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 #1: 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 #2: 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.

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