Yes, I know I’m on the cusp of the Grumpy Old Woman gang and I’m all for saving the planet … hell the more of us that recycle, reuse and renew the better. We have limited resources and we’re simply creating a ticking time bomb of crud for our offspring to inherit. So, when the plastic bag ‘tax’ was introduced I was pleased. I knew it would ‘nudge’ people’s behaviour by creating a cost for convenience & brand marketing thereby bringing to the fore the topic of waste and littering.
Admittedly, I didn’t actually realise just how many bloody times I’d leave the sodding bags at home after having embarked upon a mammoth shopping trip – but eventually operant conditioning won out and I now religiously carry 2 fold-up bags in my handbag and a couple of nifty jute numbers in the boot of the family car. Smug? yes, I know! However, what I didn’t expect is a complete drop in customer service if you do provide your own bag and just how frustrating I find this.
What on earth are you wiffling on about I hear you cry? Well, I’ll explain. What’s happened to bag packing if you bring your own reusable? I don’t think I’ve got you yet have I?
Picture the scene – you’re shopping … not food shopping because this seems to have bypassed Supermarket checkout staff who will tend to assist you in packing your purchases if there is a large queue to reduce; you have too many wailing offspring accompanying you for them to cope any longer than they have too or they just take pity on you. Even if you shop at the whizzy German Supermarkets who are renowned for the lightning speed at which they can scan your items – the kind you know what you’re up against at the outset – it’s more akin to a training session at Cricket nets – so, they are not the source of my displeasure. I would like to point out at this juncture that its this reason alone is specifically why I send my other half to do the food shop when we do our fortnightly ‘basics’ shop there – he sees it as a physical challenge and loves to psychologically unnerve newbie till operatives. Each to their own that’s what I say! Anyway, I digress.
You’re out shopping … you have browsed, thought selectively about your purchase, weighed up the pros and cons of affordability, desire & need and have decided to part with your hard-earned cash. You hand over the items, they are scanned, you’re asked if you have a loyalty card (I fear we will soon all develop Scoliosis due to the weight of the loyalty cards carried round in our handbags – but that’s possibly another blog post) and then you will be asked if you have a bag or require one – and this is where the crux of my displeasure lies. If you supply a bag customer service ends there … the items are left on the counter and as if they have lost all value and you must fold or quickly shove your new purchases into your bag (several times I have actually had sales assistants turn away and start another sale. If, however, you haven’t brought a bag the sales assistant is quite happy to take on this role and lovely wrap and pack and charge you 5p for the service. But bring your own bag, and it’s like the ‘Wrath of Khan’ of Shop workers is invoked if you don’t help save the planet!
The first time this happened I simply felt apologetic that I wasn’t packing my own items fast enough, but as these experiences repeated this feeling has moved into ‘British annoyance’ (inwardly exploding with rage whilst smiling outwardly). I think my frustration must be to do with the failure of the psychological aspect of the shopping experience – that’s why I’m feeling such dissonance. Ultimately, as a customer I hold final choice where I choose to shop and give my custom and part of that decision holds the essence of the brand, a representation of more than what I am buying (“It’s not just any rice pudding it’s a creamy ‘Muppet & Snarl’ rice pudding” etc.) … and I ultimately believe that customer service is an imperative part of the whole package.
I have worked in a variety of retail outlets over my life and even when the pay wasn’t great and the hours long I still strove to provide an excellent level of service. Maybe I need to proactively address this ongoing situation and ask the sales assistant to pack my bag – however this seems quite confrontational and quite contrary to how I do things. It does seem a shame though that the customer service experience fails on the very last hurdle. I do wonder if anyone else feels similarly? Well, I guess I will just have to develop my powers of telepathy and hope for the best.
N.B. I must admit there are some individuals who will ask if you would like them to pack and they do a marvellous job of assisting in my blood pressure reduction.