Business 101

I’m pulling my head out of the ostrich-hole that is teaching in the fourth quarter to note a couple of business practices that have jumped out at me over the last few weeks. One was brilliant, and underhanded as Hell, while the other seemed like it should be left off the syllabus of Business 101.

My phone died. (Love live my phone!) It stopped charging, which was disappointing because it was only a month old. Fortunately, either the good people at Verizon or the insurance I paid for (the sales guy wasn’t clear which) allowed me to get a replacement.  All I had to do was wait another day for it to be shipped, on top of the day I had already been phoneless. Thirty-Six hours without texting capabilities in 2015 might be a violation of the eighth amendment, but I guess it’s too much to ask the Verizon store to carry a model that’s a whole month old.

So they shipped a new phone to me overnight, with the instructions that somebody would need to sign for it. Cool, sign me up.

Oh, except for that whole “somebody needs to sign for it” thing. I get home and compare schedules with my wife. Neither of us can take the day off.  Hmm, maybe I should call Verizon back and have it delivered to work.

Nope. No such luck, the order’s already in. But there’s a tracking number through FedEx, so maybe I can log in and change the address through them.

Nope. But I can request an evening delivery. Boom! Done! And all it costs is five dollars.

Wait a second! I have to pay them to deliver it later? Doesn’t that fly in the face of, I don’t know, every business practice ever? Most companies give you a discount if they’re late. And here’s FedEx doing the opposite. Next thing you know, Dominoes will start taking ten percent off if they deliver your pizza while it’s still hot.

But here’s the extra kicker. Keep in mind this was already an overnight delivery. I assume Verizon paid a pretty penny to make sure that phone was to me with little delay. In fact, I bet there was a “before 10:00 AM” stipulation. But then here I was paying to have it delivered later. I highly doubt that money was being funneled back to the purchaser. In fact, I doubt Verizon even knows that they wasted their money on getting it to me ASAP. What a brilliant business plan – have both the sender and the receiver pay an extra service fee.

Oh, and I ended up not even needing to sign for it. So maybe Verizon and FedEx were both in on it after all.

The second business decision came up a few weeks ago when I was searching for a Mother’s Day card.

As far as I know, there is only one Hallmark store in my general vicinity. There might be more, but I’m a guy, and the three or four times a year that I need a Hallmark, it’s where I go. One of those annual treks occurs in early May, prior to Mother’s Day. Of course, this Mother’s Day was more pronounced as it is my wife’s first as the mother of a human child.

When I drove up, the Hallmark store was dark, but a note was visible on the door from my vantage point in the parking lot. Sure that it must read something in the realm of “Back in 15 mins,” I absconded from my vehicle and approached said treatise. However, with each step, I felt a growing sense of dread. Something was not right. This did not appear to be a temporary abandonment. Pieces of display furniture were not in their normal place. And by normal, I mean not only where they had been in every previous visit to this establishment, where they are in every Hallmark store ever placed upon God’s green Earth. The tapered rows upon which the cards displayed themselves to the world were not set up in long parallels, but were off to the side, in clear violation of Hallmark Decree #1.

One step closer revealed those haphazard rows were empty. No merchandise whatsoever.

But hope, plus the desire to not have to find a new source of “I’m Sorry” cards and singing stuffed animals, sprang eternal. The sign still said “Hallmark.” There was a note on the door.

Just ignore that it’s not a temporary note, Wombat. And ignore the other man standing in front of it with slumped shoulders. Perhaps it is a map to the closest Hallmark, and he is a man with no sense of direction.

But alas, it was not. It was a note saying the Hallmark store had temporarily closed, but that it would be back “in a couple months under new management.”

I started formulating Plan B, while the slumped-shoulder guy stared through the dark plate-glass window. He shook his head, looked back at the sign, then into the empty store. His level of concentration implied he was wishing the store back into existence. If he just believed enough, and maybe clapped his hands, Tinkerbell might appear inside the store. Or at least a Tinkerbell Christmas ornament.

“Why would they-?” He started before the shaking of his head evidently cut the oxygen from his vocal cords. “Why?”

But the guy had a point. What exactly are they remodeling for? Is there a big Independence Day Fluffy Convention I don’t know about? I don’t think people send a lot of “Happy Labor Day” cards. Maybe the new owner thought all of those “Thanks for going through Labor” cards were for September, not May.

Come to think of it, what goes into a Hallmark remodel anyway? It shouldn’t take two months to move the Beanie Babies from table to shelf. I know cards are getting heavier now that they all play the theme song from Friends, but that shouldn’t necessitate new load-bearing racks.

Of course, the answer is probably that some entrepreneur with more money than sense is going to take the gift-wrap world by storm. The new owner wants to make it over in the manner he described in his MBA class.  I mean, that paper got a B-! That means it’s good! Why would he keep things as they were, even if only for a few weeks? Why would one want to build up capital in April and May before some off-season investment?

I don’t know the official Hallmark business plan, but it would seem to me that “be open before major card holidays” should be somewhere on it. Unless they’re going to be selling nachos after the redesign, they’re still going to need to sell cards. And by my count, it’s another six months before any more card holidays are coming along.

While Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day rank behind Christmas in card sales, I’m guessing they both beat out Grand-daddy Saturnalia in the number of cards bought by men. And dudes aren’t very creative when it comes to shopping for cute and sentimental. We pretty much find our local Hallmark store, then return semi-annually until the end of time just like the swallows to Capistrano.

What? The swallows don’t return anymore?

Okay, then like salmon swimming back upstream to-

Huh? You’re saying the California drought is stopping…

Okay, twice a year like… um… like paying property taxes.

Boom! Romance! Is it any wonder I need a Hallmark store?

I eventually left my companion staring through the window, and went to the grocery store, thanking fate that this was the first Mother’s Day that I could settle for a standard card. Sure, I would have preferred a special one that said “First Mother’s Day,” the type that can only be found at a Hallmark store, but grocery store beggars can’t be choosers. At least I didn’t have to travel the Earth for days upon end to find the obscure “From the Dog” cards of yesteryear.

Add a bouquet of flowers in place of whatever chocolate or plush addendum I would have purchased at Hallmark, and voila! Turns out I actually saved some money.

I wonder what I can spend it on.

Maybe I can delay a Fed Ex shipment back until Hallmark’s Grand Arbor Day Re-opening.

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