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.
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.