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Porchetta & the Salesman’s Dilemma

A few weeks ago I visited a local store that previously boasted a bustling clientèle… business people, managers and professionals. In a sense, you could have looked at this store two years ago and predicted growth. Now I’d predict eventual closure.

That’s a bold claim, I know. But over time I’ve seen a culture change – an older shop assistant shoved a younger assistant away from the deli meat slicer with physical force; a disingenuous attitude that customers are an inconvenience so deli assistants turn away once you’ve received your deli item; lettuces that occasionally come full of flies; or, shop assistants hesitant to offer a receipt without that direct request from the customer.

A few weeks ago I happened to be in that store for bread and some sliced meat. It was lunchtime and the large shop was almost empty. This is a shop that would normally have had 20 people at any given time bustling around the fruit and vegetables, buying bakery bread or snapping up roasting chickens.

On this occasion, I spotted a sign on the deli-counter window offering half price porchetta. I asked for 200gm.

The junior assistant quietly asked the senior assistant something in hushed tones.. but I heard the word smell. That, in itself, bodes ill for a fine food store.

The junior assistant hacked off about 2 inches from the porchetta roll and set that meat aside; then, she cut around 500gm in slices. I have to say, I’m not sure I was very confident in their on sale porchetta by that stage. She made a note as it was passed to me that I’d only be billed for the 200gm.

So I took my bread and porchetta to the service counter and the same young assistant came to the register. She whispered “I’m not going to charge you for this porchetta because I’m not sure it’s good enough for human consumption. It might be… but I’m not sure. It looks fine, but it smells off.”

Right here I want the reader to insert an imaginary vinyl record drag sound as a clumsy seven-fingered oaf stops the background music with a giant lethargic sonic skid mark.

I mean… not fit for human consumption? Where is the win for any store selling food not fit for human consumption? Let alone giving it away for free. There is no up-side. If a customer is ill-served the store fails. If a customer is poisoned the store fails. If the porchetta is fine then it was given away for free. Again, there is no win for the store in that scenario.

It happens. External business environments change and so do the cultures within those businesses. A bad seed invites another bad seed into the fold and before the owners are aware their customers are moving off to the new better option. In this case, it’s a flourishing store about 500 metres away with fresh fruit and vegetables, service with a smile and an offer to carry your heavy items to the car… they have high customer volume so double-kapow their value proposition with unbeatable bargains in the meat department.

That’s the salesman’s dilemma. When you know your stock is rubbish are you willing to shove it all in the bin and compete with the quality service / products in direct competition? Or do you sit there twiddling your thumbs thinking how you can sell the crap you have to the fewer and fewer willing to put up with it?

Do you sell what you have versus do you have what the market is willing to purchase?

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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