Management: Just Take the Money!

Sure, the economy's sour, but some stores' slumps are self-inflicted: they neglect the basics of retailing

A true story: not long ago, I walked into an electronics store in Manhattan Beach, Calif. It was the release day for a new computer system, and I had cash in my hand. The store didn't have the configuration I wanted, though, so I asked the salesman to call a sister store in nearby Woodland Hills and check its stock. The salesman blanched. "Are you crazy?" he said. "Have you ever tried to call our stores?"

This is more than just a cranky anecdote. It is a veritable Bruegel painting of inept retailing. It illustrates so many frustrating aspects of a...

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