Posts Tagged ‘customer’

Getting spooked (part 2)

Last week, if you remember, I had a bit of wierd bulb-smashing incident when looking for ghosts in Ham House. I thought that was the end of it. And maybe it was. But something else happened that makes me think it wasn’t

Well, on Wednesday, there I was, working away. We were quite quiet in The Orangery so there was just me out front, making tea, talking about cake, etc etc. All the usual.

The coffee machine and the till are opposite each other so that if you have one person working at each, they’ll be standing back to back. I hadn’t made any coffees, just lots and lots of tea. The tea is made further along and I hadn’t touched the coffee machine at all. As I stood by the till doing money stuff with a customer, a coffee cup fell from the coffee machine (we keep the cups on top so they stay warm) and smashed on the ground next to me. It might interest you to know that it smashed on my right side, as did the light bulb.

Unperturbed, I continued serving. The man I was serving when it happened asked me if I was ok. I was like, ‘Yeh, I’ll clear it up in a second.’

But then as I was passing him his pot of tea, there was a shard of smashed coffee cup on the work surface near him. That bit was quite wierd because there is a fairly big gap between the coffee machine and the till and the rest of the cup was on the ground. How did that one shard manage to get across the gap and over by the customer?

I’m not saying anything, right. I’m just saying it happened.

Price promise vouchers (Or: Money off next time)

Hello all.  Welcome to my Wednesday guest blog post from Rambler5319. Enjoy!

 

I’m going to start off referring to a recent article in one of national daily papers, by journalist Tom Utley, here in the UK. It highlighted a very cunning ploy being used by four of the big supermarkets. (I was taken in by it just as he was.) It’s called “Brand Matching” by the one he uses – Sainsburys; it’s called “Price Promise” by Tesco and other things by the others. It means that each supermarket in this scheme (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) finds out what the others are selling, say, their 500g packet of Shreddies for and if it is cheaper somewhere else they take the cheapest price and “match” it by giving you a voucher for the difference. For example, if you paid £4.18 for your carton of 48 Weetabix this week at Tesco – btw that is the price – and Sainsbury were selling theirs for say £4.00, and that was the cheapest of the other prices, you would have a credit for £0.18 and so on for all your other items. Some of these may be over or under the cheapest price so there will be a final balance which could be a plus or a minus figure. Just suppose in this case that the final total of plusses and minusses came to +£0.18 you would get a voucher for that amount. This voucher is received when you go through the checkout and can be used to get money off on your next visit.

Here are a couple I got recently.

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You can see that, in total, I could reclaim £2.11 off my next bill.

Looks good doesn’t it – £2.11 off my next bill? However I wonder if you’ve ever got one of these vouchers and thought, “Hang on a minute, this means if I’d shopped at another supermarket I’d have got my food and other stuff for £2.11 less.” In actual fact what these vouchers mean is that really I’ve been overcharged. Even if you had thought that, you still have a problem because you don’t know at which of the other supermarkets in the “Brand Match” scheme (Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) you could have realised those savings. And, even if you did, is it likely that next week you will drive to that other supermarket just to pick up the items which are cheaper there? Would you stand in 4 different queues at 4 different supermarkets just to get the cheapest items? Isn’t the whole idea of supermarket shopping that you want to be able to pick up everything you need in one place to save visiting loads of different places. So what is the “Price Promise Voucher” (or whatever it’s called in the one where you shop) for? Put quite simply it is a type of loyalty inducement. They want you to go back to their supermarket and spend your money there – oh, and of course, redeem your vouchers and make that crucial saving except in reality you haven’t saved anything at all. What you’ve done is “not lost”. Think about it carefully. You’ve got back to zero after having paid more than you could have done elsewhere. (In my case I could have got my items for £2.11 less somewhere else so the overcharge of £2.11 is being credited back to me; crucially though, it’s not money in your hand.) The thing to be aware of is that the vouchers have a date limit on their redemption so you can’t just hand them in any time. In fact you can’t go back in the same day (if you’ve forgotten something) and use them because they don’t start ‘til the day after you receive them and they last for about 4 weeks.

