Thursday, December 4, 2008
Recession. It's an ugly word. The news stations have recession logos they paste at the bottom of the screen when they run their doom and gloom stories on the economy. Everyday, it's the economic update, more casualties, more downturn, no relief in sight. Geez, it's like the weeks following 9-11, you know its happening, you know it's bad, but somewhere on this huge earth there is good news. There are companies thriving and consumers spending their hard earned money.
I work retail. I've been at the same high end store for 11 years. I may as well say it, I've said it before, Williams Sonoma. OOHHHH, I can hear you, "that place is expensive", "you must be in a world of hurt", "your sales must be in the dumps". Let me start by saying I am not any sort of spokesperson for Williams Sonoma. I am on the lowest rung of the employees of this great company. I work in the trenches. I greet the people who walk in, offer samples, sell them what they need, thank them graciously, and on occasion work behind the scenes unloading the daily truck. I have a degree in film, not economics. But here is my take. There isn't a recession. There's a slowdown. There's a scare. People want to spend their money. They want to give gifts and have parties, they want to cook up a storm. They are shopping. They're buying $100 knives and peppermint bark. They want Christmas towels and gingerbread bundt. They are hunting out that perfect gadget for their favorite cook. Granted, they are worried, and pensive, but they are shopping. Thoughtfully shopping.
Is it so bad that people are planning purchases, thinking about what Grandma would really like instead of just picking up some stuff? Could the benefit of all this be that for the first time in a long time people are thinking before they spend?
Do you remember how many gifts you got for Christmas? I don't, but I remember that they were well thought out. Gifts any kid would love (at least in 1974). Now it seems more about quantity. Crap. We are inundated by the bargains. Is there a bargain at the dollar store? What can you possibly buy for a dollar that isn't disposable or that someone would want? I recently went and bought a huge aluminum roaster to use as a litter box for Grandma's visiting kitty and a nail file. I wouldn't bother with anything else there. It's a question of quality more than anything else. I saw wax paper there, I use a lot this time of year. But at the grocery it was only .89 cents. Candy, same price or cheaper at Walgreen's, and probably a better turnover. But we are wowed by that one dollar price. Forget that you'll have to buy another and another and another. Like the pan for a litter box. I probably could have bought a litter box at Target for $5. Line it, pitch the poo, stash the box until kitty's next visit. It's a mindset.
So away with the recession and in with thoughtful spending. Out with huge retailers whose products are low priced and lower quality and in with retailers who support products made in the US. Have you seen or felt the difference between a maple spoon from Vermont and a wooden spoon from China? There is a price difference, but a bigger quality difference. Your kids will fight over that maple spoon in 20 years. How about a set of 4 dish towels at $16 vs. a set of dish towels for $6. Wash 'em, dry dishes with them, bleach them if you must. Next year you'll have to buy 4 more if you chose the cheaper version.
So get out there and shop! If you have a job and are not one of those crazy people with an enormous amount of credit card debt then go forth and spend. But spend thoughtfully. Buy right the first time. Buy things you enjoy, that stimulate the American economy. Shop where people are friendly, helpful and attentive. If a sales clerk treats you like your money is no good, move on. It's time for retailers to be more gracious to the customer. It's time for the customer to be more thoughtful when they choose where to spend their money. Turn off the news and stimulate the economy yourself!