The Viewpoints column by Ralph Shaffer ("How Much? Don't Ask: Pay Here Booths and Bar Codes Don't Always Make It Any Easier for Customers," Nov. 13) points out service and merchandising problems in retail stores. However, instead of denouncing automation in retailing as the cause, these problems really are part of the concept we know as mass merchandising.
The typical retail chain primarily uses automation to assist in mass merchandising. More than likely, very little thought has been given to how it can assist their customers.
Small retail businessmen have excellent memories. They know how they started and built their businesses. They understand that, in most cases, customer service is what will bring the customer back into the store. The small businessman needs to:
* ave all merchandise consistently priced.
* Have a breadth of merchandise that competes with mass merchandisers.
* Have a sufficient number of employees on the floor to assist the customer in making a purchase.
* Get that customer through the checkout line, so that he can go on his way and let the retailer help the next customer.
Yes, a well-defined computer system is an independent retailer's dream, but only when it provides convenience and service to his neighborhood customers.
The writer is a sales manager for a company that sells computer systems to retailers.