Ya know, it’s high time I “got my write on”.  For those who care but don’t know ( as opposed to those who know but don’t care – a much larger group, I’m sure), I have been on “assignment” for over a month. I’ve been living in a motel about 250 miles from home, working on a project that I have been involved with for about two years.  It’s been fun and a constant mental exercise so I have had precious little time to blawg. Even before I came up here, I had a lot of preparation to do for this job.  I had to study a lot of things and go back and dig up past experiences so I could look like I’m as smart as the guy who writes the check expects me to be for the invoice I send him. That’s pretty tough when you have a lot of other stuff going on but it’s just one of those things you gotta do.

I know I have been vague about the project to those who have asked and that is not only intentional, but for good reason. The Customer is writing a big check to a lot of people in hopes he can have a machine to do what very few people in the world are doing. He has lined up many resources to make this happen. I am not privy to his marketing plans as that is none of my business. Suffice it to say, what ever they are, I have hooked my wagon to his horse and it is in my best interest that his horse runs right where he wants it to. If he wants the world to know what he’s doing – he’ll tell them. I am just a cog in the machine, so to speak, so it is not up to me to release that information.

But relax, regardless of what he decides to do, this is not earth shaking stuff to very many people. You will not see anything about it on the news. If you did, you wouldn’t care. But to me and the customer, this is a big deal and we are very proud of what we are doing. We are trying our damnedest to make something work for our own benefit. As a by-product of our selfish greed, there will probably be openings for two or three more jobs in Customer’s plant. Jobs that flat out DO NOT EXIST right now.  Somebody, somewhere, is sitting at home right now with no job that will be working in the coming months because of what I, along with MANY people much smarter than me, have been working on for a couple of years. The people who will find new jobs because of this may not even work in the plant this machine is in. Probably not for the same company. But the people hired to work on this new line and work because of this new line will not be among those taking other jobs they might otherwise have taken. That will leave a vacancy in those jobs that others will have to fill. In other words, the guys that will work on this line I’m helping build would have had a job regardless because they are going to be better than average people. The other jobs they DO NOT have to occupy that they otherwise would have, have to be filled by someone and that someone is probably sitting at home praying for a job right now. Does this make me a soldier of the Lord? Maybe so, but if so, it is because I like the money I’m making right now doing what I’m doing. Truth is, I like what I’m doing and would, given the opportunity, do it for free. But SWMBO would not be pleased and so that is all academic. Also, I like the bucks.

While the unemployment rate dropping by 3 people will not make the news, nor will the couple million dollar addition to GDP for the US, it is undoubtedly going to lend a positive bias to the employment and productivity numbers of the present economy. This is misleading because this thing has been in the works for over two years. No recent program or policy made this project happen. It was mainly inertia of past policies and the influence of recent and, hopefully, present market conditions that made this happen. I can assure you that no “stimulus” money played into this. And there was not a damned nickle of Cash For Clunkers ever even SAT next to a reason for it.  But those in power will take all the credit and none of the blame for what happens regardless. The “buck” no longer “stops here” – it stopped with the last guy that was here. There are very few, if any, presidents or other gov’t officials who accept responsibility for their policies any more – just a bunch of  “we inherited  the worst economy in {fill in the blank} years {or decades or centuries, blah, blah, blah}. In other words, The buck stops somewhere else, “…don’t blame us and also don’t blame us if we totally screw you up in our desperate attempt to fix what we know JACK SHIT about. It’s the other guy’s fault so leave us be.”

Tangent. I got off on a tangent. Who saw that comin’?

Anyway, I am home right now for Thanksgiving and have enjoyed being with my family. We put the tree up today and, as is tradition, went through about two or three bags of pork rinds in the process. Nothing says Christmas like fried pig fat with artificial Bar-B-Q seasoning. How that tradition got started is a WAAY more boring story than you might think it is, but suffice it to say, it got started. We always get the tree down on what many might call “Black Friday” because we are at home and might as well put up the tree that day. SWMBO used to go shopping with my mom on that day before we had kids but that tradition gave way to common sense and they both stopped doing it long ago. Now, the closest thing to a line we stand in is waiting for the page to load at amazon.com.

