Kroger at Graceland: Your Employees Failed Tonight
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 30, 2012
Please forgive this aside….but it is food related. I went to Kroger to get ingredients for a chili competition.
Some people look to find fault in any business interaction they have. They are snipers – looking for any slight imperfection to focus on and exploit to make a scene or show their sense of superiority. You know these people – you see them and cringe when they are in front of you in line at the store or send back every other item from a restaurant menu. I strongly dislike those people. I am not one of those people. I hope I am not a crotchety old man yet.
I have had a rash of horrible customer service experiences lately. These horrify me because while mistakes happen in the service world….correcting them for a customer is generally fairly straightforward: acknowledge the issue, make sure you and the customer are on the same page on what the issue is and how to fix it moving forward, offer an apology and move on.
Earlier this week at Target, I had a dog toy come up without a SKU number showing a price. The cashier tried to find the information she needed, she could not. She called a manager, the manager could not find it and seeing that the lines were backing up she said to me: “how much do you want to pay for this”. We agreed on a price and moved on. That was good problem solving. That was good customer service. I had a horrible customer service experience at a pizza place in Grove City the night before Thanksgiving – the owner dealt with the issue effectively the next day.
I was at Kroger tonight (Friday) about 10:00 pm. It was not busy. The location is at Graceland Blvd. This is MY Kroger – I go there a couple of times a week. I have a favorite cashier there who is great and who I repeatedly see providing great service. They have a developmentally delayed older gentleman who works there that is incredibly slow. I appreciate that the store supports this employee and I see that they place him in lines where his speed and challenges do not impact his team or the customers adversely. That is nice.
So, we all have experiences of chosing the wrong line. I had just enough items and two bottles of wine so that self check out did not make sense. Plus all of the self check outs were in use. There was only one line open. It did not look too bad from a distance. Just a few items on the conveyor. The woman in front of me was well dressed for an evening at the grocery and sported some pretty incredible boots. As I placed my last item down…..while looking at her boots….I noticed she had about 100 jars of baby food still in her cart. My thought: well, this may take a bit. I checked the time in passing.
Another line had opened and closed to serve two customers while I waited. I then started paying attention. The cashier running my line was new. The woman in front of me had a lot of vouchers and a new pamphlet explaining how they worked. Most likely these were WIC or Food Stamps. These were causing a challenge for the new cashier but he and the customer took it in stride as did I because I recall what it is like to be a new cashier. I know people who have to use public assistance and that a trip to the grocery store is not fun for them either. At this point, I was kind of committed to this line and did not want to be a jerk by rushing off because things were running a bit slow.
Things were still moving slow when the 48 slice package of American Cheese had its turn. It did not ring up as a product covered by the program the woman with the very nice boots was using which caused some dismay for the cashier. The woman, showed where it seemed to be listed in her materials and said that the signage in the cheese display suggested that it would be on her list. At this point the cashier asked a young lady, who I believe may be Kaylene (sorry to get your name wrong but you never offered it….see later in the story…. henceforth she will be known as Ms. K.), for help and she scooted off to check on the cheese. The new cashier waited – doing nothing while this was being researched – maybe he could have rung up other items while waiting, maybe not. Who knows. The nice lady with the boots looked at me, said sorry and I said no problem. She then took this opportunity to move the rest of her baby food out of the shopping cart and I helped her with some that were just out of her reach. We waited some more. Ms. K. came back. I could not hear her explanation to the woman with the nice boots but it was something along the lines of the cheese was not keyed in correctly and there was not an easy way to override the glitch. The lady with the nice boots told Ms. K. to forget about the cheese. Ms. K. continued to offer ways to try to make the cheese work in some way but the lady with the nice boots kept saying…”no, that’s OK, let’s skip the cheese”. At this point the woman with the nice boots was a bit embarrassed. I was starting to dread my need to go to the store and Ms. K departed the scene. A few more items were scanned and things started to look better but then a loaf of bread came up. Same issue as the cheese, same interaction to try to resolve the situation, same wait time, the same “no, that’s OK, really, let’s just skip the bread”. The lady with the nice boots says she is sorry again. I said this time, honestly, “That is OK”. At this moment the flustered cashier knocks over a bunch of baby food and starts to restack on the conveyor belt. At the same moment a young couple with a lot of groceries moves in behind me, I see Ms. K. wave someone who she seems to know (or at least is really friendly with) over to a register line which is not showing an open light and she starts to ring this person up. I look to the self check out line….full. I look at the two employees hanging out near Ms. K. not doing anything with any sense of urgency. I feel a sense of dread and then I look to the front of me to see my poor cashier struggling with another voucher. I feel for the cashier. I feel for the nice lady in the nice boots and I feel that the ball is being dropped.
