Is KMart Abusing Employees with No Time for Thanksgiving?

This is just a quick poll to get your opinion on the insanity around Black Friday.

In case you aren’t aware, KMart recently announced they were opening at 6 am on Thanksgiving and remaining open for 41 hours through Black Friday. I tweeted them about it and later learned this is their standard reply for any negative social media comments around this decision.

@KMart replied:

“Our decision to extend hours is based in part on fdbk from our Members, who sought more flex holiday in-store shopping times.”

This is a case where the customer is not always right. Businesses must consider the impact on employees.

Huffington Post has a screenshot of a Facebook thread with this discussion.

As a Retail Career Dog, I remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas Days were the only 2 days a year I could promise my family I’d be there. Not the case for today’s employees… Soon they’ll be open on Christmas Day. Oh, wait, I think they did start that in 2012… :(

(Note: Sorry to pick on just you, KMart. Yes, I know many retailers are open on Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t make it right in a day and age when family ties are so fragile and family traditions that help hold them together are disintegrating.)

It’s the Holidays, Take a Break! 15 Signs You May Be Addicted to Technology

Our generation doesn't ring the doorbell, they text or call to say they're outside.

As much as we are seeing Black Friday bleed into Thanksgiving Thursdays, Christmas is still, thankfully, a day when MOST businesses close…

Maybe WE need to “close,” too, by shutting down our devices.

Do you have any of these signs of technology addiction?

  1. Phey have to wait to greet you because you are in the middle of texting, calling, checking notifications, emailing
  2. You miss when the light turns green
  3. You’ve been bumped from behind standing in line at the grocery store…
  4. You haven’t picked up a magazine in a waiting room in ages…
  5. In the examining room at the doctor, you get frustrated if they make you turn off your cell.
  6. You check your phone while “waiting” for the microwave to reheat your coffee…
  7. The “euphemism” (restroom) is not excluded from technology use…
  8. People are more familiar with the top of your head than your face
  9. You have bumped into a store fixture…
  10. Your bedtime companion is your phone, tablet or laptop…
  11. You’ve woken up with your phone next to you in bed
  12. You’ve tried to click on, scroll, or expand a page on your desktop/laptop with your fingers…
  13. While waiting for a download, YouTube or file to load on your computer, you transfer to other mobile devices in the meantime.
  14. You forget why you turned on your device because you get too busy checking notifications…
  15. and lastly, you’ve learned more on your phone than you did in school…

Have a wonderful Holiday!

A Thanksgiving message: Thankful for my Clients and for Modern Technology

Update: I posted this in 2012, and the sentiment remains the same, EXCEPT that Whitfield Consulting is now SMB Smart Marketing! When I registered for an LLC, the name Whitfield Consulting was not available. I am grateful that this bump in the road caused me to rethink my brand and give it a fresh feel. I hope you enjoy the following Gratitude blog…

It has been an amazing journey of personal and business growth for me these last few years.

I remember in 3rd grade (many years ago!), reading a short story by Isaac Asimov set in the future. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title. But I do remember a drawing of school age children sitting at the kitchen table in front of a computer monitor taking school lessons.

I remember so clearly looking at that picture, and hoping I live long enough for that scene to become a reality. You must realize that at that time, IBM’s computers filled entire rooms, there were no cell phones, no answering machines, no video games, color TV was just emerging, and central air conditioning was a modern convenience. The concept of the story seemed so, so far away.

And now, here I sit, at MY laptop, dual monitors, running a small business with clients from all over this great country from my home office! Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, North Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Georgia, New York, ….

How did they find me here in Atlanta? Through that “magic” internet… on LinkedIn discussions, Facebook interactions, Twitter tweetchats, Quora discussions, Google+ hangouts, professional listings on various websites and affiliations, my email newsletter, and of course, personal and client referrals.

I had a colleague in disbelief when I told him I had never personally met some of my clients – that all our engagement was through the internet or phone contact. He couldn’t understand how anyone would hire me without meeting me in person!

I tried to explain they HAD personally met me – in a way!! I am more personally exposed on the internet than I ever have been to anyone in my lifetime. Details of my entire career and public interactions are all over the internet accessible by anyone at anytime.

So, back to my point: not only am I thankful for my clients, past, present, and future, but also for modern technology. Here I sit in my home office in Roswell, Georgia (Metro Altanta, GA) communicating with the world. Not only did I live long enough to see Isaac Asimov’s story, but I am living it.

It is such a pleasure getting to know so many entrepreneurs in so many different types of small businesses. They each have their own way of approaching business, but they all have such passion for their individual businesses and it rubs off on me – very inspiring. And for that I am grateful to you all.

I also have had the pleasure of acquiring new colleagues through social media. Professionals I have never met personally, but who check in on me and my progress as I check in on them. We share ideas, ask each other questions and offer moral support.

And of course, if it weren’t for my family and friends supporting me, I couldn’t have done it at all. I thank them and love them all.

