Capitalism or Culture... Bad service and a question of cause:

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  1. Shadesbreath profile image81
    Shadesbreathposted 13 years ago

    Ixxy made an interesting comment on a hub I wrote where I was having a little sarcastic melt down about the unfathomably horrific service I got from a visit to Lowes.  I was going to respond to it in the comments, but I thought it might be interesting to get opinions on his idea, or at least what I interpreted it to be (I hope you don't mind Ixxy).  So, here goes:

    Is the crap service we are getting at places like Lowes and Walmart and other super-mega stores the inevitable outcome of “grand capitalism” as Ixxy put it?   Does wholesale capitalism have to end up with bad service, is there something inherent in companies that get that big that they are doomed to have poor training and tolerate laziness, or is that more a result of something cultural, something about the nature of people who get jobs at places like that?  How does this balance out between Capitalism and Culture?

    1. Obscure Divine profile image61
      Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      When those corporate bastards get so big, service & quality goes to the back burner and their corruption lies within the monetary motives.  Wal-Marx, oops, I mean Wal-Mart is a fine example of such.

    2. Buffoon profile image76
      Buffoonposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I do think poor customer service is a sort of consequence to mega-capitalism. Its all about managing risks in the mega-capitalism world, that is, when you have one trillion customers, losing a few hundred due to bad service doesn't have an impact in the bottom line, hence the risk is acceptable.

      You'd never think of being treated as you describe in your hub in the corner bookstore or the corner grocery store, would you?

      So, in a word, yes, I think bad customer service and mega capitalism are related.

      1. Shadesbreath profile image81
        Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Yeah, but even I will still go back to Lowes if I need something.  What's that say about me?  lol.   <sigh>

    3. alternate poet profile image65
      alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      This is maybe the most obvious issue with regards global companies. When a few companies own all the stores, and the production, we are reduced to a global equivalent of the slave store - where the things you need always cost the equivalent of what you earn.

    4. Jeff Berndt profile image76
      Jeff Berndtposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      "is there something inherent in companies that get that big that they are doomed to have poor training and tolerate laziness, or is that more a result of something cultural, something about the nature of people who get jobs at places like that?"

      That's an interesting question, and the answer is very complicated. The situation you're describing has its roots in the deliberate disengagement of the worker from the work. It's not inevitable, it's purposed. It comes from management "science," the idea that everything will run more smoothly if there's a "process" for everything, and if you take the workers' judgment out of the equation. After all, a worker may not judge correctly, and we can be certain that a remotely-written "process" will give the right answer every time. (Sarcasm.) The problem with process-style management is that it values the process over the product, and it's the product that the customer is going to take home and use, eat, sit on, whatever.

      If I can demonstrate, for example, that my way of packaging boneless chicken breasts yields a tastier, germ-free product, and the prescribed process yields a product crawling with e.Coli, shouldn't my way be adopted? Even if my way entails dunking the chicken in a toilet? The product is germ-free and tasty, which is going to keep the customer satisfied and healthy.

      The other problem with this approach is that people who have such jobs often either get frustrated with having no function other than to "follow instructions" and quit in search of a job that lets them use their brains, or else deliberately suppress their better selves while on the job, and look for fulfillment elsewhere. Or, maybe, the person was suited to that kind of no-think work to begin with. Whichever the case may be, you're left with workers who aren't using their whole minds.

      This is not confined to retail. Take a look at the bankers who wrote mortgages the knew were worthless over the past decade. They found that they were being rewarded not for writing good loans, but for writing loans, full stop. And so they stopped worrying about whether the borrower would be able to repay the loan.

      This is not an inevitable condition of rampant capitalism. But it is, I think,  an inevitable result of capitalists' distrust of labor and their ongoing effort to ensure that laborers do not exercise their own judgment in the course of doing their work.

      1. profile image0
        PrettyPantherposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        You more clearly and thoroughly explained what I was trying to say above.  smile

      2. Shadesbreath profile image81
        Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        That "remotely written process" is a huge part of it.  And that's one of the big jokes in Idiocracy that I start the hub with. 

        I'm with you on the blanket policy thing being horrendous.  My wife works for a big company that is by-the-book, no thinking allowed.  In fact, it's funny, a month or so ago, they got to work and an alarm went off that morning.  It was very loud, so one supervisor had everyone go outside.  The supervisors there all looked around at each other, then to the supervisor one level up from them.  Nobody was authorized to turn off that alarm, nobody was authorized to call someone.  So, they all went back inside and resumed working and just left the alarm on.

        lol.  True story.

