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The New Retail
Slavery-free supply chains?
Clerk: Good afternoon sir. My name is Rokesh, how may I help you today?
Customer: Oh, hi Rakesh, I'm just looking at these dress shirts here.
Clerk: Excuse me that's Rokesh.
Clerk: Rokesh is my name, not Rakesh. Rakesh is an Indian name.
Customer: I..I'm sorry. Heh, bad pronunciation. So Rokesh, which shirts would you recommend?
Clerk: Those that you are looking at for $35 are very popular..
Customer: ..but you would recommend those behind the counter which cost more.
Clerk: You are very perceptive sir. These fine shirts behind me are of the highest quality American linen.
Customer: And these out here?
Customer: Hmm. They look almost identical. I can't really tell the difference.
Clerk: Allow me to explain. Aside from the possibility that forced labor may or may not been used in China, the American shirt is made by English speaking Americans who were born and raised in this country and whose parents were citizens. They are union workers who get full benefits including premium & catastrophic health care, vision & dental flex care, 401k, 529 contribution matching, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, stock options, free day care, 4 weeks paid vacation, paid medical leave, pregnancy leave for both father and mother and 6 week paid sabbatical after 5 years of employment. They work in buildings that meet stringent environmental standards, get discount passes for public transportation and they have a company-sponsored bowling league.
Customer: So that's why it costs $85?
Clerk: No that's why it costs $65.
Customer: But you're selling it for $85, that's what the price tag says.
Clerk: Well that's our markup. I thought you were asking about our cost.
Customer: You mark up 20 bucks for a shirt?
Clerk: Well retailing is a sophisticated business, sir. This conversation is a perfect example, it's precisely what I was trained for. Our market research says that your particular demographic wants to know not only the surface qualities of the shirt but the conditions under which it was produced.
Customer: Yeah well fine. Today my particular demographic wants to know what shirts you have for about $50.
Clerk: Here are some fine Italian shirts that I can sell you for $50.
Customer: It looks exactly the same as the other two. What's the difference?
Clerk: Are you sure you want to know?
Customer: Of course I want to know Rokesh, that's why I asked.
Clerk: Well, I was just required to ask you first. These fine Italian shirts are made from imported Brazilian linen, hand sewn by Algerian expatriates who left France after the crackdown post-9/11. The buttons are Caribbean Mother of Pearl...
Customer: ..wait wait. You are required to ask me if I really want to know?
Clerk: Yes, of course sir.
Customer: Why is that?
Clerk: Well, sir it is our policy, as a full-service retailer to provide our customers with information sufficient to aid in their haberdashery decision making process. But according to our research, some of this information could be considered tiresome. So we allow you to opt-in.
Customer: Jesus. I'll just take a blue one.
Clerk: $55 plus tax, sir. Would you be interested in purchasing an extended warrantee?
Customer: Wait a minute. You said the Italian shirt was $50.
Clerk: Yes, but our service contract with the Liberian shipping merchants requires a $5 surcharge.
Customer: What service contract? What Liberian shipping merchants?
Clerk: The ones who delivered the buttons from the Dominican Republic to Rome. Under the WTO Treaty we are required to divulge this information, and of course that costs money.
Customer: Yeah money I don't have to spend. For chrissake it's just a shirt.
Clerk: No sir, I'm afraid it is not just a shirt. It is the end product of a sophisticated international supply chain regulated by several NGOs and delivered to this retail establishment for the sophisticated consumer.
Customer: That's a mouthful.
Clerk: Are you suggesting that I don't know what I'm talking about?
Customer: Well, if this is not just a shirt, I gather you're not just a clerk.
Clerk: I have my retail certification from Fashion Institute and I have a Master's degree in Marketing.
Customer: You have a master's and you work here?
Clerk: I like people, the hours are good, I don't have to lift more than 40 pounds if I don't want to...
Customer: I can't believe this conversation, and there's no way I'm going to pay an extra $5 bucks just to be informed about some Liberian longshoreman.
Clerk: There's no need to get upset, sir. You can always buy the...
Customer: Forget it. I'm not interested in any of your 'end-products'. I just have one question.
Customer: You're wearing a nice shirt, which one of them is it?
Clerk: Hell, I don't care about any of this fluff. I bought it at Wal-Mart.