The sausages were inedible. Within minutes of putting them under the heat, my husband noticed that there was a lot of fat in them. Then one of them burst, spraying oil across the kitchen. Mr Pilot started collecting the oil in a measuring cup, getting about half a cup out of six sausages.
He hadn’t intended to buy them in the first place. He’d gone to Coles looking for a barbecue chicken, but they didn’t have any of those. We’d had a bad experience with sausages a while ago, and had avoided them since. But surely we wouldn’t be so unlucky to have the same experience again. After all, these were the expensive sausages.
But, suddenly, there we were on a Sunday night, our dinner massively reduced to some salad and a small portion of creamy pasta. And as a breastfeeding mother, you can bet that I was annoyed to have such a small meal on my plate. As Mr Pilot retrieved the receipt, I tweeted about our problem, getting a response from Coles that they’d be happy to refund. No problem, I thought. Last time this had happened, it had been quickly resolved with an apology, a refund and a small discount voucher to make up for the inconvenience.
This time, I stood for ages waiting for someone to serve me at the service desk. It used to be that there were always two people nearby because the service desk was between a regular register and the express register. Often the express register attendant would see to the service desk between customers. But the express registers have been closed, self serve registers put in another spot, and now there’s only one person in the area.
When I was finally served, I was treated with suspicion. It was like I was there to make trouble. Phone calls had to be made. Then the money was refunded. No apology, no voucher. And to make matters worse, I know the woman who was serving – her child attends the school I was working at. But she was obviously stressed, trying to do two jobs at the same time. And I left feeling like I’d been let down by Coles for a second time.
There was a time when Coles was the only place I’d do my shopping. Woolworths brought in self-checkout (though they kept express lanes), cut down their check out staff, and made it so I couldn’t use my debit card without incurring a charge. At my local Coles, there was usually lots of check outs available, a great express service, friendly staff who were interested in helping me and I could use my debit card. It was an easy choice and I’d go out of my way to shop there.
But then things started to change. The deli suddenly had problems offering the range they used to have. The self-serve checkouts went in and the express lanes went out. Mr Pilot mentioned that we primarily shopped at that Coles because of the great service and was assured that they’d actually put on more staff. Which might have been true for a week or two, but definitely isn’t evident anymore, with only one or two registers open apart from the self serve. Plus one of the self-serve machines couldn’t take $2 coins. Then the debit card restriction was lifted at Woolworths. Then there was the sausage incident.
Suddenly Woolworths looks just as good as Coles. In fact, sometimes it even looked better, with more registers open and an express lane option still available. The staff were friendly and the range was similar to Coles. (Something not available at any of the local independent groceries, unfortunately). So, while I’m not boycotting Coles, I’m not going out of my way to visit them. I no longer feel the compulsion to walk to the other end of the shopping centre to do my grocery shopping. If I’m near Woolworths, that’s where I’ll shop.
It’s not too difficult to keep me happy as a shopper. I like the conversations you can have when you shop, so I like being able to go through a checkout. I like that they (mostly) know how to pack bags better than me, and they don’t have a squirmy or screaming baby, so can pay more attention to it. I like the products I want to buy to be available and in good condition. And when they’re not, I like to get an apology. Without these things, my loyalty is lost, and I will look for other places to shop.
Has a shop ever lost your loyalty?