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Thursday, July 1, 2010

My KGB file starts out like this,

"I am a lightbulb."

That is the opening line in my KGB file.

Oh yes, I have my spy stories too. Nothing intentional. Just the usual Cold War goofiness about being followed and watched and having rooms and phones bugged. And a couple of incidents that might make it, albeit altered, into the novel.

But of course I have been thinking of spies again this week. And what a crazy business that is!

And while others have been suggesting that the Russian spies could have discovered everything they wanted to know on the internet, it has occurred to me: there is an organization or two that they would do well to infiltrate.

Walmart. God help us.

And Nordstrom.

Moscow currently has the highest cost of living in the world. It is listed on a reliable cost of living index as being 50% higher than that of New York. Geneva Switzerland was only ten percent above New York, in fourth place and Tokyo was up there in the top three.

But the average Moscovite is not getting any value for their outlay. The place is still a wreck.

What they need to learn is how to produce and sell retail goods for a reasonable price.

Let it here be said, for the record, that I hate Walmart. For a number of reasons that have all to do with fairness and justice. So I really don't want Russia to emulate them. Not exactly. But perhaps some spies could figure out a better way to do it without ruining the small-time producers they court and co-op and then ditch, and the small town stores that get run out of business.

Heaven only knows, the Russians need to figure out how to get reasonable amounts of consumer goods into the hands, and apartments, of reasonable numbers of people.

And then, while they're at it, I'm thinking customer service lessons would be in order. And who does that better than Nordstrom? Thank you notes are a bit over the top but, still, I appreciate being appreciated. And the live piano is a nice touch.

For that matter, Macy's, Penney's, and Sear's would do well to take lessons from Nordstrom too. For example, when a customer is standing with a large number of clothes, the worker-person might consider asking if they need help instead of continuing a conversation with their co-worker about the restaurant they tried last night for dinner. Really. Or talking on the phone with their sister. I mean, really.

That is pretty Soviet-era-ish. One counted on rude and inattentive clerks in Soviet-era Eastern Europe. You felt honored, shocked and surprised to be waited on. This has changed entirely in Poland. It is a very customer friendly environment. But not so much in Russia. Or the local Macy's.

So, whatever they do, I recommend the neighborhood spies skip that place.

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