        It might be a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" thing, but do dumb people require the need for policy or do policies encourage dumb people?

        I am tempted to say, "this generation" is full of dumbsh!ts, like that kid in my Hub, but after reading the old Greek histories, well, yeah, dumb has been around for a while.

        1. alternate poet profile image65
          alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          History tells us that there are always dumb and smart - the difference now is that we have such a huge amount of knowledge and reasoning from high level thinkers so easily available.  To be dumb-s**t now means people are either actually stupid - but in many cases it would appear to be a deliberate act.  The greatest sin of these current generations may be this deliberate adherence to BS.

    5. Susana S profile image92
      Susana Sposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I think the way the business is structured is of high importance to how the employees feel about working in that company - how they are treated will be reflected in how they treat customers. If staff are on minimum wages and are treated like shit by bosses, they will have absolutely no pride in their work and will take this out on the customer.

      in contrast, take for instance the UK company John Lewis. It's a major department store, but it's employee owned, making it a social enterprise rather than simply a capitalist money making machine. It is a business, with the primary aim of making money, but everyone that works there feels pride in "their" company and wants to see it do well. Needless to say the customer service is excellent. This is the way to go in my opinion.

    6. msjersey profile image57
      msjerseyposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      horrific customer service seems to be the sign of the times and the times are saying selfishness!  People who are hired as customer service representatives need to have people skills, they need to have a thick skin and not take people's rants personally.  We, the consumers, have a right to get our monies worth.  But why is it that when we're dissatisfied, we are not allowed to be upset, even angry?  It is our hard-working money that we are spending, is it not?  and who is this person on the other end of the phone or at the store being rude to us on top of it?  Isn't she/he getting paid to hear us out and remedy the situation for us so that we are then satisfied and come back to the stupid store or organization??!

  2. myownworld profile image76
    myownworldposted 13 years ago

    All I know is they have a way of making the customer feel as if he's there to serve them, rather than the other way round...! Can be quite intimidating actually.... neutral

    (am off to read your hub... smile)

  3. wrenfrost56 profile image55
    wrenfrost56posted 13 years ago

    With big buisness comes big problems for sure, unfortunately I think a lot of the staff don't feel a lot of job satisfaction and therefore the service suffers as a result. sad

  4. William R. Wilson profile image61
    William R. Wilsonposted 13 years ago

    I think the problem is in the size of the company.  As someone's already pointed out here, the bigger you get, the less you have to worry about your customers. 

    Capitalism is not the problem - a free market rewards those who take care of their customers.  The problem is megacapitalism - the kind of capitalism that allows a CEO to take home 300 times the pay of the average worker in his company.  Of course he pays for that by cutting training for the low level employees, but why should he care?

    It's the same principle that caused this recession.  Fund managers were getting million dollar bonuses for figuring out how to make money on fancy derivatives based on exploitative mortgages and lending practices.  Why should they care if the system was unsustainable and would result in catastrophe?  They got paid well to do their job.

    Local economies are always better for people and communities.  Why do we give our money to Wal Mart, when most of that money goes to megacorporations that have shipped jobs overseas to cut costs?  We do it because it saves us money  today- even as we lose our jobs tomorrow. 

    Is this situation an inevitable result of capitalism?  I think it is the end result of a certain kind of capitalism, yes.

    Maybe it's because bigger systems are inefficient.

    1. alternate poet profile image65
      alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I agree - I find it hard to understand why people cannot see the simple cycle in this - the bigger the corporations get, the less corporations there are,through mergers acquisitions etc.  The less corporations there are the less competition and employers there are - it is all drifting toward an economy where very few corporations pay everyone and also sell to everyone.  Not hard to see all the problems in that, it is the same model as the slave store - the most basic exploitative model in the book.

      It is not necessary to be left or right leaning to see this as a bad trend, capitalism is supposed to be driven by competition, if it was truly competitive then maybe it would work better.

    2. dfager profile image61
      dfagerposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I think the whole point of capitalism is to get to megacapitalism.  Adam Smith told us that capitalism comes from human greed.  It's that we all have needs and wants that drive the system.  You see, if you shoot an arrow at a target, you shouldn't be surprized if it hits the mark.  Walmart is the aim of capitalism.  Companies and corporations are in business to do increasing and increasing amounts of business.  If they don't grow, everyone considers this failure.

