TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits

Re: What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits

Lisa Hancock (
19 Nov 2004 11:06:13 -0800

Telecom editor wrote:

> ... in 1963, I was employed by the fund raising committee to build a
> new McCormick YWCA ... one of the guests at the luncheon was Myrtle
> Walgreen, ... she reached in her purse and pulled out a check for
> **fifty thousand dollars**

I presume by that time the Walgreen chain had started and was
properous. There in lies a dilemna -- on the one had chains
have a lot of money, on the other hand, the families of said
chains can be quite generous with it.

Andrew Carnegie, who was quite ruthless as the head of US Steel,
donated much of his fortune to public works, indeed, I think a
foundation he created is still giving out money. (Libraries were a
favorite and he built many throughout the country).

> Walgreens *used to have* a soda fountain/lunch counter in every one of
> their stores...

Here's an example of the conflict between business vs. the town,
mixed in with big and small. (Forgive parts previously discussed here).

We had an independent drugstore that had a traditional soda fountain
and lunch counter. The town liked that. However, the town's fathers
had several run-ins with the pharmacist (the owner) over their
historic district policies, parking, and allowable signage. The
pharmacist closed up and went out of business. Frankly, the town
fathers didn't care on account of their disputes, though many of the
citizens liked his soda fountain and felt it added a lot to the
"historicness" of the town. (Note the irony?)

Anyway, CVS came in. Sometimes the town makes a business go through
many hoops before it is approved. But CVS' plan sailed right through.
They took over an empty store and fully rennovated it in an historic
style (I must admit it does look nice). The town fathers were very
pleased at the outcome. But none of them brought up the issue of
independent vs. chain or the loss of the lunch counter. The inside of
the CVS is cold and sterile.

For good or bad the independent pharmacy owner was part of
the community. The manager of the CVS is anonymous. The employees
of the independent tended to stay a long time. Even kids he'd hire
would start young and stay with him all through high school and college
until they finally moved out into the real world; in contrast the kids
at the CVS (who have much more customer contact including in the
pharmacy) tend to turnover very rapidly. [Remember the old "Wonder
Years" episode where Kevin worked for the grouchy hardware store
owner, only to quit and briefly work anonymously at the mall?]
If you get a smart kid you're well served, but most of them are
pretty dumb, pretty bored, and very apathetic. They spend their
time gossiping on their cellphones playing their boyfriends against
each other. (When you're standing at the counter waiting to be
rung up, you hear some nasty conversations among those teen girls).

(As an aside, the whole thing illustrates the troubles of "historic
districts" because the definitions of "historic" and allowable
rennovations are so subjective.)

Another business closed up and the building was available. The owner
sold it to Starbucks. The town fathers were very anxious to get that
through since they didn't want an empty building. But the people in
the town objected to Starbucks and it led to a lot of protests. A
neighboring business cleared trees from their parking lot to provide
more parking and people were upset about that.

The Starbucks did come in and it seems very nice although I myself
won't spend $3 for a cup of coffee I can get for 79c down the street
at the convenience store.

Pat's point about an empty building vs. a chain in it is a good
one. Also, not all chains are cold.

We have a locally owned supermarket that charges premium prices. Some
of my neighbors don't like it because he's expensive and shop in the
chain supermarkets instead. But they had to admit the local owner is
very supportive of community projects, such as sponsoring youth sports
teams, a major donation to the 9/11 memorial, etc. The chains do

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