An open letter to grocery and big-box store managers.
Dear store manager,
I came home from your store this morning with a list of things I have to go somewhere else to buy.
We’re an average family of four. I buy a lot of food. I do not buy anything exotic or hard-to-find (theoretically, at least).
I have no loyalty to your store simply because it’s so frustrating to visit time and time again and leave without things, having passed shelves over because they were empty, blocked, or stocked with food that was less than fresh. And I would love, with all my heart, to find a food store I could rave about and love and patronize regularly, knowing that the experience will be positive.
I think maybe you don’t shop for your own family in your store, or you’d see what I see (and what everyone else in town sees…and talks about). Now, I’m no retail manager, but making shopping less frustrating for customers doesn’t seem all that difficult. May I offer a few suggestions, having been a consumer for awhile now?
- Be open when you’re open. If the doors are open and no blizzard or hurricane has knocked out the supply chain, have food on the shelves. Turn the escalators on so customers can easily access both floors without asking someone to press the switch. Have cashiers at their posts from minute-one, in case a customer just wants to get in and out quickly with a few items.
- Check the dates and condition of fresh food. I regularly find mold on “fresh” produce on the shelves. Last I checked, we are not a third-world nation. There’s simply no excuse for selling spoiled items. Today, I found eggs that expire in four days (which is pretty darn old for eggs) and milk that expired yesterday, all still for sale. You were out of seltzer water and pancake syrup. That shows me a lack of attention to detail, which means I have to pay extra attention to it and then drive somewhere else to finish. My time is valuable.
- Make your store accessible. A team pep rally that blocks aisles at 8 a.m. is a serious pain to shoppers (see #1: Be open when you’re open. Move the rah-rah to a stockroom or have it at 7:50 if the doors open at 8. And by the way, I hear the upsell motivation as I walk by this daily event, which makes me feel a bit ripped off if we’re being honest. Keep it out of earshot.). Stocking carts that block shelves during business hours mean those shelves may as well be empty–I can’t reach what I want.
- Tell your employees to love their jobs, at least when I can see and hear them. Its super frustrating to see/hear a gaggle of uniformed workers shooting the poop in a corner while things I need are missing. And I don’t want to hear how awful their manager is or how much their jobs suck. It’s a downer for other workers, and it’s a downer for customers, too.
- Train your cashiers to bag merchandise. I know–it’s not rocket science. But if my bag weighs a lot, it’s difficult for me to handle at home and the things I just paid for get smashed or spilled, and the plastic bag I wanted for trash or dog doo is ripped and useless. If I have things on the belt in order (refrigerated things together, fragile things together), please see that your workers notice and bag them that way, too. And the first rule is: the bread goes on top. Yes, I apparently have to say that. No, I shouldn’t have to. And I also don’t want to talk about my tampons, ice cream, or cortisone lotion–no comments on the merchandise, please.
- Watch your lanes. Ask customers who have 25 items in the express lane to relocate so those of us in a hurry can keep moving, rather than refuse to offend the idiot while inconveniencing everyone else. And before you install eight self-serve lanes and close manned stations, see if your customers like them. Most of us don’t–they’re slower than regular cashiers, they jam up, and quite frankly, we don’t work there. Finally, fear not opening more lanes when things are busy. Nothing is more frustrating than standing in line for 15 minutes during a rush while the two adjacent lanes stand empty and silent.
- Shop your own store. Ask your friends to come in anonymously and give you honest evaluations of what they find. Hire secret shoppers. Early and often. You’d be amazed how your business looks to those of us who don’t work for you.
- Provide your employees with a smoking area that’s not near the front door. Nothing, and I mean nothing (besides maybe the moldy tomatoes I passed up in the produce department this morning), is as disgusting as leaving a grocery store with fresh food and walking through stale smoke stench to get to my car. Really, it’s gross.
At the moment, I have no brand loyalty to any store in town. I would love to develop it and give you the benefit of my entire grocery budget. I would love to come home less than frustrated and having to copy half my list onto a new one for another store. And I’m sure you’d love for me to stop complaining.
Give it some thought. Please. Make me love you. Or at least, make food shopping less of a dreaded chore.Love,