Less is More. Not hardly!

Herb Day

When I was a kid, rainy Saturday mornings meant that Dad would work in his garage repairing whatever needed repairing since we couldn’t get into the fields to work. One memory was watching him sharpening his knives on a grinding stone or a grinding wheel. I would marvel at the sparks that would fly from the tools as he would grind away the unnecessary particles of metal to leave a shining, now useable knife or axe blade that was sharp enough to slice or chop anything it was called upon to slice or chop.

Well, today, I have an axe to grind. (Notice how I tied these two topics together! Ok, it is a little cheesy.)

I consider myself a capitalist. That is, I believe that products or services should be manufactured or provided, and a reasonable price should be asked for and received for said products or services. And when I say reasonable, I believe that within the amount asked should be money enough to pay for the cost of the manufacturing the product or providing the service plus a reasonable margin above break-even to provide for the essentials in life like food, shelter, clothing and a measure of life-style. Further, I believe success comes from providing for or serving many rather than built into the price of one product or service.

When I was in corporate America, I was introduced to the “less is more” paradigm where more was expected from fewer employees. Rather than blatantly issuing a mandate (which is really what they did), the attempt to “rally the troops” and get everyone to buy into the idea was employed and successfully so. I mean, what else could we do? We had the choice to not buy into it and find another job. Oh, and as a result, the “less is more” paradigm meant waves of “lay-offs” and since we bought into the idea, it was now time to live up to it.

I do indeed understand the concept of “reducing to profitability” and understand that often it is necessary to keep up with rising costs of doing business. However, when the quality of the product or service suffers, I draw the line.

It seems like a long ago memory when we would drive into a gas station (yes, there really used to be gas stations) and an attendant, hopefully smiling, sometimes not, would come to your car, greet you, ask how he or she might help you, take your order, put gasoline in your tank, clean your windshield, check your oil, take your money, make change, thank you for your business and send you on your way. Yes children, that’s not a chapter from a story book! That really happened! I was there! I even WAS that attendant for a while!

Since petroleum is a commodity for which its demand becomes less and less (he says sarcastically) it was determined that mister or miss gasoline attendant should go the way of the dinosaur. We should pump our own gasoline and clean our own windows and pay much more for the gasoline. I remember feeling badly for the attendant when it would rain or snow because without fail (generally) they would brave the elements to fill my tank. Now, I feel badly for me!

Remember the days when you could go to your favorite supermarket and select your items, place them in your shopping cart and then have a “live” human total up your purchases, accept payment, provide change and trading stamps (yes, I am old enough to remember trading stamps)? Not only that, but often you would have someone help you take your purchases to your car! Well, not everyone remembers all of that, but trust me there was a time when your business meant enough to a business that they would go the extra mile to show their appreciation! Seldom will you find that anymore.

I was reminded of that this weekend when my wife and I made a visit to a popular grocery chain in our town.

Upon making our selections, we proceed to the check out, only to be greeted by the dreaded “electronic” check out. You know. The one you get to do yourself! (More of the do more with less brain washing. You GET to do it yourself) The one that reminds you after every item scanned to “place scanned item in the bagging area”. The one that won’t scan every item properly, locks up, and assures you help is on the way. By the tenth time (not an exaggeration) help needed to “be on the way” to us, I was prepared to leave all our selections in the cart and on the scanner and go to a land I like to call “Do Without” and go home! And the help that was on the way was one poorly trained young lady who was having to assist 6 unfortunate shoppers at the same time because we couldn’t follow the computer’s instructions closely enough.

And then there’s the chain store that not only puts you through all that same misery of self-check-out, but then pays someone to stop you at the exit to check your receipt against the items in your cart to make certain you paid for everything you’re leaving with. Couldn’t they just pay that person to check me out at the register? I wouldn’t feel like a shoplifter, or someone trying to slip something through customs at the border. I have met muggers with more grace and manners! Just sayin’.

To add insult to injury, you have to bag your own groceries and be quick about it, even if you have a live check-out person assisting as there are hundreds of shoppers anxious to leave the same bad experience as quickly as you are!

Come on businesspeople of America! (I’m one of you too) Wake up! Provide a product or service at a reasonable price, and I’ll allow you a profit so you too can live. But please act like you want my business even if you don’t care if I never come back!

Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at http://www.HerbDayVoices.com and http://www.HerbDayRadio.com.


Herb Day

Contributing columnist