Monday, 29 April 2013

Bricks and Mortar Retailing is Far From Dead!

My car has been doing strange things lately. I'll turn the key and on occasion the car will hiccup, dashboad lights will blink, then the car will start. This has happened a few times only and at first I though that it was perhaps me not turning the key effectively enough.

Anyway, not wanting to be inconvenienced by a car that won't start on a cold grey night in some dark alley,  I took the car to a random auto electrician that I drive past quite regularly (Gil is his name).

Gil suggested that the battery could be dying based on the symptoms. He started the car multiple times to demonstrate how each time  the car was taking longer to start as the battery oozed its remaining electrons into the starter motor.

Ok, like most of us, I''m a busy guy. Work, kids, dogs, excercise... I don't have much free time, especially not time to hang around waiting for the RACV (NRMA, AA or equivalent) to jump start or tow me.

So I asked Gil  for a replacement battery and a price. Gil said that he doesn't stock the battery in question as it's not a common type. He did however jump onto his mobile, and enthusiastically called his battery contacts and said he could have a battery in stock within 24 hours.  I asked if he could get one today as this would be more convenient. Another phone call and friendly smile, and two hours later my car had a brand new quality battery fitted. 

The point of this blog post is really to highlight the things we overlook when we consider  short circuiting a retailer and buy online for less (or are we?)

1.) Gil gave me a price for the battery (fitted so no greasy hands for me) which was comparable with online prices  (unfitted and excluding delivery).

2.) When I presented the car, he brought out a mini 12 volt battery and connected this to the  terminals while he removed the ailing battery. This was to preserve the million memories that my car has, ie clock, fuel consumption computer , seat settings and many more electronic things that require some current to retain memory. I was impressed by this as its a real pain to find the stereo unlock code, and have to reset the clock, radio preselects etc

3.) The next thing I saw was this awesome tool he used to grip the sides of the battery to lift it out of the car. I would have struggled to get my fingers into the tight compartment space the battery sits in, to remove the battery.

4.) The experience was painless, fast, convenient, and I would never have gotten this done so quickly and easily had I bought it online and even saved $40 or so dollars.

The message here is that personal customer service will always have a value that cannot always be replicated online. So what's missing here. Not much really. Being a digital native my thoughts are that Gil could do with a website, a bit of brochureware, and a few good reviews like people like me to drive more traffic to his website and his business. 

Image: Courtesy



  1. I agree. I have found that although so many are tied to online buying, there is often an experience that you can't get online. And a good auto electrician is a perfect example of how you can't do all business online, but more to the point, you've well articulated the customer experience. Sometimes I feel that bricks and mortar businesses forget that.

    Nice post.

  2. Thanks Nina, also an interesting article I found recently looking at Online Retailers turning to touch and feel retail to grow: