Mr. Designer opens his grocery store (long)

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Dave Williams

Oct 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM10/23/97

I may regret doing this, but I just couldn't resist. Please note that
although I more or less side with the purists with regard to the post that
prompted this response, I'm not really a purist myself, and not at all an
expert on HTML. Those seeking authoritative advice on HTML should consult
one of those sarcastic, self-appointed "experts" with the boring Web pages


Mr. Designer looked over the layout of the parking lot outside the store.
"Boring," he exclaimed. "It's just nothing but a bunch of straight lines,
all in a row. Where's the excitement, the pizazz?"

He decided to do some reading on parking lot design, and looked in the
official specs for ideas. But the official specs didn't tell him how to do
any cool tricks or special effects. It just had lots of boring information
on how wide to make the spaces (to allow different-sized vehicles), how to
avoid car crashes, and other boring stuff. It even said he should keep
those ugly blue spaces with the funny signs in front, even though anyone
with half an eye for visual design could see that they completely ruined
the aesthetic appeal of the parking lot.

"This just won't do!" Mr. D. said. "

Fortunately, he found a copy of "Designing Killer Parking Lots," which
explained all sorts of ways to "jazz up" the boring old parking lot.

First, he removed the blue-painted parking spaces with the funny signs,
and had a construction crew remove the unsightly ramp directly in front of
those spaces. He was pretty satisfied with the result, but something still
seemed a little bit off.

Then he realized the problem -- the spaces were too big, which threw
things out of proportion. By reducing the width and length of the spaces,
he was able to create a fully satisfying visual effect. He realized that
the new, narrower spaces would be too small for some cars, but decided that
almost all users of late-model cars would be able to fit, and he was
prepared to write off the losers who couldn't be bothered to buy a car to
fit his new spaces.

Then, to create even more visual interest, he redrew the lines in
criss-cross fashion. Then he closed off all the entrance/exits except one,
because he wanted all his shoppers to share a common experience, which he
would design for them.

Well, that made the parking lot exciting, all right. The air was filled
with the spirited cries of would-be shoppers driving in, going around in
circles, running into other cars, then driving out again. "What a hive of
bustling activity," cried Mr. D. "My 'killer' parking lot is a real

That task done, he then turned his sights to the inside of the store. As
with the outside, he wanted his shoppers to all share the same shopping
experience. He immediately noticed that the store had both shopping carts
and plastic shopping baskets. "This won't do," he said to himself. "How can
people spread the word about the shopping experience here if it's different
for everyone? I'll have to get rid of the baskets. After all, most people
never use those baskets anyway."

Looking more closely at the shopping carts, he noticed that each one had a
sound box on it, which enabled the listener to turn music on or off, and
adjust the volume. Yet another attempt to thwart his goal of a unified
shopping experience! He immediately removed the shopping-cart devices and
installed speakers throughout the store, playing Muzak recordings of
"Feelings," "Downtown" by Petula Clark, and other classics. "Everybody
loves Muzak," said Mr. D. "At least everybody I know does."

He then noticed that each aisle had a prominently displayed sign, using
plain, boring text to tell people what was in that aisle. "Boring!" cried
Mr. D., who replaced the sign with pictures of the various items. Soon, a
customer complained that he couldn't tell the difference (in the small
pictures on the far-away sign) between a box of breakfast cereal and box of
laundry detergent. "I'm trying to find the aisle that has what I'm looking
for, but the pictures way up there on the sign aren't much help," he said.

Mr. D berated him for not understanding the basic concepts of visual
design, and booted him out of the store. But then he stopped and reflected
on his former customer's words. "Wait a minute," Mr. D said. "He was trying
to head straight for what he wanted, without taking the time to look at all
the other wonderful things in my store. This just won't do!"

With that, he immediately tore down all of the signs, and installed guard
rails throughout the length of the store, forcing customers to travel from
the entrance to the exit by way of every aisle in the store (and, of
course, the checkout line). "As a designer, it's my job to shape and
control the experience of my customers," he said.

"Pardon me?" Mr. D. was shaken out of his reverie by a woman behind him,
who tapped him on the shoulder with her cane. "Where is the medicine aisle

"They're right down that aisle," the exasperated Mr. D. shouted. "What are
you, blind?"

"Actually, yes, I am." the lady replied.

"Then get out!" Mr. D. cried, now furious at this intrusion into his
immaculately clean, unified, shared shopping experience. "We don't serve
your kind here!"

