Sunday, June 01, 2008

And Now for a Shopping Tip

Before going on my soap box, I should say that I’m a loyal Loblaw’s customer. Indeed—I’m probably one of 5 people in Canada who uses a President’s Choice (PC) mobile phone.

Now, for my soap box.

Loblaw’s gives me a credit when I provide my own reusable bags.

I want another credit: When I have to bag my own groceries there.

If I wanted to bag my own groceries, I’d go to Maxi et Cie. That’s essentially Loblaws but in a discount format. Part of the value proposition there is that prices are generally lower because you supply the labor yourself.

But at Loblaw’s, I pay more. And part of that “extra” is for the service of having someone place my purchases in a bag. (For that reason, I won’t use their self-service machines. Why should I do the work I’m paying them to do? Besides, those crotchety, difficult-to-use machines don’t offer a quicker option than the line.)

So why is it that, at least half the time I go to Loblaw’s, they don’t have anyone to bag? So I bag my own. I don’t do so because I want to. I do so because I’d never get out of the store otherwise.

The problem seems to be about 70 percent staffing and 30 percent attitude. In terms of staffing, Loblaw’s has a unique talent at scheduling between 30 and 50 percent less of the cashier staff than is needed at any given time. Why else would a store with 12 checkout lanes have only 4 or 5 open, and lines with 5 to 8 customers deep (and these at the NON-express lines)?

In terms of attitude, it was best demonstrated at the Loblaw’s at Cavendish last night. Everyone and his sister was waiting in line and my poor cashier tried in vain to get a manager to come to her lane to assist her with bagging. They ignored her first three calls. When one sauntered over, despite the fact that the line had grown from 3 to 8 customers, he didn’t seem to want to help, nor did he seem too interested in bagging the groceries quickly.

To be honest, I was surprised. In my experience, the Loblaw’s at St, Jacques and Cavendish usually offers efficient checkout; the one on Ste-Croix always seems chronically understaffed and the few overworked people there generally act like flight attendants on Delta Airlines (that is, dour). (That this prevails at the store that’s next to the company’s Quebec headquarters is even more surprising.)

So Galen Weston—if you’re reading this—perhaps you could spend a little less time in the TV studio making commercials and experiencing instead the customer service in your stores. There’s only so much a person will put up with for a President’s Choice product. Maybe it’s not surprising that Quebec customers are finding the Metro, with its excellent customer service, Irresistible. It’s not just their new store brand.

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