Service Has Value

Jan 12, 2008 by

There are very few stores today in which I enjoy my encounters with the staff. I often shop online because I find the prices lower, and because I do not feel that I could benefit from the assistance of the store employees. I have found many times that employees will know less about the product that I am trying to buy than I do, and that they are mainly there to try to upsell me (“How about a five-year warranty on your iPod for 30% of its price?”) or to prevent me from shoplifting.

¬†However, there are stores in which I value contact with the staff. One notable exception is Home Depot. I visited a Home Depot last week in order to receive assistance in constructing a box. A helpful tradesman named Leo measured and cut the wood that I needed. He also provided me with both mechanical and creative advice on how I might better complete my project. Through this process, he was able to identify some additional materials that I needed (and to sell them to me). As a result of his help, Home Depot not only sold me wood, it sold me service. I would be willing to pay a premium for such service, as it enabled me to better complete my task. Although Leo “upsold” me a little bit, he did so in an informed manner, which resulted in my buying the suggested items. While extraordinarily helpful, Leo was by no means a unique Home Depot employee. I specifically shopped there because I have in the past encountered many helpful Home Depot employees, and anticipated that I would be able to receive excellent service by shopping there. Home Depot makes the effort to hire skilled tradesmen that are experts in the products that they sell.

RadioShack used to be like Home Depot. As a boy, I loved to talk to their men in red coats about my electronics projects. Back in the early 1990s, RadioShack sold both electronic components and assembled appliances. Their employees were likely former members of the electronic trades, as they were intimately familiar with their products. In recent years, Radio Shack has reduced its stock of components and replaced its old men in red coats with younger workers with less knowledge about its products. RadioShack has transformed itself from a business selling both products and service into a business selling commodities (computers, cell phones, and the occasional spool of wire). I rarely visit RadioShack, as I can often buy these commodities more cheaply online, and I gain little from the contemporary RadioShack in-store experience.


  1. Noble

    I completely agree that service has value and I will pay a premimum (if I have too) for better service.

    Service is the only differentiator many small business have over big box stores.

  2. elizabeth

    While my opinion regarding Home Depot hasn’t been as positive as yours, I do agree that service is a dying art form. My experience with Depot has been hit or miss. At times I have received excellent service from skilled individuals and at other times I’ve run into the high school kid who can’t tell a wrench from pliers. I’ve discovered that most places either have hit or miss service or overall bad service. I would definitely be willing to pay a premium to shop somewhere knowing that service is part of the deal.

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