      The problem is, consumers are always going to want the lowest prices for as much quality as they can get.  Consumers are greedy as well as corporations.  But when companies fail, banks fail and there's a recession, the rich will blame the poor and the poor will blame the rich.  There's really little freedom in capitalism, because we're all slaves to greed.

      1. alternate poet profile image65
        alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        More than this - capitalism follows an evolutionary path - survival of of the fittest etc., and so its natural apex would be one person with it all.  Religion is just an adjunct to this process persuading people to look upward to a myth so that, like the wizard of oz, some creep can pull all the levers and the gullible can bow down, worshipping both the myth of a god and capitalism.

    3. Misha profile image63
      Mishaposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      A rare moment of agreement with William. It has nothing to do with capitalism, and has everything to do with the size.

      BTW under socialism the size is the biggest possible - the whole state is the single business. That's what we had back in the USSR and were happy to get rid of it, and that is what you are getting here and now. Go visit Moscow - or probably any Russian city for this matter - and compare the customer service there to what you get here LOL.

  5. IFD1253 profile image64
    IFD1253posted 13 years ago

    I've spent a great deal of time contemplating this subject as well.  In Indianapolis, this trend is a fairly recent one, starting in earnest about ten years ago. At least in out market, it would appear the issue is one caused by a shortage of "properly qualified" labor.  On the east side of town, the National Road (US 40) has a Meijer, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Target, Kohl's, Best Buy, Toy's R Us, a full-sized mall, and a gaggle of restaurants all within a stretch of road two-tenths of a mile long.  Think about the multitude of minimum wage laborers needed to fully staff these businesses.  Fact is that it has become a seller's market when it comes to minimum-wage qualified workers.

    Think about it.  Who chooses to fill these positions?  It's not the over-achievers.  It's not those with college degrees.  No, these are the people that barely skated through high school, earning a near worthless diploma from a horrible public school system that has ill-equipped them to be a benefit to society.  They are motivated enough to show up most days, but expecting much more is ill-advised.

    The problem is not with management's training or oversight procedures;  the problem is the employee's lack of both ability and integrity.  The demand for their services is currently exceeding the supply.  If a manager pushes his/her employees, they will simply quit.  They can simply walk next door and get a job making the same amount of money with expectations that are more to their liking.  When faced with the quandary of having poor labor or no labor, Wal-Mart is always going to choose to fill that position with a warm body.  On top of that, why waste resources on training someone whose expected tenure will last less than six months.

    This problem has subsided to a degree over the past year or two as more over-qualified people have had to resort to these positions in an effort to make ends meet.  Surprisingly this isn't as true as you might initially expect.  The irony is that these workers bring some of the same issues as their uneducated peers.  Being severely underemployed tends to have a devastating effect on an employees morale which will be readily apparent when dealing with customers.  This is compounded by the knowledge that they could easily find another job for which they are over-qualified for down the street.

    I guess I tend to look at it on the micro-level.  As an adult, you should have a firm grasp of the Golden Rule.  The fact that service is terrible is more a reflection on the people filling those roles than the system that creates them.  People need to quit feeling so damned entitled and learn to better themselves by themselves.

    1. Shadesbreath profile image81
      Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I know.  So how stupid are we to keep shopping at places we have miserable experiences?  Maybe I'm just a whiner for having wanted "service."  Maybe I am the child of a bygone era, an era with an unrealistic idea of what service meant? 

      Maybe that's what the by-gone era (or at least that as the metaphor for "service" as I expect it) is clinging too... the opposite belief.  That jobs are worth something, that there is a desire to be a beneifit to society.  Maybe that's an outdated idea, or one that is only important in some cultures but not others.  In some eras but not others?

      Yes, so the job has no value for anyone. Either we expect too much, or we are spoiled as a nation... still too wealthy to realize how grateful we should be?  Or was it more like Marx was getting after (LOL @ Obscure Divine "wal-marx"), the worker too distant from the product to take pride in it (or reap the financial rewards), to disconnected from what "he does" to care.

      BOOYAH!  I agree. 
      I wonder if I still would if I got stuck in a bad spot though and ended up making minium wage.  I like to think I'd still do a good job, but maybe I'd be bitter.

      1. dfager profile image61
        dfagerposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Just get in your time machine then.

  6. CASE1WORKER profile image64
    CASE1WORKERposted 13 years ago

    maybe its not the big corporation just the individual who does not want to help- luckily wal mart in uk asda is far from this they promote good customer service

  7. rmr profile image68
    rmrposted 13 years ago

    In my experience, you can be bitter and still do a good job. That's what work ethic is all about. It's not about working hard because it's fun. You work hard to better yourself.

