Making it better and better

By 18:15

I took a drive to Galleria to pick up some groceries today. While I was there, I realised that I needed an iron so I stepped into a few stores to compare prices of their irons. The iron I wanted was ridiculously priced at R229 so I decided to check out the price at Checkers where I was going to get my groceries.
As I did my shopping, I spotted the aisle with small appliances. I walked all the way past appliances the various appliances and at the end of the little aisle, I saw a little range of irons. Right there, I spotted the Russell Hobbs iron I wanted. The price tag said R179. Can you say, “Bargain”? Excitedly, I popped it into my basket and happily went off to complete the rest of my shopping.
I get to the till with the usual wait in a queue and once it was my turn to be served, I put all my items on the counter. I paid special attention to the price that was scanned for the iron. To my surprise, the iron scans in at R199. R20 more. It’s the incorrect price and had I seen that price on the shelf, I wouldn’t have taken the iron.
Having worked as a cashier at Trade Centre in Durban, I’m well aware that often old shelf-talkers aren't removed from the shelves and up-to-date pricing isn't captured on the point of sale systems so I informed the cashier that it isn’t the price I saw on the shelf. She told the lady helping to pack my groceries to fetch the shelf talker. Minutes later, she arrives with a shelf-talker that says the iron is R199.
The old saying is true, if you need something done right, do it yourself. So I took the packer to the shelf where we spent a good couple of minutes trying to take the price sticker which I had initially seen off. After ruining my French manicure tips, we got the price tag off and took it to the cashier. And I waited…
A few useless people came by to see what the problem was and they were of no help. So we waited some more…
Eventually, a long-haired manager called Lenny, came to us. After I told the story for the fourth time, he looked at me and said that the price is R199 and that I saw an old price so I need to pay the new price. Shocked at his nonchalance, I asked him if he really was a manager which he then affirmed. After spending about 25 minutes at that till, I got irritated. I asked him how he could be a manager and not understand that a customer saw a price on the shelf, wants the item for that price and is rightfully annoyed when a higher price shows up at the till. Before I could ask for the general manager, he eventually just said that he’ll give to me for the price I saw. He was kind enough to add that it’s not correct for him to do so; as if this whole incident was my fault!
Another advantage of having worked at Trade Centre is that I was afforded many opportunities to see first-hand how the incorrect pricing is overcome and how to deal with irate customers. Being the customer in this instance, I have a few problems with this incident.
False advertising: I’m led to believe that the iron is reasonably priced so I pop it into my trolley. Most customers are too busy loading their groceries onto the counter to look at the prices that come up on the screen at the till so how many times has Checkers robbed us? You buy items that you think are cheap and it’s not the same price at the till but because you’re too busy unpacking your goods, you fail to notice this. My groceries amounted to R300 and I would have been robbed of R20. How do you know whether Checkers is robbing you of R200 when you do your grocery shopping that amounts to R3000?
Long queues: there are over 30 tills at Checkers in Galleria. On one of the busiest days in the year, New Year’s Eve, there weren’t any trolleys or baskets available – that’s how full and busy the store was. On this day, less than half of these tills were in use. Forgive my ignorance, but why has Checkers chosen to build more than 30 tills that they are not using? To make people believe that this store is different – you’re not going to stand in long queues – your shopping experience will be a pleasure. Today, I had a bit of a wait for the cashier but we’ve grown so accustomed to waiting that this is normal for us and not something to complain about.
Unfriendly cashiers: usually the only person a customer interacts with at a store is the cashier. To us, the cashier is Checkers. Is it too difficult to greet the customer, smile and ask them how they are doing? Instead we’re treated with a sullen face asking, “paa-keet?” When the issue of the price came up, the cashier spoke to the person helping her to pack in Zulu and didn’t inform me of what’s going on. Even worse, there was a growing queue behind me. No apologies were made either.
Unnecessary staff: a few people came to see what the hold-up was – till supervisors I assume. The till supervisors weren’t any friendlier than the cashier and didn’t offer any support. So what’s the point of employing supervisors if they’re just gonna listen to your story and not do anything about it. Get rid of supervisors and give the added responsibility and pay to the managers. From what I’ve seen, the managers are actually good for something; supervisors, on the other hand, just walk around. Funnily enough, in South Africa, supervising is considered skilled labour – amazing that walking, listening and doing nothing is a skill.
Managers who don’t understand customer centricity: when I say manager, I’m really not talking about someone who has studied business and understands that customer is king. These managers at Checkers probably worked their way up in an environment that thrived on the bad customer that South Africans are used to. No wonder Mr Lenny Basassi (or whatever his name is) showed no compassion and treated me as if I was wrong.
A waste of my time: I spent about half an hour standing there getting frustrated when I could have been doing something better with my time for a mere R20.
But it’s not about the R20. It’s about bad customer service! You’re never treated like a human being, no one apologises for wasting your time, dare point out inefficiencies and you’re told that you’re wrong by management while unnecessary staff prance around to make the store look busy. I wonder if this is the culture that Whitey Basson is entrenching in his staff.
At the end of the day, customers just want a pleasurable service. Is it too much to ask for friendly assistance? It’s not about the price. It’s about the service and the way it was handled. What about a simple apology for time wasted? Oh how about putting up the correct price for customers to understand the cost of their purchases to avoid awkward scenes at the till. Yes, Checkers – making it better and better.

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