As you might imagine, because of my consistent commentary, the topic of downtown Geneva comes up quite a bit in conversation these days. And I’m not nearly the only Genevan who believes our central business district’s demise is already determined.
But my while my fellow prognosticators and I may agree on that ultimate outcome, it’s the method by which these downtown merchants will hang separately that separates us. While I see the mortal wound as self-inflicted, the others tell me it’s the Geneva Commons competition that will eventually do them in.
There’s no doubt that will be a line in the inevitable epitaph, but whenever someone says, “they just can’t complete with Randall Road, my immediate response is, “How can you not compete with Randall Road?” Most of those folks on that thoroughfare couldn’t spell the word “service” if you set 'em up with a cue card.
You all know I always think of downtown Geneva first, but when it comes to groceries and used PS3 games, Third Street ain’t an option. So after avoiding it for months, last week, in just two trips to that West Side strip mall wonderland, I had two of the worst shopping experiences I’ve ever had.
We’ll start with Dominick’s.
Despite my previous column describing the horrors of grocery shopping with my wife, because I love her and have some serious masochistic tendencies, I found myself standing beside her as we wandered the massive grocery enterprises’ many aisles.
Being the cook of the family (Yes, ladies! I also cook and clean!), I broke out of our tight formation to embark upon a quest for anchovies. Most grocers stick ‘em in with the sardines and tuna fish, but not Dominick’s.
Coming up empty, I scanned the nearby aisles for some expert help, but since everyone’s cutting back on staffing these days, that effort was fruitless. So it was on to the service desk which also happened to be unmanned.
After standing there for five minutes, I finally noticed two employees intently conversing with each other over a computer set up at the end of one of the registers. My plan was to ask one of them: Who was working the service desk?
But after only getting out the words “Who is,” without even turning around, one of the women thrust her outstretched hand within millimeters of my face declaring, “I’m busy right now.”
When she turned around and saw the look of annoyed astonishment on my face, al least she had the good sense to turn bright red, at which point, I simply walked away.
Though I can’t seem to convince my wife, all my future grocery shopping will take place at Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market, where they still have some idea of what the term “customer service” actually means.
It’s too bad we don’t have that kind of grocery store in downtown Geneva.
On to the PS3 games.
Normally I choose to patronize Play N Trade next to the Batavia TJ’s, because they also understand that “service” is a verb and not a noun. But, despite all those previous bad experiences, I was intrigued that Best Buy was selling pre-owned video games.
C’mon! How could anyone screw up the process of taking a couple of games off the shelf and over to the register and checking out?
But they managed to do just that, because when I got to the checkout, it was roped off with a sign redirecting shoppers to the customer service counter. So now those of us trying to make a quick purchase were stuck with all the folks going through the process of making interesting and convoluted returns.
A wise manager would’ve designated one of the three return registers for checkout only, but the words “wise” and “Best Buy” are almost always oxymorons.
With four customers down and four more in front of me, one of the clerks proceed to try to sell a reluctant patron one of those worthless two-year warranty plans on a disposable electronic item. Figuring that 10 minutes in line was more than enough, I walked around the ever expanding line, set the video games on the counter and walked out of the store never to return.
You never have to deal with that kind of abject stupidity on Amazon.
Now let’s juxtapose those dismal Randall Road episodes with an average visit to Geneva Running Outfitters near Starbucks on State Street.
Upon entry, Eric and his staff offer a warm greeting, which will actually include your name if you’ve been there before. They might even ask how your current endeavor, column writing for example, is going.
They know their merchandise, they know their customers, and they know running. There’s no loyalty card, they don’t try to sell you magazine subscriptions, and they don’t offer extended warranties. If you’re a member of the Fox River Trail Runners, you get a discount.
It’s that simple. And they’re open until 7 p.m. EVERY week night so I can even head down there after dinner.
Because it’s such a positive experience, I always spend more money than anticipated, but still leave with a bounce in my step happier for having a lighter wallet.
Despite the cheaper options and west side convenience, I wouldn’t even consider buying my running gear in a mall.
And that, my friends, is how you compete with Randall Road.