I needed some Batman and Celebrity Chefs stamps and Winter Fun envelopes for first day covers. My own small post office didn’t have enough Batman, had sold out Chefs and hadn’t gotten the envelopes. So I went to a “premium” post office in the next town.
The two clerks at the counter had never heard of the envelopes, but while I was waiting for them to get more Batman from the back, I noticed the Snowflake envelopes hanging on two pegs to the right of the counter. On one of the pegs, under Snowflake envelopes, were packages of the Winter Fun envelopes. I took two, pointed it out to the two clerks, who replied, “Oh but WE don’t have them.”
If I’d been closer to the wall, I would have banged my head against it.
My first thought was one I’ve had many times: “Can you imagine any other large retailer where the clerks don’t know their store’s stock? Where the clerks show no embarrassment for not knowing their products? This time, however, I paused, and realized, yes, sadly. Nearly all of them.
Countless times in the past few years, I’ve gone into a supermarket or another large store, looking for a particular item, often advertised in the retailer’s flyer. After ten minutes of examining the shelves and the shelf labels, and looking behind the items that are in the place reserved for the one I want, I’ve flagged down a clerk or gone to the “courtesy” desk and asked for the item. The clerk takes me back to where I’ve been looking, glances at the shelf, and says, “We don’t have it.”
Thank you, I knew that 15 minutes ago. Do you have any in the stockroom? “No.” How do you know? I think. Or is what you know that you want to get back to doing nothing productive on company time?
One exception I’ve found is Target, where not only are their call stations to get a clerk (often a feat itself in other stores) but when the see the empty spot on the shelf, they pull out a scanner and can tell me if there are any more in the back or which Target stores nearby have what I want.
But that’s not how it works in most large stores. Many small stores, too, but the consequences of poor customer service are more immediate in small stores.
When I was looking to buy my first personal computer, I went to several local computer stores on the shopping corridor highway. At one, I stood there for 15 minutes while the clerk played a video game on a computer, never acknowledging my presence. I walked out. A few weeks later, the store was out of business.
Gloating is mine, saith the Lloyd.
Back to the Postal Service: The USPS puts out its Postal Bulletin every two weeks, which among other things, tells about upcoming new issues. At least until recently, ever clerk was supposed to read it. But some clerks tell me now that their Internet access at work has been cut off, so they can’t read the Postal Bulletin. Whether that was those specific offices or district, or universal, I don’t know. Would all clerks read it if they had Internet access? Doubtful. They didn’t when they were given printed copies.
[Let me hasten to add that there are many retail postal clerks who do read the Bulletin; some philatelic clerks even subscribed to Linn’s Stamp News.]
Bad customer service is the norm for most retailers now. It costs less to hire just barely enough workers to operate the stores. Apparently, the marketing experts feel that if the price is low enough, we’ll put up with poor service
With its recent money woes, the USPS is adopting many private-business practices… including this one..