Pick 'n Pay fumbles communications breakdown

Pick 'n Pay Norwood on 31 December 2010

Boy, I was pissed at Pick ‘n Pay in Norwood this morning (more than usual). I popped in for a couple items for the new years weekend and the store was pretty busy with a lot of other people thinking the same thing. Shopping in the store is an experience. You have to dodge passive and openly aggressive shoppers whose trollies must have unrestricted access to their chosen aisles. You also have to contend with frequently disinterested staff and the general size of the store. Monthly shopping is best done with some sort of calming medication in advance.

When I finally arrived at the front of the store to pay and got into a queue, I was casually informed by a staff member that I couldn’t pay by card because the machines were down. I asked him what I was supposed to do and he suggested I go find an ATM and “draw some cash”. That pissed me off even more than I was already navigating the store. I didn’t see that I had much of an option – I needed a couple items I couldn’t get at the Woolworths at the other end of the mall so Pick ‘n Pay it was. I parked my basket trolley to the one side and walked off to get some cash. When I got back I had lost my place in the queue and wound up at the back of another one.

The queues basically moved at a glacial pace as some cards were approved after authorisation delays of a few minutes, more shoppers left their stuff with the cashiers to go draw cash and shoppers around me became increasingly annoyed.

The Norwood store’s management stuffed this one up. They didn’t post notices telling shoppers that their comms links to their banks had gone down. They also didn’t tell shoppers (as I was told when I got a call from Ricky from the store at the end of the day) that they had two comms failures this morning. The cashiers and staff in the area were as disinterested as usual and I didn’t merit the courtesy of an apology for the delays when I finally got to a till to pay. While the technical glitches irked me, as well as the need to draw cash, they do happen. Looking around at the shoppers waiting in queues around me, most of them didn’t seem to know what was going on and what was being done to sort it out. People were getting information from shoppers around them who, in turn, got tidbits from some or other staff member.

I resorted to Twitter and vented there. I received pretty prompt responses from the people behind the @picknpay Twitter account (who did apologise profusely) but what was really needed were information updates on the ground. Well, a panel displaying tweets from @picknpay could have been handy too but I don’t see that happening any time soon. What would have gone down well would have been a number of printed notices advising shoppers that card machine comms were down. The notices could have been placed at tills and entrances and that probably would have a lot to manage shoppers’ expectations at the tills.

As I mentioned earlier, I got a call from Ricky at the store late this afternoon and he explained about the 2 comms failures and what they were doing to address it on the ground. He mentioned that he found the store’s PA system was practically useless at the front of the store (they were apparently making announcements about the issues they were dealing with) and I shared my thoughts about what they could have done to keep shoppers better informed. At the end of the day (which is pretty much is now), the wait was probably not a big deal in the scheme of things but it could have been a lot more stressful had I had my son with me or been in a rush. I also just couldn’t get through a level I am on in Angry Birds (I thought that might help alleviate my tension).

While they couldn’t really do much on the ground, the @picknpay Twitter people were very responsive and tried to help. They probably got Ricky in touch with me to explain what happened this morning and they at least deserve credit for that. Their efforts would have been a lot more useful if those tweets with their updates could have been made available to people in the stores. Maybe those screens displaying tweets wouldn’t be such a bad idea. There are already screens displaying ads and other TV footage, perhaps a ticker displaying tweets from the @picknpay team would be helpful there too?

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

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