Monday, November 19, 2012

My Blue Sweater, Or The Fine Art of Ignoring Your Customers

This is my favorite blue sweater. It fulfills the three basic things I need when I venture out into the world this time of year: it's my color, it looks good with a sport coat, and it keeps me warm. And it's machine washable.

So you would think that every year or two I'd simply go down to my favorite department store - or online catalog - and buy a couple, right? Wrong. Most years I go shopping for sweaters, the stores have decided I really want green plaid ones. Or cable-knit ones with big fat ribs. Or ones with embroidered antelopes. Or the $150 rabbit-hair, dry-clean-only version of what I want.

And yet when I walk around on the streets, most fellow business people are wearing what I'm wearing. I never see them wearing embroidered antelopes. Which leads me to a simple question: How come so many businesses won't just sell us what we want?

Another example. This is an Open Oyster from Godiva Chocolates. My wife's favorite treat. Whenever I'm on a business trip to a major city like New York or Toronto, I stop by a Godiva store and get her a bunch of them.

So why don't I just go online to and get her more of these anytime? Because won't sell them to me. You can't purchase individual chocolate pieces in quantity. You can, however, buy their All-Sorts-Of-Crap-You-Don't-Want-Plus-An-Open-Oyster-Or-Two boxed assortment anytime you wish.

This reminds me of when I got my first iPod and discovered that I couldn't simply buy a set of replacement Apple earphones for it. Like Godiva, the geniuses at Apple (pun intended) apparently decided that I had to either buy them as part of a more expensive package, or get a more well-behaved cat next time. Or my favorite solution, get another brand of earphones.

No substitutions. Only sold as a set. Parts not available separately. Wholesale only. How often do we hear phrases like this, when we simply want to buy what people are selling. At many businesses, some genius keeps thinking up restrictions like these, for reasons that are usually completely beyond me.

So what is so hard about simply selling us what we want? Instead companies seem to behave in ways my Austrian grandmother would call "schtupid, schtupid, schtupid." I don't understand it. At all. If you could clue me in, please do so. Thanks!

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