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Where Has Common Sense Gone?

A Grocery Store Service Saga


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It was a busy Saturday afternoon in the grocery store.  There were four people in each line and of course, all the checkout counters were not in operation.  After all, cashiers need to each lunch too!


My cart was filled with over $225 worth of “stuff” including a case of packaged noodles – the one serving size my kids like to make for snacks.  I sighed when the cashier counted the number of packages in the case and began to scan one package of noodles over and over again.


“Can’t you just enter quantity 30 and scan the noodles once?”  I asked remembering the part-time job I had as a grocery store clerk many years ago.


“I’m not allowed,” she replied.  “I have to do it this way.”


“Surely you can use some good judgment?  Look how long the line-ups are.  This is going to take a while.”


She ignored me and kept on scanning the noodles, one after the other.


“This is ridiculous,” I fumed.  “Get the manager for me please.” 

Much to the chagrin of my husband and teenaged sons, I just can’t keep quiet when I’m getting poor service.  Chuck and the boys would be glad they hadn’t accompanied me on this particular shopping trip.


A young man arrived.    “Are you the store manager?”  I asked.


“I’m not “the” manager but I’m “a” manager,” he replied. 


I explained the situation.  The young man appeared sympathetic as he told me the cashier was simply doing what she had been instructed to do.


“I understand that.  That’s why I’m talking to you.  I want to know what you’re going to do to fix this problem?”


“I can’t,” he retorted.  “It’s the rule.” 


“But you’re a manager.  Surely you can change the rule and give the cashier permission to use the quantity key!”


“I could but she’d probably get into trouble.”


“From who?”  I asked, more than a little exasperated. 


“The bookkeeper or someone.”


As I sighed loudly, the young man said he’d get the store manager.  Wasn’t this who I asked to speak with in the first place?


I finished packing my groceries and paid the cashier who took great pleasure in pointing out to me, “One of the good things about doing it this way is that I only charged you for 29 packages – there weren’t 30 in the case.”


As I waited for the store manager I counted the number of packages that appeared on my bill – all 31 of them!


“Well that’s interesting,” I cried.  “You’ve charged me for 31 packages.”  I handed her back the bill.


Richard, the store manager, arrived.  I explained the situation once again, my voice getting louder.  A few customers nodded their head in agreement.  “And to top it off, doing it this way, she’s charged me for 31 packages and not the 29 that are there!”  I accused.  The crowd of curious customers grew larger.


Richard responded much like the young man.  These were the rules.  The quantity key had been abused, scanning bar codes helped with inventory and if different flavours were not identified through separate scanning, inventory management was compromised.  It didn’t matter that my noodles were all the same – oriental flavour.  I asked whether he thought the rule made sense on a busy Saturday with long line-ups.  He voiced his sympathy, shrugged and offered no solution. 


“Are you not the store manager?  Do you not have the authority to change the rules?  What is it you manage then?  If your quantity key is being abused then perhaps the problem is the staff you’re hiring.  Hire the right people then and get rid of the stupid rule.” 


“I’m sorry,” he replied.


“Who’s your boss?”  I asked. 


“I’ll get the number of our head office for you,” he offered.


I turned back to the cashier.  “How many packages did you charge me for?”  I asked her.


“Thirty one,” she said as she handed me 50 cents.  I left the store, shaking my head, imaging the response I was going to get when I contacted Head Office on Monday.  I think I’ll go back next Saturday and buy 10 cases – just for fun!


Karen Todd is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant. She can be reached at 416-284-6752, karen@karentodd.com , or visit www.karentodd.com

Other Articles by Karen Todd
Ditch the Cape, Supermom
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Unexpected Choices
(Published in the Canadian Down Syndrome Society Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 2005, Vol 18.1)
Please be Balanced: A Parent’s Ask of Healthcare Professionals
Published in the Ontario Association on Developmental Disabilities’ Journal on Development Disabilities
Vol 12 No 1

Is Working From Home For You?
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Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, May 9, 2005
Next to the CEO, the leader of the HR function can be the most influential and important person in an organization.
Creating a culture of feedback
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Connect with line managers and open the firm up to HR:
To play a lead role in organizational effectiveness HR must first gain manager’s trust.
(Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, November 8, 2004)
Executive Assistants must use power, influence wisely.
(Published in the Executive Assistant Update newsletter – December 2004)
Tell employees why they’re not getting promoted
Feedback can help staff avoid bitterness and maybe even get the next posting
(Published in the Globe and Mail, Career Section, September 15, 2002)
Very promising, very demanding
High potential employees often avoid lateral moves that would help them in the future
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“Once Upon a Time…”
Tell a Story Instead

Published in York University Human Resources Student Association’s
The Network Newsletter, Edition 2, March 2005)

Planning an Employee Meeting:
Model the future you’re trying to create

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