Traditional Retailers are Getting Crushed by Amazon… Because They Suck

A recent retail experience left the author questioning why anyone would prefer the traditional brick and mortar retail experience.

The product I wished to purchase, for my son, was simple: ear protection.

Ideally, I was looking for headphones that reduced the noise generated by the two drums sets we have in our basement jam studio. When I give him lessons, he uses a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones that I was given as a birthday gift.

Those cost $300 bucks—he can handle a cheaper pair that works equally well and I don’t have to fret about him breaking my Bose headphones. And I want to teach him how to play drums… he wants to learn, which makes me a proud dad.

I’m not naïve about the damage drum playing can do to one’s hearing. I have used them religiously for over ten years, albeit I’ve been playing for 30 so I want my son to use them early in his playing days.

And good drummers, who play rock n’ roll, often play loud… REALLY LOUD! So, logic dictates I buy a pair of protective ear headphones for my son.

My first instinct was to check out Amazon. Not only did I review 10 similar products, but many of them also had 1,000+ reviews, which is helpful. We’re prime members, so I could have them shipped for free. Here’s what I found:

The reviews are helpful, but even more impressive, the retailer posted answers to the questions posed by buyers.

If I ordered them today, I could potentially have them by Sunday, this weekend. Not too shabby.

Here’s the fly in the ointment, or the bee in the headphones, per se. I want to support local retailers, which reciprocally add jobs to my local economy, add tax dollars to regional coffers and help local business owners make a living outside the corporate world. It can be more expensive, it takes time and gas to get around, but why not contribute within an economic model that pays local dividends on the backend?

My choice of retailer, I will admit, was questionable. Guitar Center does not have a good reputation for customer service. According to every guitarist I’ve ever jammed with, their return policy was drafted by the devil himself. Still, it was worth seeing what they had and this way I could get a feel for them, i.e. would headphones fit properly on my child’s head.

This would enable us to play loud and proud behind our drum sets, what’s not to love about that?

Traveling to Guitar Center on Route 17 in New Jersey, of course, involves dealing with a few sh*tfaced or over-medicated drivers, which is half the fun. Going into their store does provide one with a unique experience. So much fantastic equipment! Vinyl records (a new passion of mine) that are overpriced, a plethora of acoustic and electric guitars to plug in and try out; there is something special about physical stores.

When I inquired about headphones for kids, the somewhat knowledgeable salesperson pointed me to a rack of earplugs. In his defense, I asked for ear protection for kids, so I can’t discredit him. The earplugs were of no use however as they are fitted for adults.

I went back again and asked about headphones. He pointed toward two racks of high-end headphones, all plugged in, shiny and new, and tethered to music outlets. I reiterated my need for ear protection, not high-end audio equipment. They had nothing.

Guitar Center… has no headphones… that provide hearing protection for kids. Not even for adults, just foamy blobs that are overpriced and used to cram into adult-sized ears.

Another sh*tty brick and mortar retail experience at the hands of a retailer that claims to be the one-stop-shop for all your musical needs. This feels like a merry-go-round. Customers come in, they don’t have what he/she wants, the customer leaves.

The sad part about this is the following – we should exude no empathy for retailers who cannot provide a distinct service or cannot supply a positive consumer experience. The entire industry, those who pay billions in property taxes and support millions of jobs, either have to find a new way to conduct business or move out of the way to let a new retail model takeover.

That’s a tragedy, but it’s the reality of the world we live in today.

When parents are working hard to provide time and a foundation of success for their children, they should choose retailers that deliver what they need.

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