Get What You Need

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reader Dismuke forwards a link to an incredible story about a trendy grocery whose over-priced and under-stocked business failed -- and then blamed its former customers in a "farewell" note!

I reproduce the whole thing (minus the name of the store) below:

We featured local, high quality foods both raw and prepared. Unfortunately our products were expensive both at our cost and because we had a storefront to maintain at your cost as well. In some parts of the world people are accustomed to spending a higher percentage of their income on food, but in America we suffer from sticker shock because of Wal Mart [sic] and other discount vendors.

The reality is we pay for what we eat. Some are informed enough to know what that statement means. For those that don't I am not going to elaborate here[. T]here is plenty of information out there if you are looking.

[Name of Store] wants to say we had few customers that understood customer loyalty and its importance to our business. Thank you for those that came in regularly and bought what we had though it may not have been exactly what they wanted. If you came in only for baguettes, the occasional piece of cheese, the occasional dinner, or something specific you were very disappointed we did not have, you can not tell yourself you were a supporter of our market. We hope that people that say they support small local businesses actually do support small local businesses. You may not always get what you want but you will get what you need.

Thanks to our patrons and we are sorry we couldn't educate more people in the time we needed to for such a business to work.
This is one of the most striking examples of non-objective communication I have seen in a long time. Setting aside the whole issue of what its author could have possibly imagined accomplishing by posting it on the company website, this note offends on multiple levels.

Particularly egregious is the substitution of the following (in turns) for rational argument: presumption (The choice to save money could not possibly be good, a potential customer's full context be damned.), unearned guilt (If you don't agree with what I take to be true, you must be lazy.), and intimidation (If you took your business elsewhere at any time or for any reason, you obviously didn't really support our store.).

Overall, I'd characterize this note as essentially an argument from intimidation, to the extent that there is an attempt to extort agreement. What is really striking to me is its multi-pronged attack in that regard.

This indirectly reminds me of a paper I once heard critiqued in a class that, at some point, claimed something like, "There are two ways of dealing with other men: force and reason." This claim isn't true, as the lecturer rightly noted and as the above example eloquently shows. There are, in fact, numerous non-rational ways which don't involve force that people can and do use to attempt to deal with each other. Learn to recognize them as the warning flags that they are, and act accordingly.

Fortunately for this store's former customers, they are already in the process of adjusting their shopping habits: This note may not have been what this store's old customers wanted to hear, but it was, in a manner of speaking, what they needed to hear.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected a misquote: The phrase, "force and persuasion," has been corrected to read, "force and reason." My thanks to the commenter who called me out on my analysis of the incorrect quotation.


Pinker's Blog said...

The writer reminds me a lot of a real life James taggert don't you think?

Myrhaf said...

Whoever wrote that note belongs in government, not business.

Gus Van Horn said...




I'll take that as a joke.

I wouldn't want such a person in charge of anything, let alone in a government post.


kelleyn said...

I once shopped at a store that actually did this sort of thing while it was still open. The results were entirely predictable.

Gus Van Horn said...

Wow. Being where I am now, I'll file away a mental note to leave immediately if someone does that to my face.

Thanks for reminding me that, in this day and age, no matter how outrageous something may seem, somebody, somewhere will have probably topped it already.

Anonymous said...

>[T]here are two ways of dealing with other men: force and persuasion. This claim isn't true . . .

I respectfully disagree. While not effective in her attempt at persuasion for the reasons you list, the letter-writer didn’t employ force coerce an outcome.

Furthermore, consider the fate of a rational argument that falls upon deaf ears. Is that not persuasion because those who hear the argument are nevertheless un-persuaded by it.

Gus Van Horn said...


I misquoted, then, and will correct the post after this comment. I meant to say "force and reason," not "force and persuasion."

The author was definitely not engaging in rational persuasion.

Your comment on a rational argument that is not appreciated for whatever reason is well taken.