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Abercrombie & Hitch

Abercrombie & Hitch

I’m in a nearly deserted shopping mall in Warwick, Rhode Island on Monday, wandering through to find a few small gifts. To my surprise, I come upon an Abercrombie & Fitch, an upscale merchant which provides over-the-top catalogs and high-priced merchandise. Intrigued, I enter.

In I go. It’s like entering a ride in Disneyland. The store is VERY dark, with music playing, and its layout is fascinating because you cannot walk in a straight line. Rather, you must dodge and weave through plants and displays, toiling some three miles in one. (Listen to my Podcast on this site, The Calf Path, for an idea and the origins of that line.)

As my peregrinations proceed, I learn two things: I am the only customer in the place, unless some are hiding in the plants, and the store employees are totally uninterested in my presence. I have to traverse both the men’s and women’s departments, the main desk, and several floor sales people, two of whom are discussing their weekend plans above the music. Perhaps I’ve died, or turned invisible? Perhaps my outfit is too déclassé for the milieu?

I emerge into daylight, unscathed by any attempt to sell me a thing or even acknowledge me as a sentient creature.

This is why I can teach someone within a single week to be a great consultant. This is not rocket science, you don’t need models or coaching certifications, and all it takes is common sense. The store manager ought to be fired, along with the slugs inhabiting the employee parking spaces. The employees ought to know better, even if totally untrained, and the manager is not living up to the image or expectations of the corporation. He or she is stupid beyond redemption. They are running a store but not serving the customer. Input, not output.

A&F won’t be there next Christmas, because the store will be deemed a failure, either too “upscale” for the location, or inadequately promoted. In fact, it’s simply a victim of human failure.

They ought to just stick to their catalogs. I’ve never expected a book to acknowledge me, nor do I believe it can ignore me, and I’ve never felt lonely with one. As a matter of fact, I’ve always liked the pictures.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 1

  • Bob Poole

    December 21, 2007

    I attempted to investigate one of these A&F stores a year or so ago and had the exact experience. If you are over 30 years old (or heaven forbid nearing 60 as I) then you become totally invisible to the staff. The only time I noticed anyone looking at me was when I caught a look of fear (or was it just derision) in their eyes.

    I decided it was all part of their brand and they were probably doing exactly what they had been educated to do by their owners and managers.

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