New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mother Teresa

When you start to hear things like "You can't make everyone happy" or "there will always be people who complain" in reference to a business, I start to worry that these words may be those of defenders of a place with problems. Because there are differences and some places are just better or worse than others.
It's a question of fundamental attitude with a customer problem or complaint. Is the customer guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty? Where is the burden of proof placed?
Admittedly, industry profit margins and product lines probably do make a difference. If you are selling high priced musical instruments, you cannot be as cavalier about returns as perhaps clothing retailers with larger markups. With expensive products, the dealer and/or manufacturer must deal with returned products. However, you have a similar scenario at B&H Photo, where margins are razor thin on high ticket items. But you are not put through the inquisition on a return. You can return delicate products costing thousands of dollars with no trouble.
In reading about Sam Ash, I did see an inordinate number of negative reviews. Even Mother Teresa has her detractors (notably Christopher Hitchens) but certainly not as many as Benito Mussolini. I also acknowledge that individuals are perhaps more inclined to publicly complain rather than praise and the Internet has made this process infinitely easier, but customer reviews do count for something. There are only so many of these complaints, it is hard to dismiss them as being part of the normal state off affairs in a retail business - at some point these complaints and admonitions have to be seriously examined.
My visit to Sam Ash was pleasant. I had a brief conversation with some of the staff about how businesses like theirs are often seen as the evil empire pitted against the small mom and pop like Manny's Music. We agreed it would be interesting to see the how customers would view Sam Ash in the future. Perhaps some blend of those bemoaning the disappearance of real places like Manny's and other, younger customers who, with no experience of the past, have just adapted.
When I was there, a teenage boy was in the midst of a guitar purchase - the boy was busy coveting his possession to be, while his parents were embroiled in how the finances were to be handled. For the time being, no one seemed concerned with the past, the future, customer reviews, Benito Mussolini, Christopher Hitchens or Mother Teresa :)

Note: Sam Ash is a national chain of musical instrument retailers, founded in 1924, with over 50 locations in the USA. The one photographed is located on music row, i.e. West 48th Street across the street from Manny's Music - see the story here.

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