    I lost a job that was paying about $70000 a year, and wound up in an $8 an hour job that was a soul sucking nightmare. I was bitter as hell, but that wasn't the customers' fault. I went to work, did my job, and treated people with the same respect that I would expect in their place. Eventually the work ethic was recognized. Not by the employer, but by a customer who offered a much better opportunity.

    I think the "bygone era" you mentioned is on the money. A lot of the people in that soul sucking job felt it was beneath them. They're from a generation that demands instant gratification. "Entitled" is another good description. They had the idea that someone owed them a high paying job, and everyone around them was going to pay for the injustice.
    So, yeah, I think there's more to it than capitalism.

    1. dfager profile image61
      dfagerposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Walmart is well know for it's human resources problems, like not wanting to pay overtime and wages owed to it's employees.  If Walmart valued it's employees, then maybe the employees would value its customers.  I believe that Walmart creates it's own environment.

      1. profile image0
        PrettyPantherposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        I know two people who have worked at Wal-Mart, and I believe this to be true.  Through their policies, they treat their employees like children, so that initiative is quashed and group-think is rewarded.  This robs the intelligent and creative employees of any desire to extend themselves, so they end up either quitting or becoming a company drone like the rest.

        1. alternate poet profile image65
          alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          My experience of working for a government department is that many 'networking' drones get into positions of authority - and do not have the intelligence or ability to see past the 'I know best' attitude that drives Company policy at the low end where the money brains have little interest.

  8. alternate poet profile image65
    alternate poetposted 13 years ago

    It is 'our' fault - profit taking pushes the wages of the staff to the lowest possible level - and 'we' keep going back to buy regardless of the poor service that results.  If the store can't see any impact on profit either way, and the higher managers don't shop in their own 'economy' stores, what else would you expect.

    1. Obscure Divine profile image61
      Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Yeah-yeah, blame it on the DNA ya say...

      1. Shadesbreath profile image81
        Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Well, if IFD1253 and William R Wilson are right, and the scads of low paying jobs are employing scads of low paid workers, then businesses like Lowe's will A) have lots of workers for the pool, and B) lots of customers for whom price is the primary decision making criterion.  There's a cycle suggested there.  Not saying that's all of it (I'm with RMR that there's more to it)... but, it does seem to self-sustain in a way.

        1. Obscure Divine profile image61
          Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          Here I was, all this time, thinking I was right by saying communism sucks!  Just like I said Wal-Marx (no typo there) blows; I'm just too terse and/or concise for my own good, I suppose, no?

          1. Shadesbreath profile image81
            Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            Yes, no.  LOL.  Sort of.  Communism can't sustain itself.  It may prove that this is some sort of capitalist communism, and you could turn out to be a prophet though.  If you are a prophet, let me be one of the disciples or whatever system you set up.  I think that would kick ass.  We could draft a few others from around here and really come up with the best religion yet.  We're due anyway. Most of the current ones are old and have lasted almost as long as the ones that came before them.  Definately due for the next wave.

            1. Obscure Divine profile image61
              Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

              I favor anarchy; are you in???  There will be plenty of fishing and fun hunting trips galore, if ya get my drift, no?  big_smile

              1. Shadesbreath profile image81
                Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

                YES, YES, we will cull the herd!  lol.  I'm actually almost fine with the concept of anarchy, but I'd like about a two year heads up on when it starts.  tongue

                1. Obscure Divine profile image61
                  Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

                  You need 2 years?  Hell, give me 6 months and I'll load up on Sodium nitrate-based foods and ammunition, a few weapons of choice, and I'll be fine.   If I could only learn how to make my own alcoholic distillery in the process; damn it!  I have some kinks to work out, but regardless, we shall triump!  smile

                  1. Shadesbreath profile image81
                    Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

                    That's the sort of thing the other 18 months are for.

      2. alternate poet profile image65
        alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        you think profit taking is in the DNA ?

        1. Obscure Divine profile image61
          Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          Hell no; you must, by all of your "our" and "we" type of propaganda.  neutral

          1. alternate poet profile image65
            alternate poetposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            Oh - I was confused by your random response - now you mention propaganda, randomly, I see who you are.

            1. Obscure Divine profile image61
              Obscure Divineposted 13 years agoin reply to this

              How was my response random, since I directly replied to you?  hmm

  9. earnestshub profile image85
    earnestshubposted 13 years ago

    I find this thread very interesting. Is it just big retailers, bankers etc that suffer from this "I don't give a sh*t attitude.

