What @picknpay Norwood can do to suck less

Women in a Publix grocery store: Tallahassee, FloridaI have a strained relationship with the Norwood Pick ‘n Pay store (its mostly on my side). I shop there because of its selection and because it is less than 4 minutes from my house by car. Unfortunately, shopping at this store is a pretty unpleasant experience. In the vernacular, it sucks. I had a particularly bad experience with this store at the end of December 2010 and while I have tried to remain constructive since then, it hasn’t been easy. I thought I’d suggest a few things the staff in the store can do to make the shopping experience there suck less. Hence this post.

Wandering around the store is an experience. You encounter all sorts of people who seem to be totally oblivious of everyone else. In fact, their myopia seems to intensify the bigger their trolley. That is pretty much what you come to expect in public life, we all pretend everyone else doesn’t exist. It helps us avoid uncomfortable social contact. That sort of behaviour is not really welcome in Pick ‘n Pay staff who are technically wandering around the store in order to render a service to customers. Pretending that customers are not really there is not a great way to render any form of service, let alone service that elicits a smile. Tip : Remind your staff that they are being paid to render a service to customers – those annoying people bumbling around ignoring each other.

My December experience with the store and a couple people’s subsequent experiences with store technical issues is a good reason why the store should consider some notification system in the store that doesn’t include the inaudible PA system or the apathetic cashiers. Tip : One idea I had which might still be a little “out there” is to have a ticker-type display with store notices and possibly even the @picknpay Twitter stream. Or the store could pipe that data flow across the screens it has all over the place.

The cashiers are the final experience of the store before exiting the store in a hurry to find some form of medication for the pain. The first challenge with cashiers is that they seem to have forgotten about that button located somewhere strategically around their till which activates that message board telling weary shoppers which cashier is available. Know what I am referring to? No? Neither do they. Pick ‘n Pay Norwood cashiers are till accessories. As operators they push the buttons, give you plastic bags if you want them and otherwise add almost nothing to the service experience in the store. Here are a couple additional suggestions:

  • Don’t make me peer over tills and displays to try figure out which of the dozen or so cashiers in the “10 items or less” queue are available, counting change a little too obsessively, reading a newspaper or are actually in the process of making another customer miserable – push that stupid little button and use the display to let me know;
  • Once I am fortunate enough to wind up at a till personed by a cashier, it would help if the cashier inclines his or her head in my general direction and acknowledges the possibility that a customer is there;
  • When or if offering plastic bags, it really doesn’t help to just peel them off the pile and add them to the chaos that is my shopping list on the counter – try opening the bags and placing the items into the bag while I dig around for money to pay for it all and, I don’t know, the cashier’s salary to some degree (while helpful, advice which item to place into which bag isn’t the same as actually extending oneself beyond operating the till to packing stuff into bags); and
  • If an electronic malfunction or some other calamity strikes, cashiers should ideally assume that sorting that stuff out and making it possible for me to complete my purchase and leave the store without tears and/or a migraine is the cashier’s job, not mine (certainly don’t ask me what I intend to do about the mess I find myself in when the store’s speedpoint network crashes).

In Pick ‘n Pay’s defence, whoever is handling their Twitter account and is liaising with management works pretty hard to stay on top of rants like mine. That a store manager called me in late December/early January to discuss my Twitter bitch session is definitely a sign that someone is listening. Its just a pity the floor staff (and the very people who expect my sympathy when they go on strike – usually an event which escapes my notice because the service levels remain fairly constant) didn’t see those memos and tend to treat customers as interruptions in an otherwise tranquil day.

While I have a tendency to be somewhat negative when entering the Norwood store, I hope this post has some positive and constructive feedback. I, for one, would very much like to have a shopping experience which doesn’t leave me in a bad mood and the strong urge to wash my hands a lot afterwards.






  1. Andre avatar

    May I add another suggestion, please?
    Teach the till staff how to handle bread. It’s not necessary to CRUSH.THE.BREAD.IN.A.MIGHTY.GRIP in order to barcode-swipe it. Really, who wants vinger-vrommled bread? Every Pick ‘n Pay I’ve ever bought bread at…. 🙁

  2. Jim avatar

    I shop there too.
    One sunday I lost my cool and ruined one of their staffs Sunday. It made me realize what a dick I am complaining about garden furniture to someone who is just trying to make ends meet.
    I no longer loose my cool.
    I now watch other customers who feel it necessary to take out their bad mood/bad week or bad life out on a minimum wage employee.
    They expect to receive treatment as if they are shopping at a boutique and not a hyper market.
    I find it sad, especially cause half the time the customer is wrong and a dick who is trying to use “the customer is always right” as a way of bending the rules and making themselves feel better at the expense of others who are lower paid and just trying to make a living.

    So in short get over yourself.

  3. pauljacobson avatar

    Hi Jim, valid points in your comment and there are many customers who are very unreasonable (I include myself on a couple occasions) and behave poorly. That said, if Pick ‘n Pay regards itself as a service focused business then there are basic service levels it can work towards to prove that.

    Many of those irate customers are frustrated with lousy service, sullen or absent staff and addressing some of the basics would go a long way towards improving the general interaction between customers and staff.

  4. Pearl avatar

    I just sent am email below to the shop…..Bad Customer Service !
    Sent: 21 April 2011 10:31
    To: ‘norwoodhyper@pnp.co.za’
    Subject: Bad Customer Service

    Good morning,

    I called the store to request a written quotation for 20 dozens of hot dog rolls. Firstly I was sent to two people before I can be attended by Ruwen/Ruan who decided to be rude to me. I told him that I needed a written quotation to be faxed to me; but he decided to give me the price of R23.00 over the phone.

    When I brought that the price does not seem right to his attention; he told me that he has given me the price and I should not tell him how to do his job. I told him that I thought the price was wrong because I buy rolls for my house and a dozen is about R11.00; therefore 240 rolls cannot be R23.00!

    He then said something in his language which I think was Sotho and hung up on me. I then called back and requested to speak to Customer Service and explained everything to Nelly who happily took my fax number and promised to fax me the quotation.

    I am very upset about this, is this how you treat your clients? I stay in Bramley View and I buy my groceries there every month ; and this is making me think twice about patronizing if we do not get the respect from your staff when we need to give you business.

    I need an apology from the rude Ruwen or whatever his name is.

    Your assistance will be highly appreciated.

  5. Doug Hoseck avatar

    In some cases it is people being unreasonable. But I have to side with Paul. I have shopped at this P’nP plenty, it’s 2 minutes from my place. But eventually I had just had too many unpleasant experiences there & I don’t use them anymore. The cons outweigh the pros. I have shopped at other P’nP’s without an issue. The Norwood P’nP is in a league of it’s own. Without a doubt, their staff are the most unhappy, unhelpful people I have encountered. 
    I use the Norwood Spar & Woolies for all my shopping now. At the Spar I can do all my shopping in a few minutes, have a nice friendly chat with the super-efficient cashier on the way out, and there’s never a payment problem. Way I see it, my time has value too. It takes an average of 30 minutes less time to do it at Spar than at that P’nP (assuming no payment problems at P’nP). On those numerous occasions that P’nP is having a payment problem, you save 60 to 90 minutes by doing your shopping at Spar. When you add that time up, what you save by shopping at P’nP doesn’t really matter.
    That’s my 5 cents:)

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