An unknown Indian town – Late night 11 PM
A lean middle age man, covered in a thick woolen blue jerkin is busily inspecting the fruits and veggies that are spread all over the cold storage. It’s a massive unit housing almost 3 dozen varieties of fruits and vegetables and each section populated with at least 1000 kilograms of stock. The guy carried a pile of a checklist and is marking a pass or fail notion against each item as he goes through the inspection. Quietly along with him, a badge on his chest, which is bordered in warm blue color and framed white in most of the inside part of it was busy in the inspection too. It is proudly catering its identity as “SUBHASH” in capitals accompanied with a symbol similar to a sunflower.”UNIT SUPERVISOR” is the most dominating amongst the entire badge.
Suddenly the so-called Subhash spotted something suspicious in the stock and starts yelling in an authoritative voice “Prasad, You idiot prasad. Where are you?”
A teenage ‘stock keeper’ badge that is very pale in comparison with the “UNIT SUPERVISOR” came in rushing, withholding more paler teenage bud “Suman”. “Where is Prasad, by right he should be here” pressed the voice. “Sir, he is been working since morning, I asked him to leave, since I’m around till close of the day. Most of the preparations for tomorrow’s opening is done” replied Suman in a convincing tone.
“My foot, look at these Newzealand Kiwi’s. The glossiness of the fruits is lost, just a few weeks back we brought this from our City branch, which was there for months without any trace of fuzz.” Quickly the supervisor glares at the storage temperature and becomes more furious. “You idiots who set this mark? the temperature is way above the prescribed level. Who did this ?? I’m gonna kill you all”
In the span of the furious pause Suman opens up in a low voice “Sir, We were not given thick woolen clothes like people of your grade. It is very tough to get around here without that kind of warm clothing. I understand we fall under lower cadre. Still, as it was bit unbearable I tripped up the temperature just for a while. Ah!! I total forgot about that when I saw you walking in.”
Subhash in a calm note “Stock inspection is done here, tone down the temperature to the usual levels now. Let’s get out of the cold storage“. The boy obliges. Before leaving the unit Subhash inquires, “How about the temperature meat storage unit ?” It is untouched, no threats sir! Suman responds.
As this scene was getting orchestrated, two pairs of eyes were secretly observing this through the warm layers of spinach stock inside the unit. Once both the guys are out, the 9-year-old boy Achu provokes his pet deer Chanchal immediately. “Chanchal! Chanchal! let’s go. This place looks very bizarre. wack! these stupid fruits and veggies stay here for months ?? Poor folks, they can’t escape from these guys, they can’t walk. But we can. ha! ha!” Achu laughs at these life holding specimens and dashes out “We can be happy and warm outside. I didn’t like this chillness”.
As he opens up the unit’s door, both Chanchal and Achu are space struck. As far as their eyes can see, it’s filled with loaves of packed food. The goodies are housed in organized lanes, each lane is further divided into a series of racks. Each rack is named and stuck with price bars on its face. That kind of visual and experience is the first time for Achu and Chanchal. Usually, Achu’s parents never take him for any supermarket’s or malls. Slowly both come out of the shock.
Immediately starts to run all around the lanes, stumbles upon each other, rips of all the packs of goodies, tastes them in a wild spree. To add up to their joy, a wheeled shopping cart was spotted on their way. Achu immediately jumps into it, Chanchal tries to fit in. As it couldn’t, they play their turns in and out for quite some time. The buds are tired now. cans of drinks standing in very disciplined rows inside the store refrigerator grabbed their immediate attention.
Both try to taste as much of the variety of drinks they can. Chanchal is overwhelmed with the affection from her master. Considering the difficulty the deer can face, Achu is smart enough to pour down Chanchal’s share of drinks on a fancy vessel, which he grabbed inside the store.
Suddenly they hear a guiding voice from Subash “Look, Suman ! you are just a week old of work. I need to say this, Customers attention is on price savings. Management attention is on cost savings, my attention is on Asset savings. Noone is here to hear the word loss. Take good care of yourself. Securing the essentials would be wise than complaining and messing up. Tomorrow is the inauguration of our store, this is 100th branch in the country. Beleive me, tomorrow morning! it’s going to be a feast. You gonna see the real craziness of public who are after fancy discounts. To add up to that madness a popular lady film star would be out there. I will take you through a typical customer’s journey in the store” As they walk away, Chanchal and Achu leave the shopping cart, follows them quietly in hidden mode.
