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6 Jun 2009 / Julie

last one out, get the lights /or closing time customer service

Last night, after a very successful dress rehearsal for tonight’s dance recital i went to Weis (a grocery store i hadn’t heard of until i moved further into Maryland) to pick up a slice of cake to share with the bf. Now, for our regular groceries, especially produce, deli items, and fresh meats, we’ve already put this store on our banned list as the produce isn’t that fresh, the deli staff inform you of their gastointestinal distresses and other bodily woes while taking forever to slice your items, and the meats never seem to be in stock. But for a small slice of cake, this store was the most convienient.

I walked in about 30 minutes before closing and they had one register open. All 4 self checkouts had already been closed. The guy being checked out in front of me was a staff member with an entirely full cart. The woman ringing him up was taking her time.

Not only did it take me 10 minutes to finish getting checked out (the woman had trouble ringing up my managers special 50% off cake), they had a security guy manually open and close the doors behind me when i came and left. Half the lights were already out in the store and there were staff members waiting around to leave.

I understand the subtleties of body language when you’re trying to get someone to leave (or you’re trying to leave). You stand up, walk towards the door, maybe turn the lights out. But that’s a person to person technique; businesses should never make their customers feel unwelcome, unwanted, or *gasp* rushed. I am aware there’s a time and a place for these things, like when it’s already past closing time and there’s *that guy* still picking out his bananas, but normally, no one should feel rushed.

Had even just one self checkout been open, i’d have been in and out of there in under 5 minutes and I might not have noticed the light and staff situation. But, there i was, waiting in line, looking around.  I don’t know how long it takes to shut down a self check out but you’d think that would be one of the last things you’d shut off since you don’t need a person to man it, and a lot of the business i’ve ever seen at grocery stores near closing are people getting one or two items.

I might have understood all this had i walked in at 5 of 10, but there was a good half hour left before they should have started cleaning up and closing down.

The few summers i worked in a family owned and operated deli/convenience store, we closed at 10. But closing at 10 doesn’t mean staff leave at 10. It means we close and lock the doors to customers and then start the closing rituals. When everyone did their part, we were out in 20 minutes.

If anyone had done their part last night instead of standing around, i’m sure someone would have noticed that there were 5 people with only a few items stuck behind Full Cart Guy and rung us up at another register, which i’m sure they had open because you shouldn’t just leave one register of that many open in case something happens and prolongs the experience for everyone.

What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t close up shop until after you’re closed to customers.

While you’re open, your only job is to be welcoming to customers, get them what they need, and, if you’re a profit-driven organization, take their money and get them on their way without rushing them. There should be no point in your time open that you are making a customer’s experience any less valuable, efficient, or welcoming- no matter when they came in.

If your focus is on staff instead of customers, and you want to be able to send staff home at 10pm, close your doors at 9.30 (or however long it takes to close things up). I dont think it’s rocket science.

I do understand there is a pre-closing ritual. I worked in a small deli, not a large grocery store and i’m sure our process was much shorter- we only had 3 slicers to clean, etc. But you should always keep in mind your customers when pre-closing. Yes, close up the deli 30 mins before. Yes, close most of your registers. Things that take a while can be done in advance. But it’s the little things that make so much difference that can be done last. Like closing a self checkout, or turning off the lights.

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