liquidation = glorified rummage sale

During the first round of my company’s liquidation sales back in February, we had a customer come in to return an item, and during my chat with her she complained that the staff at one of the closing stores was ‘incredibly rude’ to her. I sympathized with her, of course, but I didn’t really take it to heart.

Now, it’s my store that’s closing. Today was the preparation day for the liquidation sale, and let me tell you one thing:

I totally get it now.

It’s a problem on both sides, really. Let me see if I can create a visual aid to help with this process.

The company, you see, ceased to exist the moment the sale was OK’d. From that point on, we’re essentially agents of the liquidation company, paid to just do one thing: move the merchandise out.

This comes at the expense of the old company’s customer service expectations and practices. And really, when you’re under a deadline every day to do this, that and the other, they’re the first things to go.

What doesn’t go, though, is the company’s logo, there on the price tags and the cashier’s station and the receipts. This is what the customer sees, and everything the logo encompasses (really, encompassed). That means they expect the same detailed attention and accessibility to information that they did just a day ago.

It’s hard, unfortunately, to find the location of a specific item, when the access to the Web interface or the internal computer database is turned off. So, the only thing we can do is direct the people to the most likely location of the item. We would help, but we are expected to keep a clean work area, and the amount of items left behind by people who like to window shop but not buy is mountainous.

There’s also the issue of actually buying the items. Return policies are nonexistent in liquidation sales, and this should be common sense, but some people will still get mad when we won’t return something that was sold. It was a problem when we weren’t all going out of business, because the crooked customers would just come right to another location trying to return stuff hoping we wouldn’t notice. But now, its all of us, and that may not be as big of an issue this go around.

There is a lot of swank going on about how liquidators deliberately inflate prices on items and then mark down the inflated price. People do not seem to realize that in most cases, items a store once offered at X-price was not offered at retail, but at a discount that was passed on when the vendor sold them to the store at a discount. In order to maximize the profit needed to pay back as much of a bankrupt store’s bills as possible, the markdowns have to be taken off of the retail price. So I do not want to hear anyone accuse my store of this, as the retail price is so often printed on the back of the damn item!

But the biggest obstacle that I can already see coming with this liquidation is that a lot of customers are going to expect to haggle, debate things like damage, or any number of other niche requests and demands. It’s impossible. Again, the liquidator’s job is to get it all done as expeditiously as possible. Speed does not equal slow down, and the employees are going to have to work at a very steady pace. It’s one of those cases where we are going to have to let the computer have the final say: the registers will be auto-programmed to give the best deal, and that’s what will be given. We will not get to offer damage discounts on top of that, and checks won’t be allowed to be written. It’s gotta move fast. If enough people just let the machine do the work (something I hate to admit) in this case, then everyone will be happy.

Mostly, I really want this message to come across: It makes a person look incredibly shallow and bitchy to piss and moan about what amounts to a few cents’ discrepancy here, or the lack of our ability to drop everything we’re doing, when weighed against the fact that at this moment, across the country, thousands upon thousands of people are watching their jobs tick away with no guarantee of a quick reprieve. Have a little consideration for the fact that these people have families and lives that are now heavily disrupted by the failure of this store, and take comfort in the fact that you are getting a better deal than they certainly are.

…and thanks for shopping with us.

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