You have some time to kill before your next appointment. You pull into the parking lot of one of your favorite stores at 9:17am. You know they don’t open until 9:30am. It says so right on the door. That’s okay. You’ll sit and wait.
You look up from your phone to see someone walking into the store. You check your phone. Nope, still only 9:20am. Maybe she is an employee.
You see another person walking out of the store with shopping bags in her arms. It’s only 9:21am. Three customers later, you’re wondering what is going on. Finally at 9:30am you walk in past the sign on the door that clearly says 9:30am to 9:00pm Monday through Saturday.
Once inside, you see plenty of customers already in the store shopping, but the two center rows of lights are off. Now you are really confused. You work your way toward the back of the store down one of the lit side aisles. You finally see a staff member near the back.
“I thought you opened at 9:30am”
“Not on Saturdays. We open at 10:30am on Saturdays. We never open at 9:30.”
“That’s not what your door says.”
“You need to read it again.”
“Then why are all these people in here already?”
“We’re having a special event.”
“Why are the lights off?”
“We aren’t open yet. I told you. We don’t open until 10:30am.”
You walk away from this employee with more questions than answers. A special event? Where are the signs? What kind of event? Why are the lights off? Why does the door say 9:30am? Why was she so rude?
You work your way carefully up one of the darkened aisles. You get to the front and walk to the door. It still says Monday through Saturday 9:30am to 9:00pm. No signs about special events anywhere.
You see another employee, a manager. You ask her the same questions. She confirms that the store normally opens at 9:30am. She confirms that they opened at 8:30am for a special event (even though you still haven’t seen any signs about it.) You ask her why the lights are off. She says, “Oh, I didn’t notice.”
Ten minutes later the lights come on. You look at your phone. 10:00am on the dot.
A few minutes later you walk out of the store empty handed, shaking your head, confused. One of your favorite stores has dropped a few notches on your list. You still don’t know what the special event was. You still don’t know how the manager couldn’t notice that half the aisles were too dark to shop. You still don’t know why the one employee was so adamant they don’t keep the hours they have posted on their front door.
About the only thing you can do is call your friend who writes a blog about retail. I took that call about 12:20pm today. I’m still not sure how to file this or even what lesson to learn from it.
Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” This story makes no sense at all. That’s how you know it is true.
Is this about holding a special event and not making a big deal about it with signage, lights, and everyone on board?
Is this about an employee not knowing basics like the store hours and not knowing how to treat a customer with respect?
Is this about a manager not observant enough to know the lights aren’t on?
Or is this simply a cautionary tale that if you aren’t taking care of the details, you just might be turning off customers who otherwise liked you?
I’ll let you decide the lesson.
PS The unfortunate thing is that this is becoming the norm in retail. While that helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors, it also lowers the overall bar of expectation making it easier for your competitors to meet those lower expectations. It devalues customer service as a whole, and that is not good.