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The Greatest Show in Retail
Posted By Noah Blumenthal On May 8, 2007 @ 4:42 am In Noah's Posts | No Comments
The double-decker tourist bus tours in New York have made a big mistake. They will drop you off at Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. They will take you down 5th Avenue. But they miss the best retail spot in the city. I believe every visitor to New York should be required to stop at B&H Photo (9th Ave and 34th St) and buy something, anything. I don’t care if you don’t like cameras. Buy a pack of batteries just so you can experience the operational wonder of this store.
I went there yesterday to pick up a power cord for my video camera. I left the original in Chicago on a recent trip. In between Chicago and yesterday I was in Denver and needed to use my video camera, a Sony product. I went to the Sony store in Denver. Keep in mind, this is a store that was created by Sony specifically for Sony products. They told me they didn’t carry the power cord. This is the SONY store. How could they not carry their own camera’s power cord? They did however have an alternate solution. They could sell me a backup battery and wall charger for $175. Are you kidding?!?
Fast forward to yesterday. B&H sells products from Sony and every other camera or video manufacturer known to man. (They also sell stage lighting, binoculars and plenty of other stuff to keep the browser occupied.) They have gurus in every area of the store who could explain things about the products that the engineers who created them didn’t even know. So I walked over to the video counter and asked for the power cord I needed.
The guy at the counter, named Joshua, asked me what video camera I owned. I told him. He asked me if I wanted anything else from the video area. I didn’t. Then he gave me a receipt for my order. At that moment I thought I felt my cellphone vibrate. So I reached for my pocket. Joshua thought I was going for my wallet. He said, “Oh no. You don’t pay me. We want you to stay happy while dealing with the salespeople.” I thanked him, stepped away from the counter and looked up.
This is where the show is. Above the shoppers’ heads there exists an amazing network of conveyor belts from the storage area at the back of the store to the checkout area at the front of the store. In fact, there is no actual merchandise in the showroom of the store. There is one display item for everything they sell, but you can’t just walk in and grab something off the shelf. All of the products are in back. The moment that Joshua handed me my receipt someone in the back of the store put my item in a crate and placed the crate on one of the conveyor belts. While I walked to the cashiers my item was whooshing over my head somewhere on its way to the checkout.
So I went to pay. I gave my cashier, Eduardo, my receipt. He took my money and gave me a new receipt. I then went to the checkout counter with my new receipt. My checkout guy, Adam, exchanged my new receipt for my product. I recently purchased a television from a Circuit City store. I could have gone and eaten lunch in the time it took them to get my TV to the customer pickup area. (They had no whoosh.) Yet in all of my trips to B&H I have never been able to beat my merchandise to the front of the store. You might think it’s because the whole process of going to the different counters is so slow. No way. This store operates with lightning fast efficiency. It is simply a marvel to behold.
Tourists in New York spend a lot of time gazing up in wonder at the buildings scraping the sky. They might be even more awestruck if they gazed up in B&H to watch and experience the whoosh.
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