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Monday, March 5, 2018

If Bricks and Mortar Acted This Way...

I walked into Macy's yesterday.  Zigzagging my way toward the casual shirts, a sales guy threw himself in front of me.  He held up the Sunday FSI with Macy's sales items.  He started his sell job on the first one.  I gave him a strange look and tried to walk past.

Instead of letting me continue toward the shirts, he flipped to another item.  Then another.  After turning down 4 or 5 items, he finally asked where I was heading.  I told him "shirts" and he proceeded to describe everything they had.  At least he was allowing me to make my way in that direction even though I had to put up with his dogged selling.

I got to the shirts and found out that they were strewn out on the floor.  You had to guess where your size might be - no categories like neck size or sleeve length.  Even colors were mixed.

After about 5 minutes, I gave up and left.  Down the street, I found the same shirt - and did so by walking in the front door and looking at the store map which clearly identified where products were located.  Up the escalator and to the right and there they were.

The Macys visit kinda tired me out so I wanted to grab a bite. 
Courtesy PhotoStock, Modified
As I tried to enter the restaurant, a nice but firm person at the door asked for my name, age, and zip code.  I asked her why she needed it.  She had no answer but wouldn't let me through the air lock without telling her.  I finally shouted through the Plexiglass, "If you need that, let me tell you that I'm just going to go across the street to Al's Grill.  I can walk in, sit down and eat.  She shrugged, turned, and walked away.

Al's was closed.  Tail between legs, I crossed the street and knocked on the door again.  After trading my name, age and zip (which, by the way, she could have gotten - along with lots more demo info - at the end of the meal from my credit card) she opened the second door and showed me to a seat. 

A very ornate menu was handed to me along with the request for a drink order.  When I asked for an unsweetened tea, the waiter asked if I might prefer a beer.  He said they had a great microbrewery in the back and I'd love it.  I turned it down.  He came with my tea and took my order, but not before recommending three other entrees which I also said no to. 

When the plate came, I noticed that under the porcelain was a logo for a car dealership with an actual ad printed there.  It kinda bothered me, shoveling mashed potatoes from around the driveshaft area of a new Lexus RV but I finished.  Got the check, gulped the last of the tea, and put my credit card in the little folder. 

The waiter grabbed it and immediately, his place in front of me was filled by a young man selling all sorts of odd items.  I had to say no to five or six of them before he got the hint and stepped aside, allowing the waiter to return for my signature.  I took the receipt and my card and vowed never to return.

Home!  Turned on the water to make coffee.  It was interesting - the water ran for about a minute then spurted a few times and quit.  I had to turn it off and turn it back on a couple of times to get it flowing again.  That happened for a few cycles and it also would stop then start again by itself.

I gave up. Turned the pot off and opened a bottle of water.  Finally.  Something simple...that worked.

Here's the deal:  None of the above happened.  Who would put up with it?  But we seem to tolerate all of that - and worse - in our daily Internet lives. 

Sites put up barriers of all sorts to their pages.  I call those designers the "Sales Prevention Department."  Many of them may have come out of the supermarket world, you know, "Put the stuff people really want waaaaay at the back.  Make them pass the cookies, desserts, ice cream, frozen pizza and anything else we can foist off on them before they can get to the milk."

A MAJOR streamer requires year of birth, zip, and gender in order to view/listen to a stream.  Really?  Maybe that's a fair trade?  What if they asked you every time rather than setting a cookie to tell them that they already have the information?  Yet it's happening all over. 

Then, instead of allowing you to go to the stream, there are prerolls, popovers (not the blueberry kind that I like, either), coverups, fly-bys and myriad other ads that get in the way.  And they could deliver those without interrupting your stream.

This just in:  a listserv I frequent had a posting of a URL with a "Hey, anyone tried these guys?" comment.  I went to the site (carefully), looked at it, looked at it, looked one more time.  "What do these guys do," I asked myself.  The site danced around what they offered, even told me that there was a $50/mo plan that might be a great starter.  But it did NOT say, "We provide THIS service to broadcasters."  There was a great slide show that occupied the top half of the frame.  Showed some folks with mics, others with computers.  All had smiles so I figure that whatever the product, they were happy with it.

I was curious so I opened a ticket saying that I'd like to know about their product since their home page and the main links didn't really address that.  I got the immediate automated "We'll be back to you shortly," response.  A couple of days later, I received a real email saying, "Hi, and thanks for getting in touch.  How can we help you today?  Best regards, (name).  That despite the fact that I had spelled out the issue, "What do you do?"  So I responded, explaining again.

Well, that one got an interesting response that started with (I'm not kidding, this is a quote) "I read your ticket. I'm not sure what more to say. If you seriously have no idea what we do, then it's likely the product isn't for you."

Well, grumpy old man that I am, I thanked him for the ES&D email (think about it) then told him I had done a quick SEO study and that the site A) relies for graphics to communicate and even then doesn't tell the story of what they do and B) doesn't state anything of what they do in HTML.  Then told him that in my check, his Google ranking was way down - well below the 10th page, you know, that depth that none of us goes to unless we reeeeeally want to find something.  The response was simple - they didn't need my business.

You may not realize it but your site may be telling prospects exactly the same thing without you even knowing.  So, if you're a CEO, go to your site.  I've said it before, even recommending that you take a bottle of your favorite liquor and a crying towel.  Look at it as if you're arriving for the first time.  What does it really tell you.  And if you're head of marketing for one of these companies and you're happy with your site, you may want to look for someone who knows a little more about web users.  (Hint:  they act the same with bricks and mortar stores, restaurants, and service centers).  It's your choice.  I know that I've settled on a competitor to the unidentifiable site above.  The unidentifiable site doesn't know that but apparently they don't need my business anyway.