This strict redemption period is what draws you back because you say to yourself I must use the voucher before it runs out. You go back to the very place which is apparently overcharging you so you can be overcharged again! And yet, just like Tom Utley, I felt quite pleased when I was given my voucher. “Ah yes,” I thought, “that means I’ll save £2.11 off the next bill.” I wasn’t realising that when I got my “£2.11 Tesco was simply helping me back to the zero position of no gain/no loss compared with their competitors.

I want to look at a couple of areas Tom did not cover as I think they’re also worth thinking about.

Firstly, I was not realising that Tesco had had my £2.11 for a week (or in some cases longer) in their bank account so I’ve really become a lender to one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK. Fancy that, me lending Tesco £2.11 for a week. Thing is though they didn’t ask if they could borrow it – they just took it and promised to give it me back next time I came in with that piece of paper!

Secondly, a further side to this is that, if you think about it, it could be interpreted as a type “price fixing”. What each one is saying is that whoever is selling the item for the lowest price is the one we will charge our customers. Sounds ok doesn’t it? But wait a minute, what happens if say an item is being sold for £4.00/£3.80/£3.75 in three of the places and last one says that they will put their price at £3.70. Is this fair? Well, it might be but what if the profit on this item was quite high anyway so even at £3.70 they’re still making a fair amount? The others were looking to make even more but they’ve been undercut and so agree to the £3.70 in their stores to match the lowest price and then give the difference back in the form of vouchers to their customers. The trouble is the lowest price may not necessarily be the best price for the customer. It could be that if this item was sold for £3.50 for instance it would still make a good profit but because we don’t know the details we can’t say. All we know is that the stores will still make a good profit at the lower price because it still has a good margin in it. Can you see the problem now with this whole concept?

A further twist to the psychological ploy is the other side of the coin when you get a piece of paper saying, like mine did a few weeks ago: “Today you have saved £0.94”. This is what you get:

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This means I couldn’t have got my basket (trolley) of goods cheaper anywhere else (at stores in the scheme) and in fact your store was the cheapest, over all the items, by that £0.94. What’s this piece of paper worth? Well, nothing actually. It is simply telling you that this week you have not been overcharged. Oh well that’s good isn’t it? In a kind of really odd way you now feel as if you wished you had been overcharged so that you would have the ability to get some money off your next bill because it makes you feel good. The cleverness of the scheme is that it is actually making people happy who have been overcharged! Read that again. And it’s obviously working. Ask yourself how often do you change store or supermarket? Do you really want to keep having to learn new store layouts so you know where to find all your items or do you, like me, want to know that, every week, when you walk down aisle 6 you will find the veg & in aisle 23 the tinned fish and so on?

What can you do about it? Not a lot except that maybe in a week when you redeem your vouchers and get a “you have saved” printout you go and shop in a different store the next week as a punishment for the one who overcharged you the week before. Or maybe you have a better idea?

What happened when I tried to fix the coffee machine

Yesterday, in work, a customer mentioned that the coffee tasted a bit different recently and that they had preferred it how it used to taste. I had a little think on the problem and thought it might be to do with the grind of the coffee. So I reset the grinder, made an espresso and tasted it, reset it again, made an espresso, tasted it. It went on like so until it reached a point I was happy with. To understand what happened to me during this time, let’s get inside my head, which sounded something like this.

