personal, Rant

The death of customer service

Yesterday was not a good shopping day for me.  In fact, I think it was the worst day of retail in my 35 years…and I spent 9 years working in stores myself.  In fact, I have been a cashier, stocker, sales associate and even a manager and I have never seen a day as bad at this.  What happened?  Well it starts with a simple phone call.

My friend Matthew had some photos printed to the local CVS for me so I could make him a scrapbook of his recent cruise.  735 photos…a sizeable sum for sure. Hard to miss right?  So I called to ask the store if they did in fact have the photos prior to me going over there.  And I was told 3 times that the shipment did not exist.  And when I questioned the sales guy, he told me “If you think I don’t know what I am doing, then talk to the manager” and he put me hold.  Strike 1.

So the manager gets on the phone and says “When you placed the order…” and I explained that I did not place the order, I was just picking it up.  And he proceeded to tell me that the photos did not exist.  The order number meant nothing and I must have it wrong.  After about 4 tries, I hear him whispering something and then … low and behold … a box with Matthew’s name on it appears.  Magically.  He then tells me that there are 2 ways to get the photos.  One way is where they print them there – 1 Hour photos.  The second involves Kodak printing them and shipping them to the store for pickup.  These were shipped from Kodak.  I accept that.  But if you know that photo orders can come in two different ways, and I have explained that I did not make the order and I don’t know which option was ordered, wouldn’t you check BOTH prior to telling someone that 735 photos had mysteriously disappeared into cyberspace???

Then after work I went to the store to pick them up, armed with the printed receipt, and the kid behind the counter tells me that he does not see them.  I explained that they were mailed, not printed on site, and he bends down scans the shelves behind the counter and tells me – there are no photos.  Strike 2.  I tell him I spoke to the manager about the photos earlier that afternoon and so he calls the manager out to help me.  The manager comes out, pulls out the box (in the exact same place that the kid had just looked in) with Matthew’s name clearly written on it, and proceeds to tell me that next time “I order” prints to make sure I pay the extra for 1 hour prints … cause then they will know where they are.  Strike 3.

I walked out with a box of photos and a headache.  Had the manager apologized for the confusion I might have been ok with it.  But to tell me that the solution is to not cause him more headaches and make him look for my pesky box, is cause for alarm.  I mean really – is this the way all problems are handled at CVS?  If I go into to buy a magazine and it does not scan correctly, is the answer that I needed to pick a better magazine?

Well that may not be the answer at CVS, but apparently at Target it is.

After leaving CVS I went to Target to get birthday gifts for my niece and nephew.  And what an adventure that was.  The shopping part was fine.  The checking out part was torture.  Apparently the cashier is new.  And I can sympathize.  I have been there.  I have trained cashiers just like him.  But, and this is a big one, there is a point where you have to admit, you need help.  And we reached it rather quickly.

He started scanning in my items and when he got to one where there was an issue with the barcode scanning, he set it aside.  Until only the difficult ones were left.  He then tried a total of 5 times – yes I was counting (mostly so when I got put in jail I would have my story straight) – to run the numbers again before keying in the numbers.  He then asked me if I would pay for the other things and then do a separate transaction for the magazine in question.  Ummm…?  Or would I rather not buy it at all.  I would think in this economy, Target would not be turning away sales like this but apparently it is a new strategy for cashiers to get you to walk away from the things you spent time picking out.

Now, any cashier should know this – bar codes have a series of numbers on the bottom of the scanning bars.  However, there are also 2 small numbers in the front of the main numbers and behind the number.  For instance:

2068bar_codeThe number is 084253233163 – you have to add the 0 and the 3 to make the complete barcode number.  So back to my cashier, he keeps trying to put in the barcode without those numbers.  But Target has made their registers very user friendly.  If it recognizes that you are putting in a barcode number but can’t identify the exact product, it will ask you a series of questions.  1.  What is the price of the item?  and 2.  Is this item taxable?  (which it has to ask as prescriptions are not taxable and it has to check).  So he keeps putting in the partial barcode and when it asks for the price, he escapes out and starts over.  And over.  And over.

Finally he says to me, “How much is this?”  Ummm…I could tell you ANYTHING at this point, but I am honest so I take the magazine and point out that the price is printed RIGHT ON THE BARCODE.  He didn’t believe me.  He stared at it for about 2 full minutes prior to putting the price in.  When it asked him if it was taxable, he escaped and started over again.  I was ready to jump over the counter at this point (hence the part about being in jail).  I said, yes it is taxable.  But by then he called another cashier over who put in the WHOLE barcode and – wonder of wonders – it pulled up the magazine.

I finally pay – it has seriously been about 9 minutes total since he started to ring up my 8 items.  And then he gets overzealous (I think to just get me out of line) and he pulls the register tape too early and loses the rest of my receipt in the machine.  And can’t figure out how to open it back up to get it out.  And had to call over another cashier to get it open.  And I finally got to leave.

Now, trust me, this was not solely the fault of the cashier.  His responsibility lies in just 2 things: Not admitting that he didn’t know enough to be on the register and not asking for more help earlier on (ok and maybe asking me not to buy something cause he couldn’t figure it out).  The main issue lies with management.  1.  You don’t put a newbie out there without help.  2.  You have a line manager (I saw her last night) so that person needs to be readily accessible when you have a new person on the line.  3.  If you have to put him/her out there, pair them with someone else.  It is not that hard.  Been on both sides of that fence – cashier and manager – and there has to be a way to get them ready that does not include throwing them to the proverbial wolves by themselves.  And as an aside – if it was not his first night – they have an even bigger problem.

There was time when you would never tell a customer “I don’t know.”  While I am not convinced that you shouldn’t admit when you don’t know something – I do think that every “I don’t know” should have a big “but…” after it.  But I can get an answer for you.  But I can find someone to help you.  But Mrs. X can help you.    And you would never tell a customer it was they’re fault for causing the issue.  And you would never tell a customer that they had to forgo something they came in to buy just because you couldn’t figure out how to charge them for it.

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2 thoughts on “The death of customer service”

  1. I would call this a Jonah day 🙂 And in these circumstances, which always consist of getting behind the ‘slow car in the left lane’ for me – I remember that God put me in that position for a reason. Maybe there is a possibility of a car accident ahead that he is trying to protect me from?

    For the most part, this makes me feel better. Momentarily at least, to give me some patience and peace about the situation. I do love this line:

    Is this the way all problems are handled at CVS? If I go into to buy a magazine and it does not scan correctly, is the answer that I needed to pick a better magazine?

    Customer Service is hard to find these days! Preach it sista!

  2. I also think customer service has gone down the toilet – with the economy. Are these ex-executives running the checkouts now? I have personally seen disgusted customers walk out of stores in the middle of attempting to check out at the grocery store. In one case, with a $400 bill in the end and left the cashier looking dumbfounded.

    I’m happy to take my business to a store that trains their employees to treat their customers better. (When I find one, I’ll let you know!!) LOL

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