Photo Credits: edans
A few days ago, my wife came home with a story about bad customer service that unfortunately is becoming too common.
She was at an Office Depot store in Miami, picking up some office supplies. She was standing in line to pay, with four other customers in front of her, at the only cash register open in the store.
As the minutes passed bye, she got tired of waiting and asked the cashier why couldn’t they open another register. She answered that they were short on staff, without providing any further details.
My wife then walked to the copy center where two associates were chatting and asked to talk to the manager. One of the associates replied that she was the assistant manager, and that she could probably help.
My wife explained the situation and asked her if they could open another register. The assistant manager replied that they had received orders from corporate to have only one cashier, to reduce costs.
She paused for a second and, probably noticing the frustration in my wife’s face, offered this pearl: “but this is what you can do: if you want, I can give you the address of our corporate office so that you can write and…”.
She didn’t finish speaking. My wife, dropping the office supplies she had picked up on the counter, cut her off and said: “No, THIS is what I can do: I can walk to my car and drive a few blocks to your competition where I can get what I want without having to wait in line. Goodbye.”
Some companies spend millions of dollars in expensive ads, margin-eroding discount coupons, new and bigger stores, anything to lure prospective customers in. Then, when customers are in the store, with merchandise in their hands and ready to pay, they don’t want to take their money!
It just doesn’t make sense. How much does an extra cashier cost per hour? What is the gross margin on office supplies? 50%, 60%? If they don’t want to hire extra people, why can’t they cross-train associates so that they can be more flexible on the job and perform different tasks? Can’t they install self-service checkout machines?
Somehow I suspect that the executive who made the decision will be praised by his or her superiors and maybe get a fat bonus at the end of the year. At the same time, sales will probably plummet, but that doesn’t matter. They will chalk that one up to the “recession” and everybody, except the customer, will be happy.