’t know which product you want, you ask the guy, and he decides which one would get him the biggest commission or make the store the most money. Whereas on Amazon, all you have is reviews from people who don’t even work for Amazon! You can’t get the personal help online that you can in a store!

I know; that’s why I go online.

But fine; I realize that not everyone hates being helped. The thing is that if the only reason you’re in the store is to wander aimlessly looking for new products that might make your life easier, being helped is literally the worst.

“Can I help you find what you’re looking for?”

What are you going to say?

“I don’t actually know what I’m looking for.”

“Oh. Uh …”

Maybe he’ll call a colleague over at that point.

“He doesn’t know what he’s looking for. What do I do?”

“Call security. I think we’re about to get robbed.”

“Ssh. He can hear us.”

“I’m not going to rob you.”

Best case scenario, he’ll decide to handle this himself.

“Okay … What are your needs?”

“I don’t know. My doctor said I need to walk around more. And it’s raining outside.”

Or you can be honest: “I want something that I don’t know exists.”

“Okay, what do you know exists? Start listing things.”

“Okay, um … brooms …”

“What?”

“Brooms …”

You don’t have to ask why I’m here. If I knew what I was looking for, I’d be online.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. Contact him at [email protected].

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