(I've left out the offending store's name...for now...to see how they respond.)
First of all, the store’s great. Good fruits and veggies front-and-center first thing in the door, and that’s important to a dad like me. Also important are the clean bathrooms, because my kids are 5 and 3 and thus don’t need much to go wrong to start pitching a fit about the sanitary condition of a public toilet. Good job there. Also, you’re the only large store in the area carrying proper bacon and not just the usual Mega-Strips-O-Fat that shrink to the size of a band-aid when cooked. My kids love saying “hi” to the lobsters, too. (They don’t know where those lobsters are headed, but that’s a discussion for another day.) And finally, thanks to your architects for designing the store so that the child-carrier carts can be kept out of the elements. The imbeciles at the Wal-Mart across the river think a snowbank is the best place to park the kiddy-carts, because that way with one good ice storm they’ll be held securely in place until Memorial Day. You’re miles ahead of Wal-Mart in every aspect except when it comes to freak-watching. Listening to a grown woman with a jailhouse calf tattoo of Eminem explain to her boyfriend “and this here’s the aisle I was in LAST time I got kicked out of Wal-Mart” does have a certain amount of entertainment value.
My one beef, one with which I have had repeat experience? The pace of the employees responding to customer-service assistance calls to our bottle-return window. To call their response time “glacial” would mean we could call home all those scientists who’ve been criss-crossing Greenland warning us about global warming, because that ice wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon.
Yesterday’s experience was typical: I carry my bags of neatly separated and cleaned cans and bottles into the store, and see that the glass-bottle redemption machine is out of order and that you’re accepting a maximum of 40 cans through the window. Fair enough – but having served notice of that, would it not behoove you to have somebody available at that window once in a while? Before the light bulb on the customer-service call button burns out from people frustratedly pushing it, and then the geniuses in Albany make you replace it with a compact fluorescent call-button light bulb that’ll cost you more than whatever you’re saving by not sending people to the bottle window more often? Knowing the store’s history of leisurely response time to the call button, I pressed it first thing and arranged my glass bottles in a neat rectangle so as to make the job of counting the bottles a simple multiplication task the likes of which my three-year-old will master before your store sends somebody to the bottle window.
Who are we kidding here? He’ll be in grad school by then. He’ll be married himself and bringing his own cans and bottles back. He’ll be in line behind me; I’ll glance at his returnables and tell him how I so fondly remember the days when I could afford good beer like his, until a certain pair of children came along, and wouldn’t it be nice if they called more often, hint hint?
Ten minutes and 112 cans and plastic bottles later, nobody had arrived to redeem my bottles. I pressed the button again and dutifully waited five minutes. Several customers entered and exited the store, briefly glancing my way and thinking to themselves…”Chump”…”Sucker”… “What a sap.”
After five minutes I went to the customer service window to inquire about assistance, and the very pleasant lady at the counter explained that all available staff were occupied bagging groceries, because 1:30 in the afternoon on a sunny Thursday is well-known as an insanely busy time for grocery shoppers. Just look at those lines out there – why, there’s at least five people checking out! The joint’s jumping! And never you mind that woman with the (store's name here) name tag outside having a smoke break.
And back to the bottle window I go.
I wait five more minutes, press the button again, wait five more minutes, have a quick chat with my wife to see if there’s anything she needs at the store, she reads me the entire Wall Street Journal over the phone, I wait five more minutes, pr—
No. I don’t think so. No more. And I shout it to the heavens: “I AM NOBODY’S PATSY!” From inside my minivan. Mustn’t cause a scene, you know.
Episodes like what I’ve just described have happened repeatedly to me at your store, over many months. Come ON. This is stupid what you’re doing, perhaps under somebody’s mistaken impression that it’ll somehow look good on the bottom line. It’s so colossally stupid that I can only think it must be a directive from corporate, because people in this community at the local level would never institute such a foolish policy on purpose, right?
Look, it’s just one. little. thing. But it would make a tremendous difference to a guy who’s on one heck of a tight schedule and watching every penny besides. It would make a tremendous difference to all those other people who I see waiting at the window with their own returnables. Seems to me that in this economy they need that buck-thirty back even more than I did. And I’d think it would make at least a small positive difference to your company as well, what with me having that crucial half hour back in my life, during which I would be drinking a bottle of the cheap beer I would ordinarily buy from your store but which I don’t buy from your store because it takes forever and a day to bring back the bottles.
Seems like a win-win to me. You make more money, I get more peace of mind. And I promise to bring back clean bottles and not the nasty schmutzed-up ones full of cigarette butts like the Wal-Mart shoppers do.
We shall see what transpires.