Why Amazon Rules Retail

My wife’s ThinkPad, which runs Vista Business, would benefit from an upgrade to Windows 7. So over the weekend, I stopped by my local Micro Center to pick up a copy of Win 7 Professional. I had to scrounge around the store even to find a Windows display, but eventually I located a copy in a forlorn corner.

When I took it to the register, the price came up as $299. I told the cashier I wanted the upgrade version, not the full install. She looked at me blankly, then turned to a young man, apparently a supervisor of some sort. He asked me where I had found the package I had, and when I said in the software department, he said I’d have to go back and talk to someone there. If there had been anyone there I would have talked to them in the first place, so I left the software on the checkstand and headed home.

I’ll order a copy from Amazon this week. Somehow, the king of online retail manages to provide better customer service without any customer-facing employees then almost all brick-and-mortar stores. Which explains why Amazon is eating everyone’s lunch.

The other lesson from this little affair is that Microsoft’s Windows 7 marketing is built entirely around selling new PCs, not upgrades. There was no evidence that this Micro Center, a bustling store in suburban Rockville, Md., had received a penny in Microsoft cooperative marketing funds to push Win 7.

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