I used to be a retail manager. Twice, in fact. This was in the late 80’s, early 90’s. And I had power. Lots of it.
What I mean by this is I was trusted to make decisions. Yes, there were company policies, but I could bend them if needs be. If I knew a certain evening would be busy, I could schedule more people (no unreasonable payroll hours.) I could buy product. I could display it where I wanted. I could refund money to customers at my discretion, etc.
In other words, both of my companies reasoned that if I was in charge of millions of dollars of product, I could use my discretion and be trusted to refund $4.99, even if it was after 15 days (or whatever).
I would not survive in most retail companies today. They are too rigid. I’m a firm believer in a “does it make sense?” style of management over “can’t do it because of the policy”. Screw the policy, that’s what I say.
Anyway, here are two examples of recent retail experiences I had, each on the opposite end of customer service and employee power.
First one is bad, and involves Gamestop. Now, I like Gamestop. I am a big gamer, and probably spend a thousand bucks a year there. They know me by sight.
One day, I get an e-mail. I have a ton of rewards points to use. I go to their website, and redeem my points for a $25 off of anything in the store (I had a lot of points.) I go to the store, and buy a charging station for my Playstation 4 controllers. It’s $29.99, but I only pay $4.99 because I have the coupon. Coolness!
Except I get home, and discover it’s piece of junk. Oh well… I’ll return it and buy something else. Except the clerk will only give me credit for $4.99… Huh? It’s a $30 item, and I used Gamestop’s own coupon they gave me for being an excellent customer. Why can’t the clerk just see it makes sense to credit me the full price, and I’ll buy something else (to be clear, I wasn’t asking for money back – I just wanted store credit to buy something else right then and there.) No… the clerk says I can only get back $4.99 (even though the receipt clearly says it was $30, with a $25 gamestop coupon applied), and I’d then have to call the Gamestop home office and work with them on getting my points/coupon back, as they can’t put the corporate expense in the store or some crap like that. I ask why Gamestop needs me to keep things straight and do their accounting. They don’t think I’m funny. I get that a lot.
Are you getting frustrated reading that? You should, because it makes no sense at all. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why a manager cannot look at the receipt, deduce that yea, I should get credit for the entire price, and just do it. Shouldn’t the goal be keeping me – an excellent customer of theirs – happy, and work out the paperwork / expense details later? Especially when it’s clear to anyone with a brain that yea, I should get it back.
But no, I had to do it their way. I did call the home office, and they agreed with me, but you know, policy and all… I then got another coupon sent to me. But why this couldn’t be done right at the register, I’ll never understand. Why risk making a very good customer mad over this? I don’t get it.
Ok, now for the good example. It involves Target.
I love Target – there’s an example of a store doing it right. And here’s one more reason: They give their cashiers decision power.
While in health and beauty, Maryellen spies a sign for a deal – buy $15 worth of XYZ products, and get an instant e-coupon coupon for $5 off. So she does, texts the code, and gets her virtual coupon. We go to pay… and the coupon doesn’t register. Hmmm, it should have… let’s see…. oh wait… we didn’t buy the correct products. Oh…. oh well, no biggie. It’s on us – Maryellen didn’t realize shampoo (or whatever it was) didn’t count towards the deal.
Know what the cashier did then? She said “I’m giving you $5 off anyway”. Just like that. We said “no no… it’s our fault. Don’t get in trouble over this”. She said “I won’t get in trouble. It’s ok.”
That cashier bought Target more goodwill than $5 will ever buy in advertising.
Well done, Target. And Gamestop… well, I still like you, but that did annoy me. It makes me ever more ripe for Amazon to pick off. Because it’s just as easy to buy games there.