I'm not so sure if you can use the US as a predictor for the Australian PC marketplace any more. Australian entrepreneurs used to visit the US to see the new merchandising methods, but I have a feeling that doesn't work so well nowadays.
I was snooping round a "Good Guys" store last week when I heard someone (obviously a first-timer) ask for help in choosing a PC. "I'll just get one of our computer counsellors to help you sir." Not a salesperson, not an assistant, not even an "associate", but a counsellor.
When I asked what this meant, I was told that business is so tight between consumer electronics stores in the US, some of the larger chains decided repeat business and customer referrals were acutely important. Where once they were happy enough to make a sale and move on to the next customer, now they want to ensure the customer gets what he or she needs . . . even if this means sending them elsewhere or telling them they don't really need what they've come to buy.
It all sounded a bit too much like a plot from a fleeced 1930's US movie, so I listened for a while. Sure enough, within the space of 15 minutes, I heard the stupid advice, I saw them buy inappropriate equipment and I witnessed a couple of very rude "consultant" attacks. And as if that wasn't bad enough, a couple of "counsellors" badmouthed the customers after they left the store -- within earshot of other customers.
I think this is one US idea I don't want to see brought to Australia. At least not unless it's genuine.
PS: Don't you love the US language? One garage I passed in San Mateo had a sign that included advice that they did "auto luburization and mechanical fixation".
ARN Editor Paul Zucker wrote this editorial while attending IBM's BPEC '98 (Business Partners Executive Conference) in San Francisco.