Amazon has a wing named after me – I just know they do. I first started shopping Amazon when few people had ever heard of it. It was an online book store with a great selection and great prices. Books. That was it. Then they started selling music. Then clothes. Pretty soon, they were doing it all. I remember when they teamed up with Target to have a ‘brick and mortar” presence. I remember how relieved I was they had done that. They wanted to focus on what they did good and partner with someone else to do what they did good. It’s a little trick in business that often works out well. It lets you know the guys at the top of that company are taking a long term view of things. How? Well, look at it this way: Amazon wanted to sell what Target was selling. Target would like to get a big internet presence. Amazon would like to have the ability to sell an item and let the customer pick it up at his leisure. So, either Amazon throws out tons of money to have a brick and mortar presence that will never come close to the market penetration of Target or Wal-Mart, or they partner with someone who already has that presence. Why not Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart has proven itself to be dedicated to one thing and one thing only – low prices. Low prices mean lower margins but volume makes up for that if the margin is steady. WalMart will throw it’s vendors under any bus to shave a nickel off the price. I’m not criticizing Wal Mart here because sometimes I take advantage of that low price commitment. But if you are a company looking to maintain as high a margin as possible and make your name in service over price, you are better off partnering with a company that shares those values. Target and Amazon were a perfect fit.

Can you get stuff cheaper than at Amazon? Yep, everyday. Not a lot cheaper but it’s not hard to shave a nickel off their price. Can you get better customer service than you get at Amazon? Maybe, I don’t know. But I can tell you that anytime I have ever contacted Amazon about an issue on a purchase I made, it was resolved in no time with no problem. Not only that, whether I called or communicated via email, I communicated with a real live Homo Sapien (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I knew a long time ago that Amazon would be the future of retail. With the hassle of crowds at retail outlets and the marked lack of customer service after you have traveled to a store to spend your money, it is no surprise that many brick and mortar stores are having increasing difficulty staying viable. Sure, some retail outlets will always be there. There are the places that sell items you just have to touch, feel, try out, etc. There are some places that rely primarily on the personal retail experience to sell their wares. There are some places that cannot be done over distance. But many typical retail stores are in more trouble than they may want to believe. The times, they are a changing and though old habits die hard, they do die.

How long ago do you think it was when people were thinking that people would ALWAYS have to go to the bank? And not just go to it, but go INTO it.  Then, in Atlanta, at least, came Tilly the All Time Teller. Along with ATM’s came direct deposit, online banking, debit cards, added to drive through windows and when is the last time you went into the bank? Do you think you go into a bank half as much as your parents or grandparents did? Banks offer a lot of services they didn’t 30 years ago but my guess is there are less than half as many “feet on the floor” per branch as then. Sometimes you have to go into a branch but with technology making it easier to stay out, why go in unless you have to? True, there are some who are set in the old ways. They go in and probably always will. I, myself, who likes to think of himself as an eager adopter of technology in all areas where it increases efficiency have used ATM’s for about 30 years but have yet to make a deposit in one. It just never got that necessary to me. But I probably will one day, if I ever get a check and can’t get to a drive-through window in a reasonable amount of time.

My point is, retailer beware. If you want to buck the “Virtual” trend, you better have a hook; an angle that makes people WANT to come into your store – almost NEED to. Otherwise, the customer will be at your competitors website, spending money galore and all the pretty decorating schemes in the world won’t get a nickel out of them. You sell clothes and think people will never go to buying clothes without trying them on or touching and feeling them? You may be right. They will come to your store and touch and feel and try on your inventory, and then go home and buy it. They may buy some from you, but they will look at a lot more than they plan to buy from you and order the balance from your online presence or competitor in a heartbeat. And remember, some people WILL buy clothes without laying eye nor hand on it ahead of time. As people get used to buying everything else sight unseen, they’ll have very little problem doing clothes the same way.

OK, tangent #2 I guess but the whole point of this post was to let you folks know I didn’t die or drop the blawg or anything. I’ll be here and hopefully with more frequent updates.

See ya later!!!

Advertisements