Saturday, September 3, 2011

Keep It Local

I'm all for supporting local businesses and I try to use our local shops, petrol stations, hairdresser and other services as much as I can. By "local" I mean within a 30km radius, seeing as we live in what classes as rural Ireland. There's a fairly well stocked local shop on my way home from work and I get bread, milk and other bits and pieces there but for fruit, veg and meat the shop is quite expensive especially when you get the likes of Supervalu, Lidl and Aldi only 20 minute's drive away in town.

I tried supporting the Supervalu in town, I really really tried. Even when the Lidl and Aldi moved in with their remarkably lower prices. After doing my shopping in both Supervalu and Lidl on Tuesday I think I'm going to take my business out of that town completely. And it's not because of a smaller product range or the fact that half of the things advertised are "not available" to us here in the West. It's because over the last six to nine months, the level of customer service has gone downhill faster than an olympic alpine skier.

I work in customer service. I know it's not always possible to be your best, happiest, smiliest self. But you still make the effort because that's what you're paid to do. I went into shop A. I had a basket with six items in it. The express counter cashier ignored me because she was talking to a colleague. I joined the queue at the normal till. The woman behind the till was standing up, wiping clean the conveyor belt. Not once did she even look at me in the eyes, she mumbled a hello and then added "I was just going on my break". Now, I know how it is sometimes; it's busy, you don't get your break on time and your bellybutton is saying hello to your spine. Having been in that position myself I asked her if she was closing her till and wanted me to go to another checkout. She sighed and without saying a word started putting my six items of shopping through.

I felt as if I was an inconvenience to this woman, keeping her from her break. There were no other customers queueing behind me, so I was the last customer she served before going on her break. Me and my six items. I'm sure it felt like an epic task. She scanned my shopping and then just stared into space. I was packing my things into my shopping bag. I turned to her, waiting for her to tell me how much I owed her. She was still staring into space. I asked "Sorry, how much was that?" thinking maybe I hadn't heard her, that she had told me what I owed. Another great sigh, it looked like it took every muscle in her body to move her head those two inches to bring the till display into her view and she told me the subtotal. I gave her my Laser card, and while she was swiping my card I checked my purse and asked her for cashback. She rolled her eyes at me and said "Too late, it's gone through. I'd have to cancel it and put it all through again". I'd had enough, took my card and went away fuming.

I then went into shop B. Me and my trolley went around, picked up the bits that I needed, including a pack of six 1,5 litre bottles of sparkling water and two heavy bags of cat litter. Now, in this shop some of the cashiers know the codes to the aforementioned items so they can enter them into the till manually, and there's no need to lift them onto the conveyor belt. Some of the cashiers either haven't been told the codes or they haven't bothered to learn them, and they either ask me to lift them onto the belt or they do it themselves. I don't mind lifting them up, it's far easier for me to do as I'm already standing up than it is to the cashier who is sitting down.

There was a queue at the only till open, and soon the bell rang to get another cashier out. The man came out of the back room, "I'm opening number four" and ran back into the back room again. A woman in front of me started loading her shopping onto the belt on number four, I followed suit. Soon the man reappeared with the cash drawer and sat down. It was painfully obvious he would've rather been anywhere else but there. The woman in front of me was elderly and it took her slightly longer to put her shopping back into her trolley where she had placed a bag to put the things into rather than packing the bag at her car. In the cashier's opinion, she was taking too long, so he proceeded to push all of her shopping into her trolley with force and said "You can pack over there." And started to put my shopping through. I said I wasn't in a rush but the cashier clearly was.

He yanked the pack of water out of my trolley informing me "All items need to be on the belt" before throwing the water on top of the cat litter, tearing the bag open, sending cat litter flying all over the floor. I lifted the bag out of my trolley and said I was going to go and get another one. "You pay first." he barked at me. Seriously?? I walked off to get another bag of cat litter and when I came back I found my shopping had been shoved into my trolley, the fresh bread I had picked up being squashed on the bottom. I pointed this out to the cashier who shrugged his shoulders and said I could go and get another one after I had paid. He already had a sign up saying his till was closed. Where ever it was that he was in a rush to get to, I decided it could wait as I went over to pick up another loaf of bread before paying him.

"There'syourcardgoodbyethankyou" and he bolted from the till, pushing my trolley out of his way as he did so. Needless to say, that shopping trip has left me appalled at the "service" I got. I have emailed both shops and am waiting for a response. Shop A in particular, I outlined four different instances where I felt as if I was inconveniencing their staff by daring to show up and wanting to buy things. The sad thing is, all these instances in shop A have happened with their permanent, long-term staff. Their summer staff are very helpful, chatty and courteous.

But, as of tuesday, I have decided to take my business to the next town. It's going to add some time to my journey there, but if that means I can shop in peace without being told I'm keeping someone back from their break, I'm willing to go those few extra miles. I will still continue to use the bank, the chemist and the spa closer by. Their customer service is always excellent, and once I find I'm being treated well, I will return time and time again.


  1. I really can't get how people can behave in this way in these difficult recession times.
    The retail industry in Ireland is on his kneels.
    I have many friends unemployed, who would give anything for a job as a cashier in a food shop, while those who have a job behave like jerks.
    They're the lucky ones, but still they don't get it.

  2. That's shocking! :O (I'd have named & shamed..)