When it’s hard to be a customer

Those of us who sell things like to think it’s easy to buy them.  Meaning, if someone is interestedEscalator and has budget and is motivated, then it’s simple for them to actually make a purchase. Even if it may be a slightly complicated process (Quote-PO-Invoice-Check) it’s not so difficult that someone can’t get through it.

But sometimes it is hard to buy something. Like, there’s an error in your shopping cart checkout process online and you have to re-load your cart up and buy everything again. Or you’re at a tradeshow (as a customer) and all the vendors are on their phones or laptops and you can’t find someone to talk to.  Or you’re at the supermarket and the person in front of you needs a price check on kumquats.  Then on tangerines.

Yesterday I had a hard time shopping – at a shoe store.  I went to a big shoe warehouse downtown that has several floors so it has two pair of escalators.  On the first floor, one escalator was broken, but that ok – I just used the other one to go up.  On the second floor, again, one escalator was broken.  Except the second escalator was going “Down.”

In order to go up to the third floor, you had to leave the store and use a common building elevator or stairs.  Even worse, you couldn’t take your merchandise with you. There was no way to easily compare items from the two floors without leaving items on the second floor, going up to the third, getting other items, and bringing them back to the second.  (And lest you think I am unusual in this regard, the store provides large mesh bags for you to walk around with multiple shoe boxes while shopping.)

I heard at least half a dozen people – clearly regulars, aka shoe addics- exclaim, “this escalator’s down? how do I get up there?”  And I was not the only person who accidentally walked through a theft detector with unpaid merchandise not realizing it couldn’t come with me.

It was hard to get to the product I wanted to buy.

It was hard to shop.

And the solution wasn’t complicated.  Escalators can be set to run in either direction. Frequently, escalators in transit stations change direction based on time of day (much like carpool lanes on highways.)  All this store had to do was reverse the running escalator to carry passengers up, instead of down.

By doing this, it would have been easy to get from the street to the second floor, then the second floor to the third.  There are checkouts on both the second and third floors, so wherever you ended up, you could pay.  And then the hassle would be getting out of the store, not getting to the products.

Either the store needed a creative manager, more autonomy for store personnel, or a way to get in touch with the escalator’s maintenance person.  Because we have *got* to be able to get to the shoes!

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