THE Concord Monitor
Sometimes big problems - war, poverty, climate change, political incompetence - have to take a backseat to pet peeves. Today is such a day, a day to vent at being treated like a lab rat or a sheep en route to slaughter by more and more retailers.
Merchants have long used clever marketing strategies, some might say cheap tricks, to entice shoppers to buy more products, including stuff they don’t need. That’s why necessities like milk, eggs and bread are always at the back of a supermarket, often in opposite corners. It’s not a well-meaning way to force a customer with a cart full of donuts to get more exercise. The more time in the store, the more items in the cart is an equation proved countless times per day.
Savvy merchandising calls for putting cheery, bright-colored items at the store’s entrance - fruit and produce in the case of supermarkets - to subtly put shoppers in a buying mood. It means plenty of sale signs, two-for-one deals, prices that end in 99 cents and lots of inexpensive, impulse-buy items lining checkout lanes.
Fine, we can live with that, though it means a lot of needless walking and wasted time. But more and more stores are forcing shoppers to disappear into head-high mazes of racks and shelves loaded with all manner of low- and modestly priced trinkets, baubles, geegaws, snacks and sweets just to pay up and leave the store.
Some of the checkout mazes now have three or more turns and add scores if not hundreds of feet of walking for a customer who may have just one item. ... Retailing is tough and getting tougher every day. But contrast that trend with what Amazon, which recently purchased Whole Foods, is doing. It’s opening Amazon Go stores, small outlets stocking both necessities like milk and bread plus ready-to-go meals and upscale gourmet goods. Shoppers who download the company’s app to their phone can walk in, fill a bag with items and walk out - no checkout lines. Technology tells Amazon what each shopper took, bills their credit card and sends them an electronic receipt. No mazes, no hassle.