Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Love Good Customer Service...(even if I have to pound it out of them!)

I need to share with you a little experience I had this evening at my local grocer, and I am going to do my best to not take a total departure from my February “Love” theme to make my point.

Over the last several months I have been very consistent in remembering my cloth grocery bags when I take my weekly shopping trip. My sis-in-law (who I absolutely LOVE) made me some awesome grocery bags (and I LOVE them). She made me two of each of these:

Like most grocery stores these days, my friendly neighborhood grocer provides a generous 5 cents per bag discount for customers who remember to bring their own bags. I do appreciate the incentive, but my reason for bringing the bags with me is truly an ecological one (and because I LOVE to show off my awesome grocery bags).

So, my Hubby (who I LOVE) and I are at check out tonight, unloading groceries onto the belt, and I hand the clerk a bundle of my lovely shopping bags. She pulls one from the stack and sets the others down behind her until needed. The clerk starts to fill one bag and when it is full, she places the bag in my cart (nothing unusual- so far).

She pulls another cloth bag from the stack behind her and sets it in front of her. We then watch her pull item after item off of the belt, scan in the price, and deposit these things into the already full bag in the shopping cart. To our amazement, she seems intent on seeing how much she can fit into that already ridiculously full bag. It was like watching a bunch of college students trying to fit one more person into a phone booth.…or a VW Bug...we were amazed.

When I think that the bag is going to burst its seams, she starts to fill the new bag with groceries, but stops when she reaches a loaf of bread and a bag of sandwich rolls. She places these right on top of the already full bag. (Note: she could not put them in the bag because it was full- she literally rested these on top of the bag! ) And she seemed a bit proud of herself at that point for being so economical in her bag useage.

(Photo Note: "The suspect bag"...this is a reinactment- but it is an actual representation. It includes of all items in the bag when we got home, plus all the items I had removed to a second bag from this bag while at the store)

I am watching as she starts filling bag number two and looking at this bag in my cart thinking:

  1. Why would she fill that so full?

  2. Has she not considered how heavy that is going to be? And finally...

  3. The second we lift that bag, the contents are going to spill out everywhere.

So I pulled off the two loaves of bread and requested that my husband hand to me another one of the cloth bags, and I begin shifting groceries, explaining “hmm, I am a little worried about getting this bag from the cart to the car without it spilling…let me just move a few of these to another bag”

“Okay, “she said, “but just so you know...I can only give you the discount on the minimum number of bags that I am able to fill”

I continued to shift groceries, “Well, I am more concerned about being able to lift the bags than I am about getting back 5 cents.” and I sort of winked at her (OMG, was she serious?)

She continued to lament about "some" customers that come in with a pile of bags and expect that you spread their groceries amongst ALL of them, so they get the full discount for all of their bags.

At this point I just stopped and stared at her in disbelief. I was thinking three things…(so I may have been staring at her with an evil eye for a minute or so!)

  1. I am one of “the customers” who brought in a “pile of bags” and I am also one of your customers who is willing to pay $7.99 a pound for shitake mushrooms….do you think I give a $#!+ about a 5cent refund?

  2. What brainiac in charge has decided that this would be good policy? (I could just envision the crew meeting where management told their cashiers to be a bit more liberal in filling customers cloth bags, "every nickel counts in these times, you know", and "the job you save may be your own") I am sorry but grocery stores are one business that are not going to be as impacted by this bad economy- people are still going to buy food- in fact they may even eat out less and shop for groceries more!

  3. I pay over $100 each week for groceries at this store and you are thinking that damaging that relationship is worth 5 cents. Where is your manager?

I realized that I was not dealing with someone who had any authority, so arguing with her would be useless. I wanted to find a manager to enlighten them with my opinion, but my kinder, gentler, more level-headed husband (who I married for all those loveable traits) persuaded me to choose my battles. I brushed the chip off of my shoulder and followed him out to the car.

(Okay, truthfully, though, I gave in this time only because I knew that when I got home I could blog about it.) all fairness, before posting this scathing blog with the store’s name in shameful bold print for the entire world to see (well at least the 12 people of the world who take the time to read my blog!)...I did call the store and I was able to speak to a manager.

I actually had a very nice conversation with her about this incident (even a few laughs, since I had taken some time to get simmered down before calling the store.)

The manager was emphatic that this is NOT store policy. She seemed very concerned that one of her clerks would do this and promised me that she would speak with her "associates" to ensure that their bag refund policy was correctly understood so that my negative experience would not be repeated. So it all ended well, and no companies were forced into bankruptcy, and no one was fired for being stupid. (And I will definately let you know if there are any lapses at this establishment in the future!)

(This is everything that came out of that bag...there is a bottle of OJ behind the milk, 1 loaf of bread, 1 pkg of sandwich rolls, 4 healthy choice entrees, 6 clif bars, 1 box of tea, 1 pkg of burritos, 1 lb of cheddar, 1 can of chili, 1 pgk hot dogs, 1 smoked salmon (Love it!), and 1 pint of heavy that I look at it, I realize that this really does not look like a healthy bag of groceries...the other bags were full of all of our vegetables and unprocessed stuff - honest!)

One final note on customer service that you might find as interesting as I do….

I may have been a bit oversensitive today with the whole bag thing (and maybe a bit empowered too), because the topic of customer service was discussed in my marketing class today (and I LOVE my marketing class!)

Like most of you, I have been amazed and frustrated over the years by the lack of customer service that many businesses provide. It seems that too many have forgotten that customers are pretty essential to their existence (they are the ones who give you money so you can stay in business…duh!). Accountability has been painfully absent.

My take away from class today is good news for consumers. As the web becomes more and more social with sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and personal blogs, people are using technologies to get the things they need from one another, rather than from companies. Yet, it is not just creating competition; the web has become a highly effective medium whereby consumers are defining their own perspective on companies and brands. Companies have no choice but to listen up and act wisely. Happily the balance of power is shifting from the business to the consumer. In my opinion- it should have been that way all along.


Diana said...

Boy do I have a story for you on customer service. I think I'll post it on my blog,

Carol............. said...

It's so sad and true that some employees today are just..what? Can't even think of a human word for them. Gum popping, give a $#%* kind of attitude with everything so pierced and tattooed you can't even tell what they really look like....and when they get fired I guess then the rest of us can support them!!!! uuuuugggggg! As you may be able to tell, some rudeness has come my way this past week.

Ahhhh, venting...isn't it great?

Mommabear54 said...

Way to give 'em heck. I love that side of you that has the strength to calm down before you blow your top- I wish I had that gene