No, clerk, you’re missing the point

I subscribe to a blog called “not always right” — the point is have a laugh at the expense of consumers who are allegedly “always right.” This post, however, misses the point.

Fair Trade Waylaid

(Supermarket | United Kingdom)

Customer: “Excuse me, where is the tea?”

Me: “Right this way.”

Customer: “Do you have any tea that isn’t fair trade?”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Customer: “Do you have any tea that isn’t fair trade? It’s more expensive!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I think you are missing the point.”

Customer: “It’s more expensive! That isn’t very fair to me!”

The consumer, in this example (if it really happened) is definitely right. They should have the freedom to purchase and consume the good of their choosing. I, for one, do not purchase fair trade products. Frankly, it is a sham. Here is a good blog post to challenge your perception of it, if you’d like. If a farmer knows they’ll get a fixed price for a commodity, why would they sell their best goods to that buyer when they can attract higher bids on the open market? They do this, and sell their comparatively crappier goods at the “fair trade” price, but I digress. I have been a vocal opponent of “fair trade” since my days at SLU — and I only dislike it more now.

So, why is the associate wrong here? They say the “customer is always right” and this is the point of the blog. Now, like the author of the post I linked to, I empathize with the idea behind “fair trade” but it’s just the wrong solution to the issue they are trying to address. However, a supermarket trying to force an ethos on a consumer is typically a bad business practice. There are exceptions, like Chipotle, that have a core set of values that consumers can either embrace or reject, but there are alternatives to Chipotle. I tend to patronize Chipotle because those competitors are not as good. I realize, however, that I pay more for their goods because of their corporate values.

Take the example of the store, a supermarket. There are a ton of those throughout the world. Here we have Harris Teeter, Shoppers, Giant, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and Wegmans. People go to those stores because they need a good, and those companies are expected to provide those goods — not lectures. If a company fails to provide a wanted good, people go elsewhere.

Now if they fail to provide that good, and offer a lecture for not doing so, can you imagine that consumer will continue to patronize them? I would not. Businesses are free to do what they wish, of course, but ignoring the demands of consumers is a recipe for failure.

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