Monday, March 07, 2005

Look, Marge. It's those damn customers again.

Something I love is when new media helps prove a basic business fundamental. Back in January, I posted about not putting barriers between customers and your online content. Recently, I encountered a brick-and-mortar business making the same fundamental error.

My work often takes me to Detroit, which is about two hours away. When traveling as a group, a good meeting place is on the east side of Kalamazoo County — the Shell station at Exit 85 off I-94. That's the main East-West corridor in my part of the world. For years, we've piled into one car and left the others — always in parking spots far from the pumps and the Burger King/crappy coffee/doughnuts/etc. area. Gosh knows we didn't want to inconvenience anyone who wanted to dash in for a Whopper Meal and a carton of Parliaments. Usually, we'd return from business in Detroit in the late evening, collect our cars and head home. At some point, we probably also bought a cup of that crappy coffee, some bottled water and a bunch of that fossil fuel. Maybe a stick of beef jerky and some sugar-free gum. In short, we usually did some spending at that Exit 85 Shell station.

Well, it seems the proprietor has now decided to post 2-hour time limit signs at the spots where we usually left our cars. Naturally, they include threats of towing at the owner's expense. Now unless there was some really logical, logistical reason for driving away the people who parked their cars in these spots, this is one classically pigheaded business decision.

Fact is, the area where we usually parked was never full. And these days it's, well, completely empty. If I were the owner of this station, I would have put up signs that actually designated this area of the parking lot for car poolers. Remember, this is a service station with plenty of space.

In other words, I would have followed a basic retail fundamental and tried to make my location a very appealing place to stop and do business.

Maybe this kind of logic doesn't fly for everyone. As one of my business partners commented, the owner of the Shell station probably looked out every day, saw some cars parked in those spots and just got sort of pissed about it. Said something like, "They're gettin' somethin' for nothin'."

No, my friend. You're the one getting something.



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