Dear John: I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Barnes & Noble layoffs.
My thoughts are actually simple: They need to either replace the managers or senior managers of the company. The stores I visit here in the Los Angeles and Sacramento areas have several things in common.
One, they are anti-customers. Many employees have noted that the managers would prefer if no customers ever purchased anything at a B&N store.
Second, magazine and book shelves are nearly empty or are stocked with old or outdated product. I just bought a magazine by accident. It was dated December 2016 and was placed in the “Just In” section of the magazines. Dummy me.
With a store and corporate mentality like that, no wonder it is going broke.
As a note, I have been a member of their frequent buyers program, where I pay $25 plus tax a year, since it began over 10 years ago. So I visit B&N stores throughout the US and have been surprised at the attitude of the company. J.K.
Dear J.K.: *To quote that Nobel laureate Bob Dylan; “The times they are a-changin’.”
And that’s true, but I think you happened on an important point. Times may change, but customers don’t. And when you go into a store — any store — you want to be met by friendly salespeople. Overly friendly might work even better.
But retailers’ problems go beyond that. In this day and age, it’s pretty easy to buy a book and a lot of other things online. And it’s so much more convenient.
So companies like Barnes & Noble need to find a way to entice people to actually come to their stores — unless the business plan is to send everyone online and do away with the real estate costs.
If that’s the case, then B&N has a bigger problem — anyone can sell books online.
Anyway, maybe the company will see this and hire you as a consultant. If it does, make sure you cash the checks quickly.
Dear John: Among the many causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse was the falseness of the economic figures the central government relied on for planning and policy.
Workers lied to their supervisors, who lied to their bosses, who lied to the party, who lied to the Central Committee, who lied to the Supreme Soviet, who then lied to whoever was at the top of the pile.
One of the reasons the US did not foresee the collapse of the USSR was that we were reading and putting as much faith in the same false reports that the Soviets were.
I am afraid that our government is doing the same thing, only this time we are drinking our own tainted bathwater. In some sectors, the economy has never recovered from the 2007-2008 collapse, and most probably never will.
A rising stock market is masking underlying weaknesses in the economy. While profits are good, I cannot figure out who is buying stuff that generates those profits. A.Z.
Dear A.Z.: I studied the Soviet Union a long time ago in grad school. What ultimately did that regime in was the fact that the lies got bolder and bolder. The country was claiming, for instance, to have huge grain crops, but the people couldn’t buy bread.
Eventually the lies become too obvious, and then things go blooey.
Our stock market? It’s a bubble. Enjoy it while it lasts. Get out before it bursts.