Thursday, March 20, 2008

Symptomology

Well, today I've had an unfortunate experience with one of the symptoms of "What's wrong with our economy"--my local John Deere dealer is closing. The trucks pulled up this morning and loaded up all the mowers, tractors and other Deere-branded machinery and left. By the time I got off work and got there, I was able to buy some filters.

To be honest, this isn't a killer for me. Sure, I just bought a riding mower from them a few weeks ago, and I'm more than a bit ticked that the good folks who worked there, who I was counting on for service and sales of various other lawn maintenance goodies, are going to be gone in a very few days. They found out this morning at 8 AM that they were out of work. I feel for them--been there, done that. But I can't blame them--they were as blind-sided as their customers.

Mostly, I blame a certain large company, who due to their overly-litigious nature must remain anonymous. This company, so the story goes, has bought up nearly every John Deere dealer in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Those that they can't buy, like my local dealer, well, they just put enough pressure on Deere that they lose their dealerships. "Hey, we're a big customer, and this little joker over here, he's undercutting list prices, he's destroying the value of the brand, YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS OR WE WALK!"

But I also blame John Deere, who allow themselves to be manipulated into doing the Anonymous Large Company's dirty work for them. I expect better from companies I do business with.

When I arrived, there was a small gathering of local farmers, most of who are "Deere men" from way back. Long-time, loyal Deere customers who own $50,000 tractors and $200,000 combines. They are...displeased. Most of the expect the Anonymous Large Company to have a location open in the area soon. They aren't happy with the prospect of doing business with the them, but they have no choice. They can't afford to replace all that expensive farm equipment just because the Anonymous Large Company plays dirty.

This is the second time in a couple of years I've seen this. The John Deere dealership in the town where I work suffered this exact fate.

This seems to be the fate of the individual who owns a small business these days. The big boys just can't stand it if they have to compete--so the competition must go. And then we have a nice corporate monoculture. The downside of this is if that monoculture ever gets sick and dies, there goes every John Deere dealer in 3 states.

Oh, and John Deere? The sales of those lawn maintenance goodies I was counting my dealer for? Well, I'll still be buying them, but they won't be John Deere Green.

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