The Race to the Bottom in Retail

Free shipping. 30, 45, or even 60 days to return items. Razor thin margins. This is all the norm now, with companies like Amazon primarily, but also Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and specialty market chains like Guitar Center.

But shipping isn’t free. Shipping a 15 pound amp head costs at least $50 for UPS Ground, regardless of profit. A large TV? Even more. Of course, UPS cuts these companies sweetheart deals, but it’s still not free shipping for the seller.

And what about those sweet return policies? Well, when that guitar gets returned after 45 days (not to mention GC’s current absurd 180 days, due to COVID19), it shouldn’t be sold as new. In many cases though, it goes back on the rack as new, unfortunately. In others, it’s a “floor model”, and marked down.

In the case of the latter, that cuts into the bottom line, as do shipping costs. All of this contributes to there being less money for the employees. This, of course, means that companies like Best Buy, Guitar Center, etc don’t exactly attract the sharpest of talent.

That ultimately results in the reputations these stores have; stores staffed by friendly but not knowledgeable salespeople at best, or absolute rude idiots at worst.

But as the cliché goes, we reap what we sow. As an individual, we may value service, knowledge, and experience from a retailer. But as a society, we seemingly only value that same bottom line.

How about “you get what you pay for”? 😁


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