Look around. Where have all of the middlemen gone? Travel agencies, gone. Retailers, gone. Newpapers and Realtors, soon to be gone.
Last night I had an experience that only highlighted the death of the middleman. When I was traveling last week I grew tired of dealing with all of the power adapters I was carrying. The wad of cords has become the heaviest thing I carry.
At a board meeting Friday, a fellow board member had a Kensington power adapter with multiple connections to charge all of his stuff. They talked about how much easier the power adapter made their travel.
On my drive home from the airport Friday night I stopped by Comp USA to see if I could buy a new power adapter. Walking in the door, a gaggle of high school boys dressed in red Comp USA polo shirts giddily talked about CPU speeds, hardly noticing me. A couple of minutes later I finally caught the attention of one boy.
After asking him where I might find a Kensington power adapters I got a blank star with bewildered, “huh?” in return. I was on my own. After a half an hour of searching I found a display full of the adapters sandwiched between card tables set up with sale items. It took me another half an hour to find the right adapter for my stuff. The sales staff stood a few feet away now discussing how they were building their own computers and comparing notes. So much for service.
Upon arriving home I excitedly unpackaged the adapter only to find that none of the right connecters for my stuff came in the package, even though the packaging said it was included. The packaging did direct me to the Kensington website to get one free “Smart tip” or connecter that wasn’t in the package. The problem was I needed connecters for my computer and cell phone.
On the Kensington web site I couldn’t find the free connecter that the company had advertised on the package. As a consumer, I started to wonder if Kensington was trying to make it hard for me to find so they could save some money. Not only was I now going to have to spend more money to buy the right connecters, after some more research on the site, I realized I had purchased the wrong adapter!
So, now I have the wrong adapter with the wrong connecters and have wasted at least an hour of my time. To make matters worse, the next morning I started on a two week trip while my Kensington power adapter sits at home. Ironically, I’m sure the return period at Comp USA will end while I am on this trip. Now, I’m out $130 and have to start the process all over again.
I’ve reached two conclusions:
- It will be hard to get me back inside a Comp USA. This bad experience cost me too much time and too much money. With all of the disorganization, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be around for much longer anyway, unless they can adapt to the new paradigm of retailing (think Apple Store), going the way of other middlemen.
- Kensington is now guilty by association. Why does the company use a middleman that only makes a customer mad from the experience? While I really don’t want to write off the whole experience and start over, I’m having a hard time summoning the energy to try and explain to Kensington my problem. If their “free smart tips” promotion was difficult for me to find on their web site, I can only imagine how difficult it will be to deal with their customer service department and explain my problem.