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Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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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 and 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 gardnerbill@live.com. To read previous "Benny" entries, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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