“This coffee does taste different. Ok. I’ll change the grind just a little bit. O, there’s a coffee order. I hope they like it. Right, it’s a latte. Done. Let me run myself a coffee. Ummmm. I think it still needs tweaking. O, a customer. Hi! HI! HELLO! What can I get for you? God, I’m really shouting. Reign it in a bit, Laura. They’ve ordered a coffee. I’ll change the grind a little bit again and make myself one at the same time. Sip, sip, it’s still not great. Ok, more customers, loads of them. The coffee’s kicking in. HI! CAN I HELP ANYONE? A SANDWICH? YEP, WHICH ONE? OK. AND WHICH BREAD? ALRIGHT, TAKE A SEAT AND I’LL BRING IT TO YOU! Try to bring it down a few decibels, Laura. Take the order to the kitchen. I’VE GOT A SANDWICH ORDER FOR IN! HE’S ON TABLE 2! Woah, no need to shout. But I can’t help it. I’m still worried about the coffee. Let me try to finish fixing it. Everything’s happening quite quickly now. Another espresso, run it and drink it. O, a customer. HIHOWCANIHELPYOUYESOFCOURSEYOUCANHAVEACAPPUCCINOREGULARORLARGEANYSUGARS? Why are people looking at me funny? God, I’m so efficient right now. I am super coffee machine fixer. Has there ever been anyone as speedy and amazing as me? HERE’SYOURCOFFEELARGECAPPUCCINOWITHONESUGARTHANKSHAVEAGREATDAY! Gosh, my eyes feel really wide and staring. Another customer. HIWHATCANIGETFORYOU?ABREAKFASTYESWHATBREADWOULDYOULIKEFORYOURTOAST?ANDACOFFEEYESANAMERICANOOKI’LLBRINGITOVERTOYOU! Wow, time’s moving fast. O goodness, and now it’s sloooowingggg riiiiight down. My limbs are all really sluggish. I was supposed to leave work at 4pm and I’m still dawdling around in the kitchen at 4.15pm doing not much. Knackered.
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Damn that coffee machine…..”

Sometimes I think too much

Something quite exciting happened yesterday. I was in work, doing my thing, when a customer came in. She’s been in quite a lot lately. She’s new to the area. She’s lovely.

I stopped what I was doing and we chatted for a bit, just chitchat. Another customer came in and I served her then went back to chatting to the friendly lady. She got some stuff and, while she was paying, said her and I should go for a drink sometime as she doesn’t know anyone in the area yet.

I immediately was like “That sounds great! Yeh, definitely.” She said she’ll pop in tomorrow and leave her number….

All of a sudden, I started thinking. Bad move. I felt like I’d been asked on a date. I was thinking about what we’d talk about, whether there’d be enough conversation to sustain an entire evening or whether we’d freeze under the pressure. Should I ask a friend to call half an hour in to the ‘date’ so I could pretend something had happened and I needed to leave? What should I wear? Should I just go in something super casual, like the clothes I’ve worn to work that day? Or go a bit fancier? If I go fancy, will it look like I’ve got ridiculously high expectations for the blossoming friendship? I’ve never undertaken a friendship in this way, there’s always been a longer ‘getting to know you’ period before we took the plunge and went for a drink. I’m a little nervous. If we go for a drink and we find that, while it’s pleasant, we don’t have enough in common to become best friends forever, how will we go about reverting back to our original positions as Customer and Deli Assistant? Will there be a lingering awkwardness whenever she comes into the deli, about the fact that we tried, and failed, to be best friends forever?

Clearly I think too much. But sometimes it’s best to have thought these things through first, to be prepared.

In actual fact, what will probably happen is we’ll go for a drink, have a lovely time, then do it again the next week or a few weeks later. And the friendship will continue in this manner. Maybe we’ll invite each other for dinner sometimes. It will probably be quite a nice fulfilling friendship.

But that doesn’t stop my mind working overtime, prior to our first ‘going for a drink’. Any advice on dos and don’ts of a first ‘date’ with a potential best friend?

Update on my Friendly Mission

My latest challenge has been interesting. Sometimes it barely makes a difference and is quite easy. Other times, I really have to force myself.

Examples of times when it was easy to be friendly:

When a friend visited with her new 6 day old baby and slept peacefully the entire time.
When a customer complimented my homemade flapjacks.
When the weather was nice and I was walking along happily.
When I was swimming and someone moved out of the way for me.
When I was buying presents for a friend’s birthday and getting excited.

