10 Things Grocery Stores Can Do to Improve Service

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Clear off that floor space

For almost seven years I worked in a grocery store, even as a low-level manager for two of those years. I’m well aware of how important floor space is. All those displays of cookies and stacks upon stacks of 12-pack sodas really do draw customers to them, and then there’s the fact many companies will offer discounts to stores for the extra space. But guess what? Stores do not do any service to their customers when the aisles are so crowded you can barely get around, and heaven forbid two customers try to make it down an aisle side by side. Displays and end racks are important, but does there have to be one every two or three feet. Heck, sometimes you can barely get to the stuff on the shelves!

Get rid of the lottery tickets

I’m talking about at the office at the front of the store. I’m sick and tired of standing there to get done whatever it is I need done while waiting for some yahoo to buy his or her $300 worth of Powerball tickets. The automatic lottery dispenser off to the side doesn’t bother because it’s not in my way. Try more of that.

Space out your office services

And speaking of the office or desk at the front of the store, that office has way too many of the services needed by customers. Have to send a telegram? Go to the office. Need to rent a rug cleaner? Go the office. Need stamps? Go to the office. Get my drift? Stores need to space out those services somehow. Maybe have more automated machines, like for stamps, for example. Or have some of those services available at the checkout lanes. Having all those services packed into one little place usually with just one person working the counter means customers have to wait and wait and wait.

Have more lanes open

This is an easy one. Hire more checkout clerks. Get those lanes open. There should never, ever be more than three customers waiting in a lane. Ever. I mean it. And I don’t want to hear your complaining about how your store can’t afford any more workers because of the recession, yaddy yaddy yaddy. I worked in the grocery business, remember? I know what kind of money those stores pull in. I can walk into any grocery, look around a bit, take into account the size of the store and the amount of supplies on the shelves and the general neighborhood, and come up with a ballpark figure for how much money that store’s pulling in every day, every week, month and year. You’re making money. But you won’t be if I have to wait in another line for longer than a few minutes.

Make the self-checkout lanes more user friendly

If you’re a manager at one of those stores with these new-fangled self-checkout lanes, please make sure the scanners work correctly. The dang things are slow! Half the time they don’t work and the computer monitor gives you some message about waiting on a customer representative to fix the thing somehow. If I have to wait through all that garbage, I might as well just wait through the regular checkout lines. And those weight-checking scales that are supposed to show whether I’ve bagged my groceries or not? They’re way, way, way too sensitive. I’m not trying to rob your store. If you’re worried about theft, I’d much rather you spend the money on more cameras or something else less intrusive.

Make sure sale and discount items are marked well

We’ve all seen it. Frozen peas are on sale for a buck a bag. But you walk up and down the frozen food aisle, looking for those peas. Then you finally find them, but they’re marked the regular price of $1.01. But ya gotta have that sale price. What to do? You have to go hunt down some schmo and make sure those are the correct frozen peas on sale, and then you have to hope, hope, hope that the peas will ring up correctly at the cash register and that you’ll remember to check the price on the price tag before you get all the way home. No. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Stores need to clearly mark the sales prices of their items. Clearly. Let me repeat that, CLEARLY.

Hell, make sure the regular items are marked well

I’m tired of going to the produce section, finding all the different kinds of onions mixed together or at least so close you couldn’t tell the difference, but lo and behold there is a price nowhere to be found. Oh, wait! There’s the price for the white onions, way over in the corner there on a little sticker stuck on the counter beneath the yellow onions. But now I want the yellow onions. How much do those cost?

Don’t make customers wait on price checks

Some stores used to have a policy that if an item didn’t ring up and/or didn’t ring up correctly at the register, then the item was free. I like that. It meant the stores had to get their butts in gear and make sure everything was in their pricing system. I don’t see that policy too much nowadays. I guess it’s better to make the customer wait than it is to make some employees do their jobs.

Hang up the phone

I’m your customer. I’m in the store. I’m right here at the front office counter staring you in the face. I’m talking to you. Trying to get help with something. Then the phone rings and you say, “Excuse me while I get this.” Um, no. I don’t care if it’s another customer on the line. I don’t care if it’s Santa Claus or the president on the line. I was here first. They can wait. I had to drive or walk to the store and they can do the same. Or you could hire more employees to answer the phone, employees who aren’t waiting on me.

Get those carts fixed

It seems every cart you grab at the front of the store has a bad wheel. Are they all that way? Are they built that way on purpose for some reason? Fix it. Change it. Whatever needs to be done, for the love of all that’s holy, just give me a grocery cart that has wheels that don’t want to lock up every three feet unless I’m out in the parking lot trying to put the groceries in my car; for some reason, only then does the cart want to roll all over God’s creation.

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