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The Begining of the End….

I never expected that their famous speakers would ever be within the limited reach of my wallet. Time, however, has been kind to me and I am now, by most measures, affluent. I own several products by this company.

Not too long ago I witnessed what I believe signifies the beginning of the end of a great brand. Since my impoverished youth I always aspired to own some of this company's products. They make the finest of audio equipment. I never expected that their famous speakers would ever be within the limited reach of my wallet. Time, however, has been kind to me and I am now, by most measures, affluent. I own several products by this company. Their performance is everything that I ever hoped it would be. It's too bad that the quality slide that ends in mediocrity has begun.

Am I clairvoyant? That would certainly come in handy but is hardly necessary in this case. Then how do I know? It's simple. I purchased one of their stereo systems as a gift. I bought it at one of their company stores. Two days later I was in Sam's Club to pick up a prescription for my mother and I saw the exact same system for sale for two hundred dollars less than I had paid.

I don't lament my foregone opportunity to save two hundred dollars. I avoid shopping at Sam's and Wal-Mart. I don't like the experience of shopping at their stores and the lure of low prices is not sufficiently compelling to me to cause me to put up with the many downsides of "big box" retail shopping.

I also am not unhappy with the company store at the upscale mall where I purchased the stereo. They provided excellent service. Their staff was knowledgeable and courteous. They did all of the little things that I expect when I buy good stuff.

My complaint is with this elite manufacturer who has chosen to distribute through Wal-Mart. I know that it's only a matter of time before this decision destroys the quality of their products…and that's a real loss. The one overriding ethic of Wal-Mart is low prices. That's what they do and they do it well. In order to offer low pricing they continually squeeze their vendors for better deals. If the vendor does not lower its price to Wal-Mart every year they lose the account. Sooner or later the manufacturer must lower the quality of its product in order to meet the low price objective. There is no other way to stay in business. Of course, at that point profits begin to erode and customers who had come to expect (and were willing to pay for) high quality begin to spend their money elsewhere. The brand dies and a once admired product line becomes just another commodity. It's sort of sad, but the laws of economics are remorseless.

I wish to make no statement here about the unnamed brand in question, Wal-Mart, or anyone else's shopping habits. My only point is that you can be cheap or you can be good, but you can't be both. The next time you are tempted to cut your price to make a sale, realize that you are about to make a decision that reaches far beyond just this one deal.

Jeremy Rawitz, president of Sales Strategy Corp., has been a corporate

trainer, mentor and coach for the past 15years. He can be reached at [email protected]

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