The Depersonalization of Retail: Horrific Disappointment in the Sad Little Box

Editor’s note:  I think most of us have had an experience like this, so there’s an important message here for all retailers!      


A True Fable for Online Retailers: Do Better With Gifts

By Brody Ehrlich

On the eve of my birthday, not long ago, I came home to a sad little box on my doorstep.  All alone on the doorstep, it looked abandoned and cold.  It was a dirty brown box – the typical kind – one you would see in the back of millions of trucks, traveling thousands of miles every day, pumping billows of gray clouds into the air. The mundane brown box was banged up from its travels, the corners so squished I called it a “box” out of pity, sealed awkwardly with layers of clear tape wrapped around and around.

A suspicious package indeed.   

I wondered how it found its way to my doorstep.  Did it arrive in the gentle hands of a smiling delivery man? Or was it left without thought by a cold, emotionless drone?

Where did it come from and who sent it? I could not tell as I approached it. There was nothing on the outside that screamed, “It’s from ME!” I took an educated guess that it was a present of some sort – it was, after all, the eve of my birthday.  But what family member or friend would send a gift in such a cold, lonely box?

I figured that the warmth of the gift must be inside, hidden beneath the desolate exterior for its own protection. So I rushed to rip open the box in a moment of excitement, undaunted by the struggle of tearing through the layers and layers of tape.  When after minutes of exertion I finally succeeded in opening the box, my excitement was ripped away as I saw the gift, unwrapped, sitting in its original retail box.  Another sad little box– so much for a personal connection or effort – and still I did not know who would send such a gift.

Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw a stack of papers. Of course! A nice, thoughtful handwritten card would come with the gift. My elation returned as I picked up the papers – but it was short lived.  It was obviously computer generated fluff – they had no idea about my interests or desires.

The first page was from the retailer, asking me to buy more stuff. Stuff I do not use, nor would I ever need. The second was a coupon, so I could save 20%! Useful I suppose, but the fine print said it expired tomorrow, and it did not exactly make me feel special. On the third and final page, after minutes of work, I finally found out who had sent the little box. There were some nice words from my mother on the same page as the invoice, although I could not read it all because a printer had misaligned, cutting off the end of each line.  It was then that I knew it was no fault of the sender, for my mother would never send a gift if she knew it to be cold.

With a heavy heart I took the box inside, thankful at least that my mother had tried. But I spent the rest of my birthday with one thought I could not shake. Why would a retailer try to bring joy with just a sad little box on my doorstep?

brody ehrlich

About the Author

Brody Ehrlich is the General Manager of KeepTree, Inc., a video technology company where he oversees operations management, business development and strategic retail and brand partnerships. Before joining the company in 2011, he worked in television business and legal affairs with Big Media Holdings, LLC. Brody earned his bachelor’s degree in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University, has a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and is a member of the bar in New York and New Jersey.

Other Point of Sale news articles of interest:

Multichannel Retailing: An Effective Marketing Concept
KIOSK Information Systems Uniting with Taiwan Posiflex 
3 Strategies in the Retailer’s Bull’s-Eye through 2017
Why the Retail Industry Needs to be Thinking Differently about IT
Measuring On-Shelf Availability (OSA) Key to Merchandising Success Ahead of Labor Day
Mobile Platforms Save Time, Lend Insight for Retail
Super-Shoppers: 13 percent of shoppers account for 62 percent of Internet revenue

Image courtesy of Eric Lewis on Flickr Creative Commons: