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Thoughts For Thursday: A Customer Service Rant

September 30, 2010 · 42 comments

in Life, Thoughts For Thursday

I have complained about poor customer service experiences in the past, and I thought I should add another one to my list.

So, I haven’t felt well all week.   I dragged myself to Kroger for some grocery shopping at 9:00 pm at night, as our cupboards were getting quite bare.   I pushed my cart up to the register to check out and the teen working the register quickly turned off the light, indicating she was closed.   I was kind of stunned that she turned the light off just as she saw me pulling into her lane. I then asked if she was closed, and she said ‘yes’.    I looked at all the other lanes, and not one lane was open.   I said “but there aren’t any open lanes”, and the smart teen (we will call her Amy, because I think that might be her name) said “I know”.

Feeling somewhat perplexed, I stumbled on over to the self-check register.   Of course, my cart was full, and the self-checkouts are a major pain if you are buying more than a couple bags of groceries.   I bitterly rang up all my items, cursing Amy with every ‘beep’ from the bar codes.  As items were falling out of my over-stuffed bags, I glanced over at my favorite cashier.  Not surprisingly, she was chatting it up at her register with some guy, doing nothing.  I was seething.

I finally got everything rung up and I was going to go make a remark to Amy, but she was gone!    She must have slipped away while I was sliding my credit card and paying my bill.

My new friend Amy is a perfect example of what is wrong with customer service everywhere.  With all the competition in our area between grocery stores, you would think that customer service would be a priority.  However, when it is late at night and apparently the teens are in charge, all rules must go out the window.

Rest assured, Amy and I will be chatting again.  Along with her manager…

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy L September 30, 2010 at 7:08 am

You bet your butt I would complain.

Her manager may not even know this is occurring.
It’s your obligation to bring it to his attention.
I may even write a letter to the district manager.

OOH…I would be livid. Definitely do something about it, or this type of thing will just be accepted as something we have to “live with”.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Sandy, I too feel the need to bring it to the manager’s attention. Maybe I will get a gift card out of it? 🙂

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Andrew September 30, 2010 at 7:20 am

Good strategy… I’ve also found that it’s best to have a cooling off period before providing “feedback” to the the manager. A smiling and friendly demeanour while telling the manager all the ways that they absolutely suck (and that I’ll probably never do business with them ever ever ever again) tends to confuse and disarm, and might well result towards in future discounts. Or not. But at least you’ll have the satisfaction.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Andrew – it is probably best that I couldn’t complain last night because I would have been screaming and would have been written off as an insane person. If I approach it calmly, they might actually listen.

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Andrew September 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm

That’s a fact. Calm and cool wins the day. Emotion, at least in this context, just gets in the way.

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Nicole September 30, 2010 at 8:09 am

And if you’d bought alcohol there wouldn’t have been anyone to check your ID. How horrible. That kind of behavior can and should get someone fired.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Oh I have totally bought alcohol at the self checkout without anyone checking my id. Maybe someone from afar saw I looked ancient and hit an ‘override’ button somewhere without me noticing, but I don’t think so.

I bet this would have never happened 30 years ago. Many teens don’t seem to care about customer service anymore. Neither do many adults now that I think about it.

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Nicole September 30, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Weird– at ours something pops up and doesn’t let you continue checking out until a monitor has pushed a button (and presumably checked your id, but I think they’re more lax about that). Maybe it’s a state law or something.

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Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Nicole – something did pop up the one time, but nobody was around to help, so I was hitting different buttons and continued scanning and it all went through. Maybe I got lucky?

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Money Beagle September 30, 2010 at 8:21 am

I would go to the Kroger website and use their Contact form, which I’m sure they have as most major retailers have. If you do that, not only will the folks at corporate know what’s going on, they’ll usually put the heat on the store via the district or store manager. If you note the store number and time of your visit from your receipt, this should provide very helpful information. In the past, when I’ve had customer service issues at grocery stores and have filed a complaint this way, I’ve always gotten a personal response and once even a gift card from the store manager.

If I were you, after she ‘agreed with you’ on the fact that there were no lanes open, I would have asked to have her get a manager because the self-serve checkout is an option, not a requirement.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Hi Beagle!
I don’t think there was a manager, as the little place the manager usually works was totally dark. So, the teens were running the shop!

I will go to the contact section of their website tonight and share my thoughts. Today has been so busy that I haven’t been able to pay enough attention to my complaint yet!

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The Biz of Life September 30, 2010 at 8:47 am

I think Amy and Kroger deserve some customer feedback. Most checkers would have taken you, but closed the lane after they had rung you up.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Hey Biz- I like how she looked right into my eye and quickly hit her light button. Did I say already I wanted to smack her? 🙂 But hey, there was a guy waiting to talk to her, so her social life matters more than taking care of customers.

Argh….

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

I am certainly not making excuses for Amy/Kroger at all, but beyond this incident, I think this could possibly be more a reflection of the types of employees that certain positions attract. For example, why do you think Amy was rushing off? You never really know. In the cases where I felt people lack commitment, I also felt they lacked any motivation (career/advancement/money) to give me better service. (Not an excuse…just a consideration)

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Hello Roshawn – I am guessing that Amy was off her shift at 9:30, and I approached her lane at about 9:21. So, it must have been too close to quitting time because I saw a few employees leave at 9:30.

I just can’t help but thinking that if I walked up to a register 40 years ago, the cashier would have welcomed me regardless. Prior generations seemed to take more pride in their work.

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Ninja September 30, 2010 at 10:43 am

Amy sucks. I definitely think you need to speak to the management, just make sure you come at them rationally and calmly otherwise they might write you off as an ‘insane’ customer. The customer service world is totally hit or miss, and unfortunately it’s usually a miss.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Welcome Ninja-
You are right, I do need to approach Kroger calmly or they won’t ever hear my message. Tonight they will be able to read my message when I send an email to corporate though! 🙂

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Crystal @ BFS September 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

I love the customer service aspect of my job and absolutely abhor the reps that make us look bad. I don’t care if they like their job or not, it’s a matter of personal respect to treat others well (I don’t like my job due to the non-phone aspects, but I am a stellar rep). I’d definitely send an email to corporate and call to see when Amy’s supervisor is scheduled to work so we could have a face to face after I’ve cooled off a bit. Good luck!

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm

BFS – I bet you are a great customer service rep. As a matter of fact, I could totally picture you commiserating with the caller and saying ‘yeah, my company does suck!’ 🙂

The email to corporate will be written soon!

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Crystal @ BFS October 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Is it wrong that I have done that just not with those exact words? Probably…but they signed a longer contract because of me so I don’t think my company would mind…

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Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Good job!!!

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Aloysa September 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I would ask her to ring you up anyway since no one was around and she turned off the lights into your face. Awful! Situations like this one just set me up… I am already annoyed! LOL Sometimes I get really pushy/demanding if I think I am being treated unfairly.

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Crystal @ BFS September 30, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Me too! Pushy is usually construed as rude, but in some situations, it is just exactly what’s ordered, lol.

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Kris September 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Aloysa – I probably should have asked her to check me out, but I think I was in shock with her response about there not being any checkouts open. I was stewing completely when I was ringing up my items, and it is probably good she was gone when I was done.

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Money Reasons September 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm

While Amy wasn’t the most caring cashier, I really blame management for that mistake! They should have made sure that someone was there to process your cart full of groceries! Having worked in a grocery store when I was 16, I know that the cashier need to get their tills in on time, elsewise they get in trouble.

It’s the manager’s responsibility to make sure there is coverage! It’s ridiculous that you had to go through the self-checkout register!

Management owes you an apology big time!

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Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm

MR – I have never worked in a grocery store, so I didn’t know about the time requirement. If that is the case, Amy should have apologized and explained. You are right though, it is ultimately management’s fault.

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Suba@Wealth Informatics October 1, 2010 at 12:20 am

That was awful customer service. Definitely write a letter to the management. I hate when customer service people do this. It is like they are doing us a favor and we are stopping them from doing something important with their lives. They might not have a passion for the customer service like BFS has but t least they should treat it as a “job” and do the basic minimum required for the position.

I usually let these slide and whine to my husband. He complains though.

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Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Suba – I am the ‘complainer’ in our house. I will dish out the complaints, but also hand out compliments. The way I see it, people won’t learn from their mistakes if they never know, and the same is true if they aren’t made aware of what they are doing ‘right’.

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Squirrelers October 1, 2010 at 12:21 am

That’s frustrating, I can understand. Maybe you can contact corporate headquarters, and follow up with them if you don’t get a response. Be persistent, and give names – that’s my suggestion.

I recall you had an issue at a pharmacy as well, where they delayed you excessively, and you were upset about that. How did that ultimately get resolved? Did the company ever offer any apology?

Well-run companies don’t allow stuff like that to happen. I was fortunate to stay at the Four Seasons on business a few years back, and it was amazing (almost scary) how the staff all knew you by name. They went out of their way to make sure you had a great experience staying there. That’s why they have a strong brand. That’s why I’m thinking that the corporate offices might actually have the wherewithal to realize how even instances like this chip away at their brand equity.

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Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Hi Squirreler!
Believe it or not, I got a standard response from Walgreen’s corporate and I never heard from the store itself. I need to follow up on that!

I actually stayed at a hotel in New York City that was like your Four Seasons experience. It was absolutely amazing, and you are right, kinda creepy. But at least they cared.

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Greg McFarlane October 1, 2010 at 12:52 am

Isn’t there usually one employee watching all the self-checkout lanes to make sure nobody steals anything? You’re saying there wasn’t even a person there?

I ask because I wonder if it would’ve gotten an employee’s attention had you decided to walk out without paying.

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Kris October 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Hey Greg- yeah, there was another person standing at the self checkout, and she had her hands full helping everyone since regular lanes were not open. I felt terrible for her and thanked her for actually doing her job.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 1, 2010 at 11:14 pm

You HAVE to let us know what happens next! I can’t believe she didn’t just take you and turn the light off while she was ringing you up.

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Kevin@InvestItWisely October 3, 2010 at 1:14 am

What a rude employee. I hope you don’t have the displeasure of encountering her in that mood again.

I’m not too impressed with those self-checkout lanes. They became quite retarded this year when the grocery store stopped providing a bag rack with bags — so now, you have to dump everything in a huge pile, then pay for it, THEN go get your bags, THEN bag it all at the end. Twice as inefficient now… plus the machines seem to have been changed for more retarded ones that always say “Please wait for cashier assistance” every 3 items.

There’s my own rant on technology (and corporate decisions) gone bad 😛

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Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer October 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I probably would have just walked away leaving the cart there in the closed lane. Your restraint was impressive but I’m glad you’re going to give feedback.

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Shelby November 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Wow! What a terrible experience. I am ver sorry that you had to endure that situation. I do, however, have a bit of a challenge with your perception of customer service. You cannot lump everyone into the bad category. There is an arrogance in our world that we are better than all others….especially those who work behind a counter. It is assumed that anyone who does so and/or wears a nametag is an idiot—-no chance whatsoever to even give them good service. The ones who come in right away with attitude that comes across as ” I’m better than you. Even though you do this for a living, I know more than you and I will treat you in any manner I see fit”. There is no recovering from that at a certain point.

Just imagine if I walked into the office of the guy who just treated me like dirt and treated his office staff the same way. I would easily be asked to leave or escorted out in silver bracelets!

Yes, there is poor customer service. BUT there is also an epidemic of selfish and not so nice customers. We seem to forget that just because someone works behind a counter that they do not matter. It is NOT ok to treat anyone the way I have been treated in my 20 + years of service. Besides, without me, you might just have to do it yourself! 🙂

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