Service Me, please?.
The other day, Maggie and I stopped at one of our local grocery stores to pick up a couple of items on the way home from work. It took only a couple of minutes to get the items and almost 30 minutes to pay for them. The line-ups at the three open cashes were so long, they flowed back into the grocery aisles and interfered with people still shopping. The wait was more than 20 minutes. How can store management not see that? Or if they see it, how can they not recognize that they are inconveniencing their customers, the very people they rely on to stay in business.
I’m fed up with standing in line because there are too few cashes open even though there are plenty of cashiers standing around talking to each other on the sidelines or sitting outside, smoking, at a picnic table near the entrance. I’m fed up with asking for assistance in an aisle only to have the store staff member look at me like I’m an idiot.
I’m fed up with paying for the bags I need to carry the stuff I just bought from them and I am definitely fed up with being asked for my postal code, my email address or my phone number. I’m not in the store to get connected, I came to make a purchase. Stop wasting everyone’s time asking for contact information, swiping rewards cards and pointing out additional specials we can consider buying. Just ring up the purchases, take the money and put what I’ve bought in a “free” bag”. Is that really asking for too much?
Sticking a greeter at the front of the store to shout “Welcome to……” doesn’t cut it either. I’m not here to make friends and your welcome doesn’t mean anything if we’re going to be treated like a herd of cattle lining up for the evening milking once we get inside. Use the greeter to open another cash and get the bloody line moving.
I’m also tired of having stores assume I am going to rob them blind when I drop by. I appreciate that shoplifting is a serious problem for retailers but it is pretty well established that most of that shoplifting is done by store employees. Why don’t you try higher levels of pay to attract better employees and training programs that go beyond how to scan the price of an item and process payment? Why don’t you put security in place to monitor your staff instead of installing anti-theft devices that trigger alarms that go off even though I’ve paid for the stuff? Is it really necessary to make entrance and exits to the store difficult and convoluted? It’s not like everyone has to be like Ikea (Ikea’s entrance and exit strategy borders on pyschopathic, doesn’t it? You need to pack a lunch just so you won’t starve in the time it takes to get out of the store…and that’s if you didn’t even buy anything.).
But poor service isn’t just the province of retailers, it’s everywhere. I am tired of being called guy at restaurants, as in, “Hi guys, welcome to….” Whoever came up with the idea that this was somehow an appropriate form of greeting for a waiter or waitress to use obviously suffered from a limited vocabulary and poor social skills. Forget trying to come across as a friend and try acting like an efficient server. Bring my drinks in a timely manner and please get the drink order right. When I ask for a rye and coke with a slice of lemon, I don’t mean rum and diet coke with a chunk of lime or orange. I’m tired of lukewarm food, undercooked meat and over-cooked vegetables on fancy plates with servings that are so small even Jasper would be discouraged.
But the best at it are the banks. These guys combine the best of the worst practices of government and retail together. It is unbelievable! I was at a bank not so long ago and the line up stretched from the counter right out into the mall. There were only two tellers open but no less than 8 people standing around behind the counter. In exasperation, an older gentleman standing in front of me finally yelled out, “You, young lady. Get up here and bring your friends.” It worked, the head teller suddenly became aware that there was this big long line up of “customers” and opened three more teller stations. Why should we have to create a ruckus (although I’m happy to do that if called upon) just to get a level of respectful service? That’s our money in your bank. You’re not doing us any favours by giving it back to us when we show up, so stop treating us like you are!
I used to enjoy shopping but I am frustrated by it now. Everything is slower, my time is wasted by businesses who seem blissfully unaware that they actually rely on me and others like me to keep them in business. The real tragedy is that there are few alternatives. Poor service is becoming a Canadian epidemic (or tradition) across almost all lines of business. Small wonder more and more people prefer to buy online or make the trek to northern U.S. cities to do their shopping.
(Say what you want about American business, they get the concept of service. I have never seen the lineups in their major department stores that I see in ours even when their stores seem to be busier than ours.)
In the final analysis, I’m not sure which annoys me more; bad service or paying for bad service. Perhaps it’s time to impose a customer rating system that is tied into what we pay at the cash. We’ll knock 10% off the price of what we’re buying for every 5 minutes we have to wait to get served. If that doesn’t get their attention and affect some change in service levels, we’ll at least be paid for the inconvience that poor customer service imposes on us. There is no point in boycotting a particular store and going somewhere else, they’re pretty much all the same. Besides as the saying goes, Money Talks, Boycotts Walk…and as we have already estabished, I don’t walk. I lumber along.
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