Sometimes it’s important to respect traditions and follow conventional morality even when it doesn’t seem to make logical sense on the surface. Consider, for example, Macy’s recent travails.

The retail giant bought numerous other stores in the past couple of years and decided to change all their names to Macy’s, to strengthen the corporate identity. Macy’s also reduced service and merchandise quality at the stores.

That’s exactly the type of crude corporate behavior one sees in old movies (and many new ones as well).

The effort backfired badly.

Sales are down, and Macy’s investment rating has been lowered.

As the Chicago Tribune reports,

The shock of Federated Department Stores CEO Terry Lundgren’s decision to eliminate beloved names such as Marshall Field’s, Kaufmann’s and Famous-Barr is proving a more difficult and time-consuming fight than expected for Macy’s owner, wrote analyst Dana Cohen at Banc of America Securities.

Cohen estimated that sales plunged 11 percent in November from a year earlier at Field’s and the other former May department stores, all now Macy’s.

Another analyst, Carol Levenson of Gimme Credit, has put the stores’ sales decline at anywhere from 20 percent to more than 30 percent for the three months that ended Oct. 28. . . .

Cohen cited a "sharp reduction" in the cadence of promotions at the new Macy’s stores; "dramatic" changes in merchandise assortments; a lack of compelling marketing, and "not enough change in the store environment and service levels."

"Federated tried to do too much too quickly" at Field’s and the other department store chains previously owned by May Department Stores, Cohen wrote in a report to investors.

Chicagoans are increasingly bitter at what they see as lower levels of merchandise and customer service at Macy’s compared with Field’s.

Cohen sees no upturn in the fortunes of the newly minted Macy’s stores until spring at the earliest, but she believes Federated’s executives will turn things around eventually.

Doing right usually works best, in the business world as anywhere else, and adopting a servant’s mentality is still the surest way to make a fortune. As George Gilder has brilliantly noted, business starts with giving, not taking. When Macy’s starts giving better service and values and considering its customers’ desires before its corporate strategies, things will turn around—and not until then