The best of intentions

July 14, 2009

A few years ago, Safeway in California trained all its cashiers in customer service techniques.

It was easy to tell something was different: all of a sudden they began calling customers by the surnames on their credit cards: Mr. or Ms. ____.

They managed to personalize the checkout process without sacrificing efficiency. Which is good: I love friendly store personnel, but I also love to get out of the grocery store as soon as possible.

Here in Florida, it looks like Publix has also trained its cashiers. They don’t call customers by name, but they have begun interacting more with customers in the checkout lane.

However, (and oh, how I will be excoriated and vilified for saying this, but here goes:)

However, this IS the South, after all, and the cashiers here haven’t seemed to catch on in exactly the same way.

A few snippets from his week:

A cashier asked if I’d found everything I needed.

Ok, let’s break it down. What do you think would have happened if I’d said “No, I was looking for a stuffed pork loin and I just couldn’t find it.”

For sure they would’ve sent a bag person for it. That would be the nearest person. But at Publix, they hire developmentally disabled people to bag (and I support this wholeheartedly) so they probably would’ve had to have called a manager or some other person. Then that person would’ve had to go looking for exactly what I wanted.

Can you just imagine the eye rolls and tapping feet of those queued up behind me?

So, who in the world thought this was a serious question?

Also this week, a cashier stopped checking to review in detail the cover to the magazine I was buying and to compare the photo of Michael Jackson to one on the stand across the way, and tell me which she liked better.

When I tried to be noncommittal so as to not stop her progress, she tried harder, and of course, stopped scanning my groceries.

The other day, a cashier asked me if I was going to put the Peppermint Pattie I’d bought in the freezer. When I demurred she stopped checking, picked it up, examined it and told me how much better it would be frozen, how I should put it in the freezer and how she always freezes them.

I could see the woman with two kids behind me taking deep breaths.

I looked around and saw that virtually ALL of the cashiers were frozen in place as they engaged customers in friendly conversation.

Here in the South, it has eluded Publix cashiers that all this down home friendliness should never impede customer progress through the lane.

It also seems to have eluded the trainers that things are different here.

This is the South.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time? Well, they just don’t come naturally.

So to Publix management, I say: take a tip from Safeway. Teach cashiers to call customers by name.

But by all means, make sure they keep checking.

One comment on “The best of intentions
  1. TJ says:

    Oh this post made me laugh so much. I agree with everything you mentioned.

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