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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Marketing: Ending the dawn madness?

The recent trampling death of a Wal-mart worker by an early-morning crowd hungry for bargains is tragic -- nobody should die in order for person A to get a cheap TV ahead of person B. Should we do something about it?

In this op-ed, Aradhna Krishna of the U of M business school argues regulation is needed:

I offer the following thermometer of possible disaster.You get a score of 1 for each yes:

1. Is there a deal of the "First X number of people get deal" variety?

2. Are there great deals but no rain checks?

3. Have the great sales been massively advertised?

4. Does the store sale open at an unearthly hour?

5. Is it a big shopping day?

6. Is it a low-price store?

A score of 6 implies a high chance of possible disaster.

How does one prevent a disaster?

...Aradhna suggests the following list:

• Policy 1: Allow no deals of the "First X number of people get deal" variety to be done in person. They can be done by mail, e-mail or phone. [Even if the purpose is to get people into the store, people could fill out a card in the store any time during a reasonable period, with winners drawn out. This avoids the mad rush.]

• Policy 2: Advertised discounts should have forced rain checks for the day of the sale (product to be supplied within a reasonable period, e.g., before Christmas if it's advertised for Black Friday). [I think this is already the law in many states, although I'm not sure all products are covered because I work so heavily in consumer packaged goods.]
• Policy 3: Store hours should remain normal. [sleep deprivation doesn't improve anyone's judgment]

• Policy 4: Store employees should have training in "herd control," which includes training of all temporary workers hired for big days. [I think it's very important that department shift managers and above get trained so they can effectively act as leaders -- including knowing when to call in police.]