Tuesday, December 04, 2012

My Canadian Tire experience

I drive a car. Not because I particularly enjoy the experience - I don't - but because I have to. Because self-determined mobility is key to my ability to build a career that provides for my family.

So when something needs fixing, I need a relatively stress-free means of getting it taken care of. Because life has enough stress in it as it is.

So last week, when the headlight on my car burned out, I called the local Canadian Tire to get it fixed. Now, normally I'd change my own headlight. But my car is built in such a way that I'd have to remove a chunk of the bumper to make that happen. I wield a keyboard for a living: mechanical/handy stuff just isn't my thing. (And, no, I won't be buying this car again...who designs cars so stupidly?)

When I called the store, the attendant told me they weren't taking appointments, but I could come in as a walk-in. Fair enough. So off I went to the store. When I showed up, the attendant behind the counter - the same one who I had spoken to on the phone - rolled her eyes when I explained why I was there. She said nothing as she scrunched her face up, walked over to one of her colleagues and asked him to sign me in, then waved me halfheartedly in his general direction as she rushed to the back of the store.

Thankfully her colleague was nice enough. He explained what they needed to do and what it would cost before getting the keys from me and giving me an ETA.

Later, when the work was done, I had the good luck to have the same eye-roller. She didn't make eye contact, didn't smile, didn't say thank you. Just scowled in my general direction, mumbled the final amount, took my money, printed the bill, shoved it - and 5 cents in Canadian Tire Money - at me and walked away.

Now, I'm not an unfriendly person. I was perfectly approachable both on the phone and in the store. I tend to overdo the nice-guy thing when I'm out and about because, well, it's the right thing to do. So to come across someone who so doesn't get it, who so ruins the experience by treating me with near-hostility is, to be honest, perplexing. And it makes me pretty angry that I'm handing over my money to a store whose employees don't seem to give a damn about their customers.

I get that not everyone has good days. I get that we're all human, and we can't be Miss Mary Sunshine every minute of every day. I also get that when you're in a public-facing role, you need to either suck it up and figure it out, or find another job that allows you to scowl with impunity.

As you can imagine, I didn't confront her or anyone else in the store. Instead, I turned to Twitter and Facebook:


In doing so I touched off a bit of a discussion. Lots of friends weighed in, often sharing less than complimentary views on their shopping experiences here. It got me wondering about the choices we make as consumers when we reach for our wallets, and the strategies used by retailers to connect their brands to us.

It also got me wondering how quickly it can all unravel when they trip up on something as fundamentally simple as recruitment (hire the right people), retention (keep them, keep them motivated), training (give them the tools to build lasting, meaningful customer relationships), and rewards (recognize them for excellence and help them build themselves and your business in the process.)

I'm not saying that everyone at this particular store is unworthy of employee-of-the-month honours. Indeed, I've had lovely discussions with some of the cashiers there. But the negative experiences under this brand's banner are frequent enough - for me and for my social media peeps - that it's obvious Canadian Tire, both at a corporate and a store level, is facing some fairly obvious brand management issues. You can spend all you want on wall-to-wall holiday season advertising, but it all falls apart if your front-line staff members consistently treat customers like they don't want them to be there. And it happens often enough to me and those around me that when I shared my latest experience, no one was surprised.

To its credit, Canadian Tire tweeted a response later that evening:

I didn't respond immediately - I'm logging long days in a fabulously engaging new role, and wrestling with a retailer over a snooty employee simply can't be a priority right now - but a quick glance at my site's analytics just now shows they've been sniffing around.

I thought the time necessary to write an email would be better spent in sharing the experience here, as social media platforms provide a far better means of generating positive response. When discussion is held out in the open and not shuttered away in some one-on-one, we're-really-sorry-here-have-a-coupon exchange, the potential for real, lasting change increases significantly.

I'll email the link to the address in the tweet above and will see what happens. Stay tuned.

Update - Dec. 09, 2012: I haven't received a response to my email. I tweeted them to let them know I had submitted one, but I'm guessing after this amount of time, I likely won't be hearing from them. Disappointing.

Update 2 - Jan. 23, 2013: Despite multiple emails, I haven't heard back from Canadian Tire's customer service team. I've got better things to do with my time, and will no longer pursue this matter. Something to keep in mind whenever I need anything. And, yes, I'm still disappointed, but it is what it is. Lesson learned.

Your turn: What do you do when you run into a less-than-satisfactory retail experience? I'd love to hear what y'all have to say.

4 comments:

Mike Wood said...

Nicely done Carmi. What is the point of writing them when they have already checked out your site and likely your Twitter etc. They should be scrambling to see who she was and why she was not on the ball. Everyone, as you say, has a bad day, but she was certainly asking for some feedback.

Bernie said...

Oddly, I came across this little phrase JUST now...

"A bad attitude is like a flat tyre - you can't go anywhere until you change it"

I think this summarises your post quite nicely!

and yes, this is how we spell tyre here in Australia!! lolol

dean said...

Before I went back to school, I spent years in retail/retail management, and I can't tell you how many times I've been through this scenario.

A big part of the problem is that the average retail worker is in the job because they have to be, not because they want to be. Ambitious and capable people move up and out quickly, leaving those that can't or don't care. Now while that isn't the case with most, it is true of a substantial number of retail workers. Enough that every store/department/business unit I managed had at least 10-20% who were problem people.

Management of such people is difficult.

It can't happen if management isn't aware of the problem, which they may not be. Employees act differently when managers are around.

In the old days, I didn't complain. I just took my business elsewhere. But that is not actually all that productive, so now I complain when I get exceptionally poor service. In this case I would have noted the employee's name and sent a detailed letter/email to the store manager. He/she can't fix what he/she doesn't know about.

As someone said in your twitter convo (or maybe the FB one?) I have low expectations when I go in to big chains, but places like Best Buy manage to instill the basics in their employees - you might give poor customer service, but at least smile while you're doing it. Best Buy people are always friendly while they lose my order and can't find the thing in the back that their website says is in stock.

Mark said...

My wife and I had a bad experience with not one, but two Toys "R" Us stores over the past couple days. One store answered their phone only one of the four times I called, and the other store acknowledged that they are notorious for that, and gave me an "inside" number to call them. Um, why don't you call and ask if they have the product I want? Just no clue. Then, when I went in person to the store, they waffled around on their walkie-talkies, until finally the guy came up to where I was and said he didn't find exactly the one I was looking for, but if I "come back here and look in the boxes," I might find it. Wow.