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Self-Service, Part 1

Does It Have to be a Juki?

You know the scene, I am sure. You are in a store and can’t find something. You look for a salesperson. Finally, you find a GROUP of sales people, deeply engaged in conversation. Perhaps one of them even sees you and that you clearly need help. Apparently, however, their conversation is more important than helping you.

It’s a form of customer service perhaps better called SELF SERVICE, but not the type of self-service that many of us like, where money can be saved and the check out process expedited. This type of self-service is self-serving.
This type of self-service plays out in many ways, but the underlying operative is always the same – placing the needs of the business or salesperson ahead of the customer. Selling you what they have, even if it is something you don’t want or need. Upselling.

In New York City, purchasing goods from suppliers to the trade often has its own flavor – one that I hate the taste of. It’s quite simple and goes something like this:
You enter a business establishment knowing exactly what you want. It may be goods you have purchased for years. However, asking for what you want is followed by a question, something like – what are you making? This may seem extra helpful, trying to understand your needs, etc. But it’s not. Their question is really code for: How can I sell this person something I have rather than what they want. Infuriating if you know what you need. If you persist and are singular in your demand, a vendor will often resort to the more direct: Does it have to be ______ ?

In the 1980s, I was shopping for a commercial sewing machine. Every sewing factory I had been in was filled with Juki sewing machines – the industrial workhorse of the garment industry. Everyone I spoke to said that the Juki was the machine to get. So, I went to the sewing machine district – two city blocks in Manhattan (25th and 26th Street between 6th and 7th avenues) known for its innumerable dealers of industrial sewing machine dealers, parts suppliers, and service establishments. I recall an exchange with one dealer who apparently was frustrated with my insistence on Juki, which he either did not have or perhaps he did have but had something else he chose to unload on me. I should have seen his response coming when I asked for a Juki: “Does it have to be a Juki?” he said in a thick New York accent.
Had I been more experienced, wiser, and BLUNT, I would have told him, “No. It does not HAVE to be a Juki. But that is what I want. I’m the customer. Are you here to serve me or yourself?” I did remain steadfast and found a Juki. I never used it much and sold it some years later.

Recently, while purchasing goods on 39th Street in the Garment District, I spotted the machine in today’s photo. So perfect, a Juki sitting alone on the street beckoning me. “Come on,” it was saying. “Take a photo. You already have the story.” Yes, I had no choice. Because there was a second part to the story too, one that does not end with Does it Have to Be a Juki? :)

Related Posts: Do the Right Thing 2, Do the Right Thing, War Against Disservice

One Response to Self-Service, Part 1

  1. Jaime Batista says:

    You are VERY right–JUKI was the machine for industrial use…In my spare time (winter) I used to do car and boat uphostery as well as motorcycle seats and I actually had two of those machines…Long gone now, but I still see one at my friend’s shop…


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