Examples of times when it was not easy to be friendly:

When I was getting my tooth pulled out.
When there were lots of people standing around chatting in the supermarket and blocking the aisle with their trolleys. For ages.
When a customer shouted at me that it was “a korma, not a curry!”
When the same customer shouted at me “I’m in a bad mood today! I’m a manic depressive! Do you know what that means!?”
When I wanted to post a letter and had been waiting in line for ages then they closed when I got there, because it’s Wednesday afternoon. All Post Offices close on Wednesday afternoons, didn’t you know? (Who made this rule up? It is a stupid rule.)

Despite such adversity, I have pressed on with my mission. I find that smiling a lot more gets me in the friendly zone. Being helpful easily translates into friendliness. So if I’m not feeling friendly, I try to be helpful instead and it appears as friendliness, so helps me stick to my mission.

I must admit, I have not picked up any new best friends in a cafe or discovered I’ve got tons in common with my next door neighbour. Although when I was having my tooth out, I didn’t see the dentist till 20 minutes after my appointment time because he was late and I was really friendly about it. That might possibly have been because I wasn’t dying to get into the room and have my tooth out! Then when the dentist was tugging and pulling with a huge pair of tweezers (I’m sure they’re not called that), I didn’t fuss. I was all cool and chilled and friendly, although it wasn’t nice at all.

I think the mission is going well so far. As long as no-one tests me too much!

Feedback from Day 1 of being friendlier

I woke up in the morning, my resolve was strong, I was feeling light-hearted and friendly. I couldn’t wait for the approaching day and the prospect of being friendly to everyone. Come on people! I thought. Come here and let me be friendly at you!

I was up early, baking banana bread. I had been awake a bit in the night, with toothache (the dentist is taking it out on Tuesday so I wasn’t worried or anything) so hoped it wouldn’t make me grumpy.

Into work I went and started getting everything ready for opening. I left the door slightly ajar as it was a bit stuffy but kept all the lights off and covers down on everything. As I was doing something in the kitchen a lady walked all the way in and to the till and ‘Halloo’ed me, as though a silent dark shop with the fridge covers down and all the food clingfilmed was how a shop would operate.

“Is your coffee machine on yet? Can I get a coffee?”

Every coffee place I’ve worked, people check this when you’re near the end or beginning of a shift. Is the coffee machine on? I’m going to tell you all a secret about that. A coffee machine does not go ‘on’ or ‘off’. It’s always on. I mean, you can turn off the mains, if you want. But you don’t. You never turn off the coffee machine overnight. Never. But it provides you with a convenient excuse if you don’t want to serve someone. I worked in a coffee place which closed at 10.30pm. I was exhausted by then and wanted to clean and go home asap. I used to nod, and shrug helplessly, “Yeh, it’s off already, I’m sorry.”

So this lady is here, in my quite obviously not-open-yet shop, while I’m running around like a mad woman, baking croissants, asking if the coffee machine is on.

Be friendly, be friendly.

“It is on, but I’m not open until 8, sorry,” I smiled in the friendliest way I could at that moment. Satisfied, she said she’d be back at 8 and not to worry. Phew, grumpy Laura disaster averted.

But wait! The phone was ringing! I picked it up. The voice on the end said, “O great! I was just checking if you’re open and you are.”

“I’m actually not open until 8, unfortunately.”

“Ok, well if I come down now, will I just be able to buy some bread from you?”

“Well, I’m sure it will be fine. I’m quite busy so it would be better to wait til 8, when I’ve opened up…”

“Right, well I’ll be down soon. I’ll just hang around till you’ve got a minute to serve me.”

Be friendly, be friendly.

I made myself smile and said into the phone, “Ok, great, I’ll see you soon then.”

It’s like they organised themselves to test my patience today because they knew I’d be in friendly mode.

Down pottered phone customer five minutes later, and way before 8am, and I smiled as much as I could.

Those were my first two interactions on my first day of being friendly. The rest of the day was fine. Once I’d got into the swing of things, it was fine. I’m not usually unfriendly, so it wasn’t that difficult. It’s when I’m not in work that I’d like to be friendly and approachable.

Wish me luck for Day 2. I’m off swimming in a few minutes and that might test my patience a bit.

Be friendly, be friendly.

