Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Cheers" - where everybody knows your name

I miss my old grocery store. Smith's in the Avenues in Salt Lake City, Utah. It comprised a deli, a pharmacy, flower shop and much more. The prices were always matched with competitors and coupons did not need to be clipped. Truth be known, I miss Kelli the pharmacist and my favorite cashier the most.

Today, As I accompanied my mother on an errand for groceries in search of lowest prices , I was reminded again why it is that I patronize locally-owned stores.

For the 3rd time in as many trips, my mother had been overcharged for items that should have scanned "on sale" or at a lower price. Determined not to be a victim again, she stood at the head of the cash register, carefully scrutinizing the prices as they were scanned in. She mentioned to the cashier that she had been overcharged on recent visits and was not about to let it happen again. The cashier took serious offense and commenced to scowl even more than she had been previous to the comments made by my mother.

Contrast that with a trip to Trader Joe's - locally grown produce, (when not local, at least it is American), happy music, Hawaiian print uniforms, free organic lemonade and happy staff - yes - happy - I said it. What does it cost to provide good customer service? Not too much. I am pretty sure that the hourly wage between our local supermarket and those at Trader Joe's is not terribly different, but I can tell you that there is a vast difference in how the staff at Trader Joe's treats their customers. It is not just that they have an information desk where one can purchase beautiful cards for $1 each. There is also an information center where there community involvement is clearly spelled out. Do you need $50 worth of coffee and pastries for a church event or other local event? You can get that at Trader Joe's. Yes, Starbucks claims to offer this as well, but based on several conversations with their manager at my local store, one wouldn't know it - it is practically impossible to navigate the black hole leading to free coffee - then again - isn't this the place that is going to close some 600 stores????

How can I speak of such things? I worked at a sprawl store a la Wal Mart years ago, while my former husband and I had small kids in elementary school. I wanted to be a full time mother and volunteer at their school, so I chose to work the overnight shift stocking shelves. I considered myself blessed to have a job that allowed for me to balance the motherhood thing.

I am NEVER going into that supermarket again - local and lower prices be damned - I am choosing the higher ground. I am shopping at Trader Joe's where I don't have to clip coupons, or wait for a sale - where I am treated with respect and dignity and where I know the names of my favorite cashiers, because they wear nametags.

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