A view of the industry through the
eyes of a chain buyer.
Is Bigger Better?
Bad customer service can drive a
customer to drink.
by Bill Gardner (April 20, 2009)
Does big make your store better than others? Does having a huge
selection entitle you and your staff to feel and act superior? No
There's a liquor store in the Denver area known for its low
prices and wide selection. Supposedly the reason they were able to
keep prices low was because they didn't accept credit cards, but
that policy changed in the last year or so and they still have low
prices. I do appreciate that part.
What I don't appreciate is the service they offer, if you want to
call it that. Even though they have perhaps the lowest prices in the
area, I don't frequent the store, mostly because it's way out of my
way. I did, though, used to have frequent occasions for being in
that neighborhood and would stop in there from time to time.
However, I shopped other stores more frequently despite the fact I
drove by this store at least once a week. Here's why:
I had occasion to be driving by there the other day and decided
to stop in and pick up a bottle of my favorite wine. I thought I
remembered which aisle it was in, but obviously I didn't because I
couldn't find it. I was also looking for a bottle for someone else
and it wasn't where I thought it should be either. I'm pretty sure,
in fact, that they had moved it since the last time I was there.
Anyway, I looked for signage and couldn't find any.
I was wandering around and, I thought, it was pretty obvious I
needed help. Two people stocking shelves couldn't be bothered to
interrupt their conversation using salty language to help me. Now,
if you know me, you know I'm no prude and salty language typically
doesn't offend me. But they didn't know that. Their big offense was
not asking if they could assist me. I ignored them and sought
someone else. He knew exactly where to find both wines, but he
didn't seem too pleased that I interrupted him to ask for
assistance. It was then I finally spotted an overhead sign in a
corner of the store. It certainly wasn't easy to read unless you
were right next to it and it wasn't conveniently located to be much
help for most customers.
I took my wine to the checkout and mentioned, nicely, to the
young lady that I had been frustrated on more than one occasion when
trying to locate things in the store. I didn't mention the service
issues. She seemed genuinely concerned, but then said, "You'll
have to tell them at that counter (pointing to a service counter). I
don't have anything to do with that." Well, thanks for nothing.
I keep asking myself why I go back. Obviously it's the price, but
only if I'm in the neighborhood. There have been times the checkout
person didn't utter a word to me. And they almost always act like
they're doing you a favor standing there and taking your money.
There's another discount liquor store that I do frequent more
often. It, too, is large and has a good selection. It, too, has its
service issues. At least its signage is decent. A few years ago, I
actually called the manager after returning home from a visit to
that store, to complain about the checkout person. I don't think it
helped much. They're a little friendlier, but they still act like
they don't want to be bothered. At least the people working the
aisles are more helpful than they are in that other store.
Then there's the smaller liquor store close to home that's much
more convenient. Their prices are significantly higher for my
favorite wine, but they started ordering it and keeping it cold
(it's a white) just for me. (Note: This sounds like I
frequent liquor stores way too often, but remember, these comments
are based on experiences over an extended period of time!)
The point is, the smaller, more convenient, liquor store with
higher prices gets most of my business because of their service and
their location. Being big and offering lots of stuff at lower prices
doesn't automatically entitle you to wear the "Best Store in
Town" crown. Service still plays a huge role in your success
and customer satisfaction.
(Note: Bill Gardner is the former editor-in-chief of Craftrends,
Sew News, and Creative Machine Embroidery magazines,
and former director and education manager of the Memorytrends trade
show. He is currently working on some free-lance projects, but would
welcome a full-time job. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous "Benny" entries, click on the titles in
the right-hand column.)