The Value of Knowledge

For years, Brenda and I have preferred shopping at Circuit City for our electronics desires — over competitor, Best Buy.  I’ve felt that their sales staff have always been more knowledgeable and more eager and skilled at serving customers.  However, this year, it seems to have flip-flopped.  Several weeks ago, I was forced to visit Best Buy with a gift card I’d received weeks earlier, and was surprised and pleased when sales people seemed to have answers, or quickly found other staff who did.  It was a surprisingly pleasant and educational experience.

Circuit City, on the other hand. seemed to have fallen with fewer salespeople, and more often than not, looks of confusion when I described what I wanted.  Twice, I asked for a product, and when it was clear that they didn’t know anything about the concept, insisted that they didn’t carry it — both of which, I found with a little extra looking.  I bought both at BB.

The whole story became clear this morning, when I ran across this (Circiut City’s Shares Tumble after Loss Widens) from the Washington Post, a story that was more succinctly described (Santa Clause Comes for Failed Business Executives) by Beat The Press commentator, Dean Baker.  Baker writes that…

The basic story is that last March, the wise men who run Circuit City came up with the brilliant idea of laying off their more senior salespeople, who get $14-$15 an hour, and replacing them with new hires who get around $9 an hour. It turns out that this move was not very good for business. One of the reasons that people go to a store like Circuit City, rather than buying things on the Internet, is that they want to be able to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson. Since Circuit City had laid off their knowledgeable salespeople, there was little reason to shop there.

Read more about the impact that this decision has had on business at CC.  It isn’t a pretty picture, nor does it speak well when vice presidents for the company are receiving million dollar retention bonuses.

But the point, to me, is what this story indicates about the value of knowledge and the ability to serve with knowledge.  I’m not sure how this might impact classrooms, beyond a nifty little anecdote to tuck away for a rainy instructional day.  I think, for me, it makes the point that the value of knowledge is not in the sake of the knowledge, but in how you can use it to serve — to accomplish goals.  It’s why it is so important that students learn in ways that are authentic to the knowledge, and, especially, that their mastery is assessed in ways that are authentic to the knowledge.

Two more pennies reaching for the end of another year.

6 thoughts on “The Value of Knowledge”

  1. I remember when they laid off the workers in March. Now that there stock is down 70% it seems like a no-brainer but at the time there were as many people coming on CNBC and saying that the more experienced workers would not be missed as saying it was a poor decision. There are other problems Circuit City has too besides this. However, you’re right in saying that to face internet competition stores need to offer something of value or you might as well order where it’s cheaper.

  2. I also saw this in March, and as a tech support person in a school district I knew this would kill Circuit City. Th low pay for support staff in education also leads to inexperienced and sometimes incompetent personnel.

    Businesses will never learn that your longest tenured people are your most knowledgeable. Instead of letting them go for cheap labor, they should work on keeping quality people. If you do proper evaluations you will weed out the people that shouldn’t be with the organization.

    As you have seen this is a bad situation and sets a bad example to our kids that hard work is repaid with a pink slip.

  3. I have to agree that BB is way better than CC in Hagerstown, MD! I have even found OfficeMax to be better than our local CC because of the knowledgeable people who work there!

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