Customer Service Fail

This isn’t the post I’d planned for this morning. That one would come later. This is a rant. I spent too many years working jobs where I had to deal with the public on a regular basis. I understood when I did that I represented not only myself but my employer. So, no matter how bad my day might have been, I did my best to show a good face to the customers. That’ why my experience with one of the local grocery stores this morning hits my hot buttons. Not only was the clerk less than helpful — we won’t even discuss cordial, etc. — but the store manage had completely fallen down on the job and no one working seemed to care one bit.

A little background. I made a quick run to the store to pick up coffee — cooooffffeeeee — and get some cash. It was approaching 0730 when I arrived. The first indication I should have had that this was not a smart move was when the doors that should have been unlocked half an hour earlier hadn’t been. Okay. No sweat. I could walk the short distance to the other set of doors.

It didn’t take long to find coffee that didn’t completely suck (yes, yes, I’m a coffee snob. There’s a reason I order Death Wish coffee each month). So I made my way to the only shopping lane that had an actual human to check out customers. That should have been my second clue. This store, which is located within a mile of several schools and has heavy early morning traffic because of it, was understaffed.

On a side note, it was also under-stocked. But that is nothing new. And then they wonder why people aren’t shopping there as much as they used to.

Anyway . . .

I finally get to the checker, hand over my coffee, my discount card as a “valued customer” and slide my credit card. Simple enough. Then, because I needed some cash, I hit the cash back option. And I wait. And wait. And wait.

Then the oh-so-bored cashier informs me she doesn’t have any cash.

Wait? what?

You’re running a till and you don’t have cash?

Well, not exactly but she only has a few dollars in the till. She might be able to give me my change but it would all be in ones and fives. Did she offer to give it to me? Hell no. Instead, when I continued to stare at her, dumbfounded and kicking myself for not going to the other store in the area that’s only slightly further from home, she finally calls to see if anyone has any cash.

Now, there were four self checkout lanes open as well. I was told after being insulted by the way she referred to me on the phone with her co-worker that I needed to go to one of those lanes and I would be shown the one that had cash. I asked if she had canceled the transaction and she actually did an eye roll at me and did everything but go “Duh!”. (And yes, I did check my account before leaving the store to make sure it had been canceled.)

So, muttering imprecations, I crossed to the far end of the store where the self-checkout lanes are located. Then I asked the checker stationed there to “help” which register I should use so I could get cash back. Mind you, this is the same person the original checker spoke to. I think you can imagine my reaction when I was told I’d just have to pick one and see because she didn’t know.

Yes, I made a comment about being unprepared for the business day and having less than stellar customer service. Worse, I needed a specific amount of money for something today and couldn’t request that amount because the self checkout lanes let you choose in increments of $20. So, I left with $10 more than I needed and also had the need to break a $20 so I had the exact amount for the yard guy. Which meant stopping somewhere else to get change.

Needless to say, I’m not a happy camper. The only reason I’d been going to this store the last month or two has been for its butcher block. But they aren’t keeping it stocked and its prices are far above any other store now. After today, I doubt I’ll be back in. What store opens without having cash in the cash drawers? What store opens without having its shelves stocked? Here’s a hint for grocery stores everywhere. You customers don’t want to have to trip over stockers during the middle of the day — and yes, this has happened more than once in this store — in order to pick up a loaf of bread or cat food or whatever.

Now I’m home and have a fresh cup of coffee and ready to settle down for work. As for the neighborhood store, it lost a customer this morning. I can forgive a bad customer service once. Sometimes even twice. But when it becomes clear this is a trend the store management isn’t putting an end to, it is time to say “bye” and move on. Fortunately, there are two other major grocery stores within 2 miles of my house and two smaller stores within 4 miles. Giving this one up will not be any sort of hardship, something the managers would do good to remember.


  1. Having worked nightstock, I can say that while nobody wishes to trip over stock and stockers in the day, it happens. Why? Because a store that should have a crew of 6 or 7 to do nightstock will likely only have 5. Partly from trying to get away with paying fewer people, yes, but then factor in how many people are willing to work nights – and *work*… even showing up is no guarantee, alas. Yeah, been there. “How many were you down this time?” And then the shelves aren’t as full they ought to be. Have actually been down to 3 when it should have been 6. There are jobs out there, but *workers*? It’s rare to find more than one decent person in a batch-hire of 3 or 4. Too many are “I showed up. What, you expect me to Do Stuff? Where’s my check?”

