LINDA MOORE: When Did Retail Go Casual?

Posted on July 29, 2009 by LCT Magazine

NOT DRESSED UP WITH PLACES TO GO: Whenever I am out and about and see a limousine, I check out the car. Unlike others who are looking for celebrities, I look at who built it, what it looks like, (scratches, dents, etc.), and what the chauffeur looks like. I went to the Toby Keith concert on Saturday and there were about 10 limos there. I did not see any chauffeurs wearing formal attire.
WHAT IS SUIT-ABLE? When did this change? When did it become acceptable to dress down for nights out on the town?
I believe this is an extremely bad practice that should stop. Don’t even tell me that the customers don’t want the chauffeur in a suit and tie — too stuffy. Too bad. They are paying for luxury service — Give it to them. We start graying the line here. When the chauffeur starts looking like the guys in the back, you give the appearance that it’s okay to hang with the client. It is not. The chauffeur is there to take them to and from their destinations safely while providing a luxury experience. They are not there to be their buddies. In fact, at the end of the night when passengers are not as “pretty” as when they are picked up, the chauffeur may need to be the voice of reason. Blurring the line is never good.
I believe that this too is adding to the commoditization of our industry. When luxury stops being luxury, how do you differentiate your service?
I will say that I did not recognize one company name which for me is very unusual. Another thought crossed my mind. When you are lowballing your prices, do you feel that you can lowball your standards? If you only charge $40 per hour for a limo, do you not make the chauffeur dress since he isn’t making enough? I don’t know if the companies that I saw did that so please don’t write me and say that you were there and that wasn’t the case. My point though is that retail is often where the bargains are had. Often the thought is “get the vehicle out the door” rather than have it sitting on a weekend night. Realize that it’s tough getting those prices back up. What client who paid $40 per hour will want to pay $100 next time? In an area where there is stiff competition, they will find someone who will do it for the $40. How do you get $100?
By providing professional chauffeurs in a suit and tie who create an exceptional experience. Do you really want the $40 an hour client? Look at the airlines. Once upon a time, only the rich could afford to fly. They dressed up to take a flight. Fast forward. Spirit Airlines charges $9 for some flights and teenagers wear pajamas on board. Service? No such thing with Spirit. It’s no frills.
For those of you who are moving in this direction, I suggest a name change — No-Frill Limousine Service.  Bubba will be your driver wearing his best Hawaiian shirt, and if it is a good day, deodorant and his teeth.
— Linda Moore, LCT East Coast Editor 
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