    The reason I ask is because of the amazing service I receive from HP when I had a problem with a cheap printer I purchased.

    They did no less than three follow ups to ensure my complete satisfaction after they quickly fixed my problem. The best service I have ever had from a company, and they are pretty big I think. smile Needless to say, they have a customer for life! The service I received from Cannon was so bad I will never buy another product from them.

    1. dfager profile image61
      dfagerposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      We all have our price?

  10. Arthur Fontes profile image77
    Arthur Fontesposted 13 years ago

    I have worked for large franchise auto dealers and I have worked for small independent dealers.

    The customer service is much better at the lower level. The closer the customer is to the ultimate decision maker (the owner) the better service they will receive.

    I frequent private owned small business in my neighborhood as much as I can.

    1. profile image0
      consultjtrposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Wonderful point! I have been doing the same--frequenting local busineeses. I haven't gone broke by doing so, and I don't leave aggravated!

  11. Will Apse profile image88
    Will Apseposted 13 years ago

    Low skill, dead end jobs, which no one respects, breed alienation in any size of business.

    Who would willingly identify themselves as a burger flipper and take pride in their craft?

    Contempt for customers becomes a self defense mechanism.

    1. profile image0
      Audreveaposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I agree, if you don't give your staff a reason to feel respected and valued, they won't pass warm friendly feeling onto the customer. Also, as a society, we are VERY price motivated. They know you'll keep coming back for more crappy service as long as the price is right.

      Keeping prices low means cutting back on other things & the flow on effect is the way you end up being treated in the store.

  12. profile image0
    consultjtrposted 13 years ago

    Great idea for a hub! I personally think that, by the time a business has achieved mega-status, those involved in making it bigger are obsessed with just that--making it bigger...and bigger...and bigger...

    The powers that be of said mega-companies take it for granted that even as those wages they pay decrease in proportion to the company's growth (sorry folks, but that is exactly what happens more often than not), their overworked and undervalued staff will somehow, magically, be able and willing to work miracles. The reality is that even before the recession we were faced with skeleton crews in many retail settings, and this has only gotten worse. I agree with Audrevea, that they know we will keep coming back for the low prices and put up with the crappy service.

    Call me crazy, naive, what have you, but I really think that capitalism doesn't have to equal crappy service. If businesses made it their standard practice to compete with service over prices, then maybe everyone could win?

  13. LeanMan profile image81
    LeanManposted 13 years ago

    The crappy service in most of these places is not part of the corporate experience, on the whole most of the places mentioned compete in their marketplaces based on price, this means low wages. Low wages means people who can't find other work and far to often means low qualified idiots who don't know a fig about customer service and if they lose this job there are a 100 other burger joints looking for someone.. These people give the good staff a bad name and the company, but they would rather have someone than no one!

  14. Cagsil profile image73
    Cagsilposted 13 years ago

    Capitalism or Culture..Bad service and a question of cause...

    Capitalism isn't the cause. A company can get to be so big that it employs so many people from the workforce of people available, that it ends up bring in people who are generally not into customer service and do not care about the work they do.

    Thus, the size of the company and it's training methods hamper customer service, because the company is unable to deal with or weed out those who are only there for a paycheck.

    Bottom line: it's a culture issue. wink

  15. Flightkeeper profile image67
    Flightkeeperposted 13 years ago

    If you want horrific customer service look at the airline business.  If there was a definition of hell it would have to be an airline passenger whose flight was cancelled and had to be rebooked.  Having said that I want to qualify by saying that the airline business does a horrible job of hiring people: 1)they seem to pick people that don't really have the aptitude for the job and 2) they don't train the people that they do hire adequately.  I also find that half the passengers are ignorant when it comes to flying and don't know or observe the rules then blame the airline and its people.

    So it's 50-50 deal.

  16. Polly C profile image91
    Polly Cposted 13 years ago

    Well, I think that it is a cultural thing because no matter how large a company gets, the person who serves you is just one individual. Hopwever, sometimes when dealing with problems an individual's hands are tied because they have to adhere to the companies policies.  General service, in big supermarkets, should not really be hampered no matter if there are 10 employees or 10000.

    I have worked in public service industries before and for me the best point of the job was meeting and talking to different people. (The worst point was the pay, but I still like to think I was welcoming to people regardless.) If you genuinely like people then it is easy to be nice, and people are generally nice in return.

    Actually, I rarely come across bad service, so perhaps I'm just lucky! And the worst service I have encountered in recent years came from members of staff in a very small outlet.


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