Just another day in the life of Detective Laura

I’ve just got a minor annoyance to share before I start today’s post. I would like to know when the government started dipping into my pay cheque to get student loan repayments? Surely they’ve got to wait till you’re not a student any more? It was only £3 from this month’s pay cheque so it’s not a big deal but I hadn’t realised they were doing it and I’m still technically a student.

Anyway, moving on. I’d like to talk about the time I single handedly fought crime and saved the world… kinda.

I worked in a coffee shop in a station for a few years, while studying my undergraduate degree. This one customer would come in a few times then we wouldn’t see her for months, then she’d come in again, out of the blue. She was Scottish and rude. Not many teeth. Short, orangey badly dyed hair. And she was very confrontational. Any words that came out of her mouth felt like an invitation for a fight. She refused to be served by anyone but the white people who were on shift so sometimes she’d stand for ages, refusing to give her order to the Burmese guy who was on the till that day.

One day, she came and asked for porridge and a chai latte. I made both and she sat down. A few minutes later, she came back to the till and declared that I’d made the porridge wrong. Her main argument seemed to centre around the fact that she was Scottish and, therefore, porridge making was inate in her being, so it was impossible that she could be wrong on this point.

She kept saying that to make porridge, you need pour the hot milk onto the oats, stir it, then let it sit for a few minutes, for the oats to absorb the milk. I, in turn, kept saying that that was EXACTLY what I had done. She got silly with her ‘explaining’ thing so I just said, “Ok, well what would you like me to do about the porridge you’ve got? Would you like a refund or should I make you a new one?”

It was like she couldn’t hear me. She kept ranting and raving about being an expert on porridge and got really rude about it.

“Ok, well I’m sorry about your porridge. There’s a customer behind you so could I just ask you to move along so we can serve her.”

She flipped.

She said she was going to beat me up. She was so angry.

“No, you’re not,” I said calmly. “I’m sorry about your porridge but this conversation is finished now. I need to serve the lady behind you.”

Still spouting threats to kick my head in, she came around the side of the kiosk and shook the side door. I knew she couldn’t get in, there was a code lock.

“I’m going to come in there and kick your head in,” she was saying, or words to that effect.

I sighed, picked up the milk jug and started steaming, for the next customer’s order.

“I’ll get in there!” she was still rabbiting on.

I just turned and looked at her.

“No. You won’t.”

“I will!”

“Well, come on then,” I said. She shook the door, menacingly. I was finding the whole thing highly amusing. Calm as anything, I gave her a withering look (or my best impression of one).

She circled the kiosk back around to the front again, trying to work out a way of beating me to a pulp. She was getting infuriated by my calmness. I could see this so was acting even more calm. She came around to the till again and said she was going to jump over the counter and kick my head in. I stepped aside to make a space to jump into and told her to go for it.

She knew she wouldn’t be able to. It was too high. Clearly wanting to kill me. She remembered the chai latte on the counter, picked it up and threw it inside the kiosk, aiming for me. It had cooled down loads so the bit that went on my arm wasn’t so hot. It went on all the equipment inside the kiosk though.

Realising that she might have done something arrest-able, she scuttled off and I reported it to the transport police, who took a statement.

A week later, I was walking along the high street after work and who should I see wrapped up in a sleeping bag with a paper cup held out, but the angry porridge lady!

I stopped a little further down the road and called the police, as I knew they hadn’t tracked her down yet. They told me to stay put and they’d come down and to inform them if she moved. I was like Inspector Morse or something. I lingered in a nearby phone shop peeping through the window display and trying discreetly to get photos on my phone as evidence in case she moved on. A few minutes later the police arrived. I burst out from my hiding spot and indicated it was her with a discreet, detective-like sideways nod of my head.

They arrested her. She said things like “I haven’t been in that coffee place for months!” And “I’ve never seen her in my life!” But she was carted off and given a fine under the Public Order Offence Act, or something and kept in the cells overnight.

Just another day in the life of Laura “Supremo Crime Fighter” Maisey. Watch out, here I come!