Just yesterday, my daughter called me to ask exactly what laptop I owned because she was on her way to Wal-Mart to buy one.
"Do you have a special reason for going to Wal-Mart?" I asked, thinking that maybe she was going to buy it with a WM credit card.
"No..." she said slowly. "Why?"
"Go to Best Buy," I said. "They can actually answer your questions there."
Recently Tall Son bought a laptop at Wal-Mart. But Tall Son knows a lot about computers and can understand those info little cards that they stick on the shelf that offers all the specs. Tall Son is the kind of person who can effectively buy a computer at Wal-Mart. He knows what he wants and doesn't need help.
Last month, I bought a computer at Best Buy. I had an ad in hand and a mission. I "knew" what I wanted. However, when the sales person asked me why I wanted that particular one and exactly what I do on a computer, he pointed out that the computer of my choice might not have sufficient memory. He could sell me more memory for $100, or he could sell me a computer that cost $100 more that already had that memory installed (same kind of computer, different model). (Lest you think that he was trying to beef up his commission, I quickly discovered he wasn't. I went to apply for credit so I could get the "6 months no interest" deal, and I told him I'd come back to see him when I was finished. He told me I could get the computer from anyone available because they didn't work on commission.)
So I paid $550 for my little computer instead of $450, and we're living happily ever after.
Today I came across an article that says my take on Best Buy was accurate. It's thriving despite the economic downturn precisely because it offers service.
Some things, like toothpaste, customers can find on their own. More complicated purchases often require the help of knowledgeable staff(and plenty of it to go around, not one expert with four people lined up to talk to her). And the company who provides that knowledgeable staff wins, period.
Someone should forward this article to Home Depot.