Subhash takes Suman to the entrance of the story “The very first sight of the customer’s into the store is a sort of promise you evoke in them. It should linger and fill their hopes. They should feel like “Yes, this is it. we arrived at the best place”. As we do in all our stores, we fill the entrance area with lots of discounted stocks. “Only for today” “10% off on 2nd buying piece, 20% off on the 3rd” “Buy 2 Get 4” You name it all the best crowd pullers display hoardings gets in here.
Officially entry into unplanned purchase zone of a customer starts here. Majority of the inflow never carries a discrete shopping list nor any concrete buying plan. If someone skips through this initial lingering, consider the chances of trapping that guy would be slim. But not completely void though.”
Achu quietly smiles listening to this and whispers into Chanchal’s ears “Now, I understand. Why mom used to bring 4 packets of cookies I never asked for, but never brings the one I chose to”
They move on to the cosmetics, personal hygiene section before Subhash explains “Suman speaks up in an observative tone. Sir, I have this thought for years now. Look at the pack of this most popular gel toothpaste in red pack. ‘Red hot offer’ 3X150g pack for a price of 2′ save 20% blah blah blah’. For a family of 4, by the time they use up half of this pack, they hit the expiry date. I see this is true with most of the offers we put on. Don’t they calculate this ?? ”
The supervisor laughs of loud and responds in a joyful tone “You got it, boy! that’s the trick. Mostly they don’t. Even they do, greed would take over their rational space. As I said, consumer buying potential is the cashing point. The promise starts with the film star who did the vibrant Ad film for this paste. Store runners like us are just a tip of the iceberg in this total phenomena. No endorser, No wealthy manufacturer uses these pastes or soaps they endorse, they never drink the carbonated colored drinks as they pretend to in the commercials. They know what it does to their health.
Point is, here no one listens to the parents, but if Dhoni promotes as ‘boost is the secret of my energy’ they blindly follow. You know why? these kids parents believed it too when Sachin said it so. Neither Sachin nor Dhoni drinks Boost in real.”
Achu gets shocked to these comments, especially on boost ” I think this guy lies, I bet at least Kohli would be drinking it. I like it. Bet, you would like it too Chanchal”
Subhash continues “What do you say for Ready to eat products then?? that is the second most sold category. The public is more keen to accomplish everything quick, they want the instant results. Instant Sambhar, Instant breakfast, Instant drinks, the damage is instant too. It is more to do with the increase of restlessness in the minds. So the publicity and endorsement usually minimal in this category. If you observe the offers and discounts are applied to these ready to ear products only when the expiry of the product is chasing up soon.”
Both slowly walks into the Instant noodles section. One more trick I would like to share Suman “We consciously cap the number of pieces for sale per customer for popular products. This was the lesson learned when we opened up the Sobha Nagar branch. We put up 1 for 1 sale on Maggi noodles on the first day. In an odd one hour, the total stock was sold out. When we revoked the offer from the next day, Maggi stock never moved for few weeks. Later we realized, local shopkeepers got hold of all the stock on the day 1 and started selling the product for much lesser than what we were from day 2. obviously customers started to get that from them as the price was relatively less. Hence for the popular ones we cap the sale pieces per person.”
Finally, they reach the billing section and Subhash continues, “This is the most crucial part of the total customer’s journey. We make the billing time as delayed as possible. The basic idea here is….flash the payment method offers. Seduce the kids one last time with goodies, kinder joy is the best winner out of all. Sell membership cards and sow the seeds of benefits that can be redeemed with purchase points.” This is it, if you understand and start following all these tips and tricks, you are here to stay.”
Except for kinder joy, nothing was a curious point in the off late discussion between those storekeepers. Achu almost fell asleep, the clock is ticking 12. Slowly the storekeepers groove out of the store and lock the entrance. suddenly Achu realizes they are trapped inside. There was no panic, the pet deer Chanchal is already in its plane of dreams, Achu too drifts slowly into sleep.
Flashy lights, loud crowd cheers woke up both the buds in the next morning. As it was said last night, A popular lady film star is into the act of inauguration at the entrance of the store. In a high dose of a giggle, she is cutting down the bright purple ribbon tied to the entrance gate. The crowd rushes into the store madly, in fact, the customer journey was almost like what the storekeepers were discussing last night. To Achu’s shock, his father was amongst the first customers who came in rushing to grab as much as he can on the day1. A weeping voice inside Achu utters “Seducing offers and discounts tricked you too poor daddy“.
But it is a surprise reunion, he never thought he would see his father again till he crosses 7 traps and he is just into the fourth one of the course. In delight, he runs towards his father, in that vibrancy, the circular maze toy hanging around in his trouser pocket dislodges, to his misfortune the three balls positions itself into the center of the toy. Boom! Achu and Chanchal disappear….
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