01
Jun
08

Hate Shopping?

On Friday I had the occasion to go grocery shopping. This is something that I do on an almost daily basis. I prefer to buy fresh foods in a fresh way and pick up just what I need for that meal. I’ve been doing this for years at my local Randalls. I know many of the department heads and employees from my regular visits. I have also watched as the standard of service has dropped to abysmal levels. Having worked in the grocery business for around twenty years, I had already come to terms with the fact that grocery shopping sucks and pretty much has no hope of getting better. It got worse. The Randalls that I used to know, the one of smiling faces and helpful employees, faded away a long time ago. But the transformation of the store into an apathetic den of bland is now complete. I suppose that I could blame the corporate behemoth of Safeway that owns the chain, but why bother?

I needed a couple of pounds of roast beef sliced up at the deli counter. Nobody was there. I waited a few minutes and some eye in the sky spotted me and there was a page on the intercom system proclaiming that a customer need assistance in the deli. More time passes. I wander over to the bakery where a solitary employee was bagging rolls. Her grasp of English was marginal, but she did manage to let me know that everyone was in a meeting. She tried to page again. No luck. I caught the eye of my butcher who just shrugged and offered no help. I started pacing and tapping my foot. Another customer showed up and we both stood there grumbling. Understand that this is at about 4:00pm, the beginning of the evening rush. Finally, some doors open and a few people came walking out. Two of them were headed toward us in the deli area. Both were sucking on monster cups of soda and brushing crumbs from their smocks. Neither acknowledged that there were customers waiting or that they were sorry for the delay. One asked me me what I wanted and proceeded to process my order without washing her hands or even thanking me. I actually asked why it took so long and was just told they had a meeting. “No thought to leave at least one person to take care of things?” “We don’t have enough people.” Great. And they now have one less customer.

It really doesn’t matter what the business is. In order to be successful, the customer has to feel like you give a damn about them and their spending. The employees have to at least fake the image of enjoying what they do. Back in the day, Randall Onstead would fire a Randalls employee for not smiling. That approach would never fly in today’s HR environment, but there should be some consideration made to the concept. Customers do know when they have become nothing more than a cipher in a business process. I’ll be shopping at Fiesta today. A new one has opened up and I’m going to see if it is worth the extra half mile drive.

Employers take note.

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