    [Breaking comment so (Post Comment) doesn’t disappear below click range.]

    1. I understand that and I give those stores a break. This store — it doesn’t have that night shift. The stockers come to work at the same time as the morning shift. Not even an hour early. Add to that the fact the pharmacy doesn’t open for three hours after the store opens and neither does the deli and you have to wonder about who set the schedules for a store close to three schools with mothers and fathers stopping in to buy lunches for their kids, get something before work, etc. They lose a lot of business they could have had by not being receptive to their customers’ wants.

      1. Ouch. I know there are some places that refuse to do nights and Sundays and Holidays saying they value their employee’s family/religious time… but the Pharmacy and Deli in that situation?! They could have the (local) world by the $ANATOMY if they wanted… and had a clue.

        I get the impression now (appropriating a classic slam) they could not get a Clue even if they stood doused in Clue pheremones in the middle of a crowded Clue field, at the height of Clue mating season.

      2. That’s not unusual practice in my area. Well, it wasn’t until most of the stores closed their doors.

        What has been instructive is that most of the ones that closed were owned by absentee franchisees, and most of the ones we have left are independents or local chains.

        The franchisee stores mostly didn’t care whether you darkened their door or not; the “manager” was sumdood who got an extra fifty cents an hour to collect time cards and fill in when someone didn’t show up for their shift. The stores where the manager has a stake in sales – I’m assuming a percentage – are still doing fine, even against competition from Wal-Mart.

        The absentee owners either didn’t care about local conditions, or simply ignored any indications that their business practices were costing them sales.

        Doubtless once the accountants deliver the bad news, the owners will try to blame Amazon or Wal-Mart.

  2. Now, the cashier should have offered, apologetically, to cover with the cash on hand. If that was unacceptable or impossible, call a manager/supervisor (there’s always someone or should be) to do a “cash advance” to the register to cover it – and be ready for the next customer who wants a few dollars back.

    If there was a suggestion/comment box or such by the door with store director’s (or whatever the head honcho is called there) it might be worth noting and calling that person or sending a letter/e-mail. If it’s a chain, go to the top of the chain – if that doesn’t cause some headsnap, they deserve to go under.

  3. Interestingly enough, we’ve had a clerk ask us to register an official complaint to try to get something changed in a store.

    1. I have as well, on more than one occasion. Where this store is concerned, however, the employees (most but not all) don’t care. They don’t want to work any harder than they have to. There are a few who believe in customer service but they are the ones who have come from other stores with higher standards. They are the ones I feel bad for. They came to this store when another was sold and they didn’t know if they would be kept on or not. So they did what most of us would — they went job hunting. Now several of them are looking to return to the chain they were with to start with now that it has opened a new store in the area. They want to get back to the sort of work environment they can be proud of.

    2. I have, several times, *been* that clerk. Well, employee, since my job at the time didn’t involve clerking.

      After being yelled at lengthily by some customers who, in my opinion, had every right to be angry, I dug up the corporate customer service number. “Yes, ma’am, that sounds like something that needs to be addressed. I don’t know who your specific customer service representative is, but if you’ll call this number in the morning I’m sure you can get forwarded to the appropriate person.”

      I got called in *the very next day* to account for why I was giving the customer service number to… customers. I said the employee handbook said we should be courteous and helpful, and besides, shouldn’t customer service be pleased? By the third time my supervisor just rolled her eyes and said “You did it again, didn’t you?”

  4. When you’ve got one person doing the work of 3, you trip over the stockers. Our dairy guy has to refill the eggs and milk hourly and if the night crew calls in, you end up with the gm manager (me) stocking milk instead of managing her area. So, I get it but it sounds like the rot goes all the way up the food chain at that store.

    1. First of all, welcome to the blog. Second, I think you are right. The “rot” does go all the way up the food chain at the store. There was a time not all that long ago when this wasn’t an issue. Then the area competition was stiffer than it is right now and the store was fighting for its share of the market. Now that it doesn’t have to fight as hard, it seems that standards have dropped dramatically. It’s a shame because it used to be a really great store.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.