Wait, but I want to give you my money.

Impediments to the checkout aren’t just technological. With companies trying to cut spending in any way they can, brick and mortar is showing a noticeable reduction in staffing during non-peak hours that is presenting itself as a key opportunity for those to “get ahead” of the economic slump game. Case in point:

I travel quite a bit, so my fridge is always bare. When I come home, it’s usually at night and I want to get in and out. I drove to my local Safeway at 8 pm on a Thursday night. Crickets for staffing and there were customers in every aisle. I spend about 30 minutes perusing the aisles, grabbing things that will make it easier for me when I return from my next trip (a.k.a. – mac n cheese). I fill my cart with way more than I anticipated. But when I got to the checkout stand, it was like going to Costco on a Saturday at lunchtime when there are hoards of people and shopping cart traffic is worse than on the MacArthur Maze. There were two checkers – one in the “quick” lane and one in the “regular” lane. My estimation of time to checkout was about 45 minutes. Were they crazy? I walked in to get some yogurt and eggs, but would have walked out with close to $200 in groceries and “stock up” stuff. I left my cart in the aisle and left.

I went to the Long’s next door and got what I really needed (ok and maybe a few other things). So not only did I get exactly what I wanted for the same price without waiting in an egregious line, but I also ended up not injecting exponentially more money into the economy.

If you think you are selling something that people need and will consequently “wait” to get it, you’re wrong. There’s always someone else who can do it better. What will be the saving grace is finding that sweet spot where you are charging a slight premium to offset the cost of providing a solid end to end experience. Can they pull it off this holiday season, I wonder?

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