We need to get back to retail basics


Every day it seems I haggle with society.

I’m extremely frustrated with the lack of accountability in people.

I made a couple trips through a big box store in the area several times over the weekend and was disappointed in the event each and every time.

Automated checkouts, no smiles, prices on the rise while service takes a dive.

In a world where people seem to have lost the value of hard work but found the drive to not get up and go to work on time, it’s not surprising to see so much automation.

From checkouts to price checking to even pizza saucing. We’re getting so lazy. I was in Costco in Iowa City, and they have a machine that spins a pizza crust and a spout that drizzles pizza sauce onto the crust as the dough spins. There must be a perfect balance of sauce to crust for me, but this thing takes away the cook. The guy that hunches over a make-table and ladles on sauce to create the tomatoey base of any good pie is maybe a lost tradition.

Some of my favorite places are those you walk into and get hit with the smell of warm bread, garlic, and tomato sauce, a big oven behind a counter, and a brick motif. I love local pizza joints.

I watched in horror as this pipe pumped plump red sauce onto white crusts that were perfectly splatted by a heavy press. No spinning above the head, no stretching. Just a girl unwrapping a dough, slapping it on the press, and then laying it nicely in a pie plate and onto that “flying saucer.”

My niece looked at me and said, “that was somebody’s job in the past”.

Very astute from a 19-year-old girl.

No pizza for me.

The pharmacy my mother uses got frustrated with me Friday because they changed the auto refill process. I’m learning very quickly that seniors don’t like change. I’m learning because I’m now a senior… and I don’t much like change.

But for a 77-year-old who’s counting on the same process to get insulin filled, blood care medication, and new medications changing the way they are ordered is for one, daunting, and for another, dangerous.

I’ve since moved all her medications to a different pharmacy. That’s a hit to their bottom line, but that would be the last thing they are concerned about.

They couldn’t fill one of the prescriptions and I’m about accountability, so I made them transfer the script to another chain. Then when I got the medication, after waiting close to two hours, I went home and switched all her other scripts over, as well.

That will likely find its way to the leadership of the brand because I just don’t let things go.

We have to be better. We have to focus on service, speed, and efficiency. The leadership of our favorite brands needs to return to the model of motivated service, problem solving, and consistency.

We’re losing our faith in our favorite places to go. When we lose our faith, we gravitate to the Internet for our needs – and our spending.

We hope the sales tax gets here, but who knows. The state can’t give us a figure that represents the added revenue, and with Gov. Reynolds restructuring the state offices, we may never figure out what our cut of Internet sales tax is.

So then we’re relegated to continuing to shop locally, which is the way it should be. We love to shop locally, but the bigger brands are frustrating with their never-ending search for the ultimate profit line.

We can only hope at this point that things get better, but when you look at all the options for people to work and be successful and then see they aren’t – it gives the workforce a black eye and we’re back to where we started – people shopping from their couch.

I had a conversation with a stranger in the lobby of the pharmacy. He had been waiting close to an hour, but not as long as I had.

I let out a big sigh and I chuckled and told him we’re in the same boat. I told him I thought things had really slumped since COVID, but the only way to come out of it is to hold ownership responsible for their employees and services. When either of those two falters, there has to be accountability behind the action, so employees know the true value of what they are doing.

Speaking of true value of what we’re doing, for the first time in a couple years, I colored easter eggs with two youngsters Saturday night. It was joyous to watch and take in, but then it gets harder and harder with memories. Coloring eggs morphed into 20-second bursts of hide-and-seek when the dyes got boring.

But the true value is in the faces of these children, they just see egg dying as pure excitement. They don’t see the lines that were waited in, or the cost, or the time put in. They just see excitement – But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of the Pen City Current and can be reached at

Pen City Current, Opinion, Sunday column, Beside the Point, Charles Vandenberg, Chuck Vandenberg,


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