After a while, Mr. D. noticed that he was getting some complaints from a
few disgruntled customers. Nothing major at first -- a few gripes about
minor fender-benders in the parking lot, a few malcontents who didn't want
to tour the entire store just to pick up a bag of potato chips -- but the
complaints kept coming, and finally Mr. D. decided to do something about

He went downtown to a local bar, the Ciwah Tavern. He had heard a lot of
people hung out there who were knowledgeable in the design of grocery
stores. "Maybe one of those guys can help me with my problem," he thought.

He walked through the door, and immediately heard a group of people
discussing different ways to improve traffic flow through parking lots.
"Aha!" he thought. "That's a good place to start. I'll ask them how I can
improve my parking lot."

He walked up and said, "Excuse me, but can anyone help me? I'm getting a
lot of car crashes in my parking lot. Other than that, though, it's a
really cool parking lot. The spaces are aligned in this really neat
criss-cross pattern, and making the spaces smaller really improved the
visual appeal."

"Well, that's you're problem right there," one of the regulars said. "If
your spaces are too small, and they're not lined up regularly, people are
going to crash. There's a book that tells you all about how to set up the
spaces in a parking lot."

"You mean that official specs book? The boring one that made the
riduculous claim that I should leave those ugly blue spaces with the signs?
And that ramp?"

"That's the one. Read it, learn it, live it. Use those principles to
design your parking lot, and I think your problems will go away. If there
are still problems, stop back in and I'll see if I can help you."

"But why can't you help me now? You're supposed to be the big expert, just
tell me how I can avoid the fender-benders without disrupting my lovely

"I just told you how, or at least where to find that information, which
you've apparently already read. Therefore, you already know the answer,
you're just not willing to accept it. If that's the case, I can't help

"You fascist!" Mr. D. yelled. "You bastards just want everyone to design
parking lots according to your so-called 'standards'! You don't want anyone
to be able to do anything creative or interesting!"

"At least our parking lots don't have broken headlights all over them,"
the guy replied.

"This is ridiculous," Mr. D. said. "I'm going to find someone else to help me."

He walked over to another group of people, who were discussing different
ways to create signs on the end of aisles. Even though Mr. D. didn't use
signs on his aisles, he figured these people might know something, and at
least they were talking about the inside of the building.

"Excuse me," he said. "I'm getting some complaints about the layout of my
store. I've designed it so that a shopper gets to see every aisle of the
store before they reach the checkout counter, and some people are
complaining about the long trip. How can I make the trip more cool and
exciting so they won't get bored and wish they were at the checkout?"

"What if they don't want to see the whole store? Shouldn't you allow for
that possibility," one woman asked.

The nerve! Here he was looking for answers, and getting questions instead!
Not just questions, but ignorant questions, completely disregarding the
time and effort he put into controlling the shopping experience for

"You don't understand," he said. "My business model calls for every
shopper to tour the entire store, so that they have the maximum exposure to
product, and the maximum opportunity to buy. I'm not looking to change my
whole approach to store layout, just seeking a few tips and tricks to spice
it up a bit."

"Let me ask you something," the woman said. "These people who have been
complaining. Do they ever come back? Do they ever spend any more money in
your store?"

"Hardly ever," Mr. D. said. "I usually never see them again ... oh ... I
get what you're saying. If they don't come back, I don't have to worry
about them. Heh, heh. Good riddance, right?"

"THWACK," came the sound, as short and sharp as a rifle shot. And then
another, and another: "THWACK, THWACK, THWACK."

Mr. D. looked over and saw the woman pounding her head against the oak
surface of the bar, over and over. What, he wondered, was she doing that

Dave Williams "A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the
IN Jersey ground. As a journalist, you are expected to know the difference." - UPI Stylebook

Gil Harvey

Oct 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM10/24/97

On Thu, 23 Oct 1997 14:36:30 -0500,
(Dave Williams) wrote:

Cute story......


>"Wait a minute," Mr. D said. "He was trying
>to head straight for what he wanted, without taking the time to look at all
>the other wonderful things in my store. This just won't do!"

This is a very common practice in the Retail industry,
there are people paid large salarys to design stores so each
customer sees as much merchadise as possible.

> He went downtown to a local bar, the Ciwah Tavern.

Wouldn't that be an interesting bar :-)

> "Let me ask you something," the woman said. "These people who have been
>complaining. Do they ever come back? Do they ever spend any more money in
>your store?"

Gee, I wonder if Sears or KMart is reading this......

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