At this point, having been in line for 15 minutes I decide it is time to act. Ms. K seemed to have some authority in this group since she was dressed like a manager, does price checks and has a name tag. I move out of my line, walk over to her – explain (but in my mind, remind her) that I have been in line for 15 minutes and that my cashier needs some help. The hipster bagger that is not doing anything of use with Ms. K in her line starts to tell me there is nothing they can do to make the vouchers work better. To which I indicate that they can figure out some way to help the cashier – to which the hipster bagger says he can bag and he goes over to do so.
I go back to my line. Another snafu occurs, the hipster bagger takes over at the register, I excuse myself to the couple behind me, refill my basket and move over to Ms. K’s register where she is chatting with her customer and moving pretty slow.
I feel no sense of urgency with Ms. K. I feel no sense of acknowledgement. Ms. K. does not offer any apology….”sorry for your wait” or anything. She acts as if nothing has transpired over the last 15 minutes or if she has ever seen me before. At the end of my transaction I ask if I can speak with a manager, she says there is no manager on duty. I then ask if she is in charge and she responded: “yes”. At this point I ask her if she felt if she could have done anything differently. She said “no” – we did not have any staff” (I disagree). Finding this answer to be pretty lame I ask if there is anyone I can speak to and I am told to call Saturday morning and ask to speak to a manager but not given a name. There was no….. “Thank you for your patience or sorry we did not meet your expectations” just….apathy. That is a huge, giant, unforgivable fail. A new cashier is not a fail nor is WIC or Food Stamps (at least to 47% of you out there).
My analysis of the situation is that they did have the staff to open up another line or to have someone working with the new cashier on a difficult transaction. If there was not a manager on duty – they needed someone who could fill that role by being able to take actions to move the lines effectively or show accountability for not doing so. The situation in my line was a perfect storm of a bad line experience – but I should not have been the person to create my own lifeboat but chiding my cashier’s co-workers to help out their colleague and then move myself to a line that should have been offered to me and the people behind me when things came to standstill.
When I left Ms. K. I was disappointed. I did tell her specifically that I thought her team could have done better and that they failed. I then walked to my exit door which would not open because it was now after 10 pm. I then walked back by Ms. K, standing in the aisle, then by the hipster bagger that was now the hipster cashier still ringing up the order for the lady with the nice boots with the new cashier helping him bag.
Dear lady with the nice boots – I am sorry that what was probably your first time using public assistance for food at Kroger did not go so well. You were pleasant and gracious and were willing to give up cheese and bread so you could leave the store in less than 48 hours and I hope I did not make you uncomfortable when I gave up on our line….but I did need to get out of the store in less than one hour and both of us deserved better service than we received. You had very nice boots and you are the best dressed person I have seen at Kroger on a Friday night in my lifetime. Kroger your staff failed really, really, really bad.
At this point, we will use a wayback machine to take readers back to 3rd grade reading group. Here are our questions for discussion.
1) How do you define good customers service?
2) What would you have done if you were CMH Customer in line behind the lady with nice boots?
3) What would you have done if you were Ms. K?
4) Do you go Krogering?
I did get some interesting Facebook comments on this one which I will share:
While your experience could have happened theoretically anywhere, I am not a Kroger fan. There it is.
Our family spends a lot of money on groceries (most do!) and I try not to go to Krogers. When I end up there, I usually leave irritated because of how unhappy (miserable) so many of the employees are…I am sure there are great employees too, this is just my experience. For me, good customer service is when your patronage is truly appreciated. I go to Whole Foods in Dublin and Trader Joe’s in Dublin for an overall better shopping experience…it is worth the drive to me.
I am a Kroger fan for their gas rewards and Community Rewards programs that have given so much money to my kid’s schools. Having said that, I have also changed to Kroger at the Worthington Place — smaller, cozier and staff seem to always be helpful.
Somehow, an odd confluence of letter shapes in the format on my iPhone led me to mistake “at this point I asked her” as “at this point I poked her in the eye” which would be a much punchier ending.
Jim, I love that you can make such a long read about, essentially, standing in line at Kroger so entertaining. Nice write up!
It’s our Kroger too and the experience doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t sound like there’s much accountability…just that people will deal with it and customer service isn’t a priority. Will people stop shopping at Kroger after an experience of this nature? Not likely. Good read though.