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Retail in the United States; Broken Business

Updated on May 27, 2012

The Broken Retail Environment

It’s a Friday night; I was standing in line at Wal-Mart. It was a line 5 carts deep, full of crying children, and people with last week’s coupons. As I stood there I was missing Safeway where they always had enough cashiers. I was missing the idea of customer service. This is such a typical situation that people are used to waiting. Personally I don’t have time. I am one of those people who is already pressed between college, work, and home. So I have become a victim of the broken retail environment, as have most of you.

We could say “oh that is just Wal-Mart” but we all know that we are spending way too much time waiting in lines or worse trying to get information while we are in retail settings. In fact it seems like the best way to get help is to act just shady enough to draw suspicion and then maybe the retailer will send over help (this is actually not a good idea). The point is; customer service is dead. It was murdered by low wages and societal acceptance of mediocrity.

We the people of the United States have fallen prey to our own “every player gets a trophy mentality”. The generation coming up has fallen away from taking pride in a job and is now on a mission to see how little they can do and still get a paycheck. From a consumer perspective it is a frustrating experience. Unfortunately it is just as frustrating when you are a supervisor in a retail environment. This situation is twice as frustrating for the employee who has five people in line and is going to catch hell from half those customers.

I suppose you are wondering how this situation can be fixed? And you know I am not going to leave you hanging…

1. Retailers have to support the customer service culture. What I mean by this is; do not under staff and then get upset when your customer service survey ends up in the toilet. A novel idea would be to actually have a projected customer count (which can be done) and then staff for that count.

2. Pay your employees. Underpaid employees do not care if your customer finds the tooth paste, they will do a half ass job because anyone will pay them minimum wage. Also try paying out employee raises and bonuses based on customer feedback (of course this only works if you staff well otherwise you are hurting the employees with your errors).

3. HOLD YOUR EMPLOYEES ACCOUNTABLE. As a customer it is completely frustrating to me when I am standing in that line and the one cashier is moving at a snail pace. If an employee does a crappy job; say something. Writing up an employee should not be a taboo practice.

4. A little supervision goes a long way. When a company has competent supervisors and support staff, the supervisor has the time to watch what is happening and make the needed adjustments. When the supervisor becomes one of the staff because they are short staffed, no one is watching your slacker employees (due to classes on interviewing well, many slackers get jobs they never intend to do)

5. Full time; Employees who are working several jobs are going to be less focused on their tasks. Retailers should look at the down side of part time employees. If part-time employees are hurting your business by wasting payroll and doing a poor job then you are not saving money by only having part time employees.

6. As a consumer; when someone helps you and gives you great customer service… WRITE a letter. Let that person know you appreciate great service.

In many respects we as a country have decided what companies are going to survive this depression (Saying it is a recession is an insult to people with college degrees, who have been out of work for three years or had to go to work in fast food). We have chosen the survivors. This is an instant and transient society. We want everything now and in six months we want a new one. Retailers with cheap products and poor service have become the norm. We are getting what we pay for in terms of quality and service. Choose your retailers wisely because you are likely to be stuck with them.


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      Janhorner 5 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your article,funny but sadly true. Well done you have highlighted the way things are today; not just in the USA but everywhere.

      I'm 61 and can remember how different things were going back to the 60's and 70's.

      Like your style.