Service is a major goal at two other major retail chains -- Best Buy and Nordstrom. As a typical male, I am more interested in electronic gadgets than in clothing, but both of these stores, in different ways, put the customer first. At Nordstrom, one gets the impression that one is dealing with salespeople who take pride in their work, not people who are counting the hours until they leave work. And as one who knows a fair amount about consumer electronics, I always found it depressing when I realized that I knew more about some of the products being sold than a salesman did. Not so at Best Buy, where the staff is usually as knowledgeable as they are friendly. That is a fine achievement for a chain in cutthroat competition with so many others.
My praise is not only for retail operations, as much as I want them to succeed in the age of Internet shopping. Thus, I cannot omit Amazon.com. I have ordered hundreds, perhaps over a thousand, products from Amazon, and never once did an order arrive late, damaged or incorrectly packed. Moreover, I put more faith in many of the Amazon book reviewers than I do in most professional book reviewers. I am very impressed by the high level of knowledge and insights expressed by many "ordinary" people who review books at Amazon.
Being 6 feet, 4 inches tall, I have to buy "tall man" clothes and, frankly, most "big and tall man" stores either don't have much quality or much variety (normal-sized stores like Brooks Brothers that have both quality and variety sell few or no shirts with 38-inch sleeves). Two online stores help solve that problem: Lands End and Jos. A. Bank. When Sears purchased Lands End, I was afraid that quality and service would deteriorate. If anything, they have gotten better.
Finally, a word about my great passion: music. I cannot find the words to effectively express my gratitude to the great composers and performers for all the joy they have given me since I was a teenager and discovered classical music at a $1 Handel concert at Carnegie Hall.
Given my love for music -- I periodically conduct orchestras -- I have always wanted the best possible music reproduction in my own home. In high school, I skipped lunches for months in order to pay for the best stereo system I could buy. I could never afford what I now own if I hadn't been "trading up" for 40 years. But what I now hear in my home actually comes close to what I hear, and what I experience emotionally, when I am conducting.
So, a heartfelt thank you to all those in the high-end stereo industry who labor -- usually for minimal profits, especially in this generation, which seems uninterested in hearing music as if it were live -- to create magnificent reproducers of music. In particular, I want to cite MBL, the German company that makes the extraordinary electronics I own, and YG Acoustics, the Denver-based company that makes the finest speakers I have ever heard -- and I have heard many in my home, at dealers and at audio shows. There are many excellent speakers, but YG's transcend speakers; they are conduits of music. After 40 years, the veil over home music is almost gone.
This has also been made possible in part thanks to a dealer, Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon, whom I was fortunate enough to find a few years ago. His knowledge of home musical equipment is as great as his love of music, and he makes repeated house calls -- even after a customer has purchased equipment -- to ensure the best possible sound.
At a time when society is saturated with neo-Marxist rhetoric vilifying the words "companies" and "businessmen," it is a joy to salute some of those companies and businessmen who have added so much to my life and that of so many others. Happy New Year to all of you.
Baucus & Hatch Grill IRS Commissioners Who Don't Know Anything: "That's A Lie By Omission" | Greg Hengler