Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Retail Blues

I really don't like shopping.  I don't like the crowds; I don't like waiting in lines and, maybe most importantly I feel like most stores take my business for granted.  Why else would they hire inattentive, rude and often useless employees?  A case to illustrate my point:  just a couple of nights ago I went to a local Shopper's Drug Mart to pick up a couple of things.  I brought my items to the cash where two twenty-somethings were manning the tills and the guy "serving" me (as opposed to "servicing" me, which would be a whole different and weird ball of wax) barely acknowledged my presence and kept riveted to his vapid faux-blonde colleague's banal chatter:  "This restaurant is, like, called the Farm Team something?  It's in the Glebe?"

He tried multiple times to scan the items without looking, contributing the odd, pithy nugget to the conversation:  "Really?  Like, what kinda food do they serve?"  Finally, everything rung up, he glanced at the screen and deigned the briefest glance in my direction:  "$9.56" and held his hand out while redirecting his attention to his ditsy colleague.  I left the store shaking my head, wishing this was an isolated incident.  I remember a similar situation at our Loblaws, two young lads speaking to each other, right past me and my then nine-year-old girl about some "bitch" one or the other of them picked up at some party.  I really wanted to complain to a manager about that one, but alas, I was in too much of a hurry.

So many stores don't bother to educate or train their staff in the products they sell.  Canadian Tire, at least outside its automotive department, is particularly bad.  I remember buying a wheelbarrow there once, one with two wheels, and asked the pimply adolescent serving me what the benefit of two wheels might be - more a test than because I didn't know - and he looked at me like I had asked to solve Fermat's last theorem.  To make me think even darker thoughts, I got home and found that the two boxes the wheelbarrow came in contained parts for two completely different products.  And don't get me started about the big sporting goods stores - when they try to offer advice, especially with shoes, it's usually wrong.

I have many other pet peeves, but I don't want to be entirely negative.  Lee Valley Tools, which I have raved about in a previous post,  is good example.  Knowledgeable and friendly staff, the company stands behind the products it sells with a generous return policy.  Twice in the past year I've actually had a staff member try to talk me out of buying their products:  the first a tool sharpening jig and the second an after-market mitre gauge for my table saw ("well, if you're going to buy it, try it for a couple of weeks and if you don't think it was worth it, bring it back.")

Also, recently we had a great experience with Kiddy Kobbler here in Ottawa.  While we waited for someone to help us, we browsed the shop and picked out a number of running shoes - for actual running - that our daughter, Lena, might like to try.  Finally, someone came to help us.  A delightful young woman with rainbow coloured hair first measured Lena's feet and listened as we explained what we needed.  She went off to the back and came back with three or four shoeboxes.  None of the shoes were the ones Lena was particularly interested in so we asked if we try on the other two pairs.  The sales rep grudgingly agreed, though she commented, politely, that she was pretty sure they wouldn't suit Lena's needs because they would likely be two wide and wouldn't perform well give the size and shape of Lena's feet.  Sure enough Lena didn't find either pair very comfortable, but she found a very comfortable shoe among the options originally brought.  In a later Facebook exchange with the store's owner/manager, he explained that his staff are trained extensively on the products they sell and on how to "read" kids' feet and they are always evaluating customer feedback to help decide which products to carry or discontinue.

Anyway, this has been on mind in part because Christmas shopping season is upon us - crowds will be getting larger, parking lots will be getting crammed, stress will be getting higher and frustration will be boiling over and I just wish something would make it all more pleasant.  Would love to hear your own exceptional adventures with retail - positive or not.

Well, into the breach and all that....Happy Shopping everyone.


  1. I always hear so much from both sides on this issue. Customers complain about rude service. (Almost always warranted, of course.) Customer Service/Sales people complain about rude customers. (Also almost always warranted.) Sigh. Why can't we all just be nice to each other? Shopping would be such a pleasant experience then.

    1. I understand both sides, but I'm not being rude so don't be rude to me; you're being paid, however poorly, to do a job, so try to do it properly; and to the companies doing the hiring - I'm a customer and deserve a certain amount of respect so spend the time and resources to train your staf.