So that is my message of thanks to everyone for this Thanksgiving day. I wish only the best for you and yours today. It is a great pleasure to be a part of your lives and your successes!


Small Business Saturday – because bigger doesn’t always mean better

I’m straying a little from marketing today to support Small Business Saturday for tomorrow.

During this Thanksgiving, I was of course, thankful for family, friends and more. But on a business level, I have been thinking about how thankful I am for having been the little one in the family – it has given me the right perspective on small business.

Me at 3 in 1960
Me at 3 in 1960

As the youngest of 5 kids in my family, my siblings were already an established “family” before I came along as a surprise. As a result, I was always struggling to be included and often reminded I was too small to do their big kid stuff… It was infuriating!

Small business often has that same problem – told they are too small to compete or participate with the more established big guys:

  • Too small to enjoy the same merchandise buying discounts as the big guys
  • Too small to hold the same discount at sales as the big guys
  • Too low in volume to support greater variety in products and services
  • Too small to support a no-questions-asked return policy.

And the consumers are buying into this mentality. I say it’s BULL.

The problem is not that small business unable to keep up with big business. The problem is the perception held by the public that the best can only come from a big business.

Why is a big business like American Express supporting Small Business Saturday? Because they understand on which side their bread is buttered.

Small business is best seated for repeat business and high customer loyalty. On a per square foot basis, a small business can profit far more than the big guys if his business is consistent and therefore invest more back into the business for the benefit of the customer and the growth of their business.

Big business has to support corporate level management, huge marketing budgets, and high turnover in staff. The less personalized the business, the more the need for external support.

If you shop at a good small business, you enjoy so many perks that larger businesses can’t touch.

Who can expect the teenager of the month who has little invested in their employment other than the wages offered? Will they give personal attention and great customer service? Having a regular salesperson(s), even knowing their schedule so that you can count on them being there, increases the likelihood a consumer will return.

Know that offered discounts in a small business, however small they may seem, are REAL. 

Why do you think loyalty cards are so important in the big businesses? Because they can’t count on the staff to engender the kind of customer loyalty a small business can. Therefore, they have created a perceived “loyalty discount” with merchant cards to receive the discount. Items offered previous to “sales” are often ticketed at a higher profit margin to absorb the subsequent larger cuts that are now expected by the consumer. Before all these discount programs, there never used to be 70-80% discounts as that used to be below cost. No size business can survive selling regularly below cost, so do the math…

When you think about it, large businesses don’t offer much more one gets doing business online. In fact, their online customer service is often better than their brick and mortar because they are competing to grow their online business and focus on a small business style customer service approach to grow loyalty.

They understand that a small business thrives on personal engagement and building relationships with the customers.

The small business understands that if all they have is product, they will not survive.

This is why small business does so well in social media. It is a true reflection of their business culture of intimate customer service and interest in their consumer. Big businesses are failing in social media compared to small business – except in their coupon offerings. And there we go again with the false discount perception…


A social media gratitude list

Because Thanksgiving reminds us of the many blessings we have, I found myself wondering if we recognize what social media has brought to our lives…

Ripple effect
Image by HappyHorizons via Flickr

Finding old school mates and learning that maybe we really don’t change much after all over the years.

Connecting with the world on a conversational level – how cool is that?

Finding blogs that inspire us to think about our own reactions to the world at large.

Sharing the humorous and tragic sides of life and supporting each other through them.

Instant change in the world because reactions are real-time.

… I can go on and on, but I’d rather have you add to this list.

Leave a comment of at least 1 thought of social media gratitude.

Just Give Me a Price!

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery
Image via Wikipedia

How often have you had a potential customer call and ask directly for a price on your products or services? This often puts the receiver at odds or on defense on how to answer. Should you give them the price or ask questions first?

There are several strong reasons for a customer to be so direct in asking for a price rather than discuss your product or services.

1. They know specifically what they want and are simply price shopping for immediate purchase and shipping savings.

2. They are inexperienced and uneducated shoppers and unaware of other options.

3. They are “self-service” shoppers and unaccustomed to and wary of being properly serviced by a seasoned salesperson.

Bottom line? It doesn’t matter which reason they have called for a price. They have been conditioned to do so by the money-savers gurus on the news shows and coupon sites. Give them the price answer honestly, then immediately proceed to ask why they picked that particular item. By giving the price up front, you have helped them let their guard down and they will freely discuss why they have decided on this type of purchase. This opens the door wide on your ability to educate them on similar options and services – especially at your company – and win their faith and trust. If you ask questions first, you appear to be evading the issue and may urge a hang-up based on the resistance and lack of confidence you may have conveyed.

Don’t forget that many of the younger generation have grown up using self-serve shopping and the internet to determine how to buy. They may be unaccustomed to being properly helped to make a purchase. Consider the opportunities for consumers who are very busy (and aren’t they all?) to find someone who can really help speed up the process of shopping? It’s amazing to me that retailers are working harder to speed up the check out experience rather than capitalize on the time/service ratio.

Earn their trust and you will earn their loyalty!