I just got back from a large supermarket chain to do some grocery shopping. I don’t usually shop at this location of the chain, but it was convenient for me today. Aside from the expected minor annoyance of not knowing the layout of the store, all went fairly smoothly until the end. At the last minute, I remembered that I needed some sandwich meat to make for school lunches tomorrow. At the location that I usually shop at, they have ready made bags of the popular deli meats already sliced by the deli counter and there for the taking. This store did not. That’s alright, I thought, I see two uniformed staff behind the counter, and as luck would have it, nobody was in line.
I wheeled my cart over to the counter with my three kids in tow. I stood there. Then I stood there some more. Both of them made eye contact with me. I stood there. I stood there some more. My 8 year old son asked “Don’t they see you standing here? Aren’t they going to help you?” “Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Let’s see how long it takes.” I replied. One of them then walked over to the sink and washed his hands. “Finally!” my 11 year old son muttered under his breath. Then, surprise, the clerk went over to a filing cabinet off to the side to get some paperwork.
Now, generally, I am a very patient, non-confrontational person. This situation was just outright funny at that point to me. “I guess we are all just invisible right now.” I said to my kids. At that point, the other clerk, let out a heavy sigh and SSSLLLLOOOOOWWWWLLLLLYYYYY walked over to where I was standing and unenthusiastically asked if he could help me. To be honest, had it not been for the fact that I needed sandwich meat for lunches tomorrow and I make it a personal policy not to mess with people who handle my food, I just asked for a pound of the turkey meat that was on sale.
The point to this story is that consistency is key. I was in one location of a rather large supermarket chain. The deli counter should be consistent from location to location so that folks don’t spend time looking for something that is at one location, only to find it not being available at another (the pre-bagged sliced meat). The level of service should also be consistent among all staff at all locations. At my regular location, there are usually three or four clerks working and all jump right to attention when customers walk up, they are friendly, generous with their smiles, and get through the line of customers without giving the feeling of being rushed.
Because the consistency of service is low, I will be making every effort to not shop at the location I was at tonight. I will actually drive a few miles further to the store I frequently shop at because they think ahead for the customer by putting out the most popular items for easy purchase and are helpful when personal attention is needed. Think if this were not a large chain but two stand alone stores. Guess which one would do the better business and make the most profits? But, that may work out well for the two that were working behind the deli counter today because they didn’t seem to really want to make an effort anyway.