On a recent excursion for groceries with my 12 year old, I was reminded that: 1. Kids observe the most interesting things and 2. Employee hiring, management, and engagement practices do positively impact the bottom line.

In need of groceries for la familia, the 12 year old and I jumped into the car for what is inevitably a long trip because for one reason or another, I can never find everything I am looking for in one grocery store.  On this particular weekend day, we find ourselves visiting three different stores.  The first store was a disaster because many of the shelves were barren. Additionally, as a fruit fanatic I was disgusted (once again) by the fruit flies hovering in the fruit section. (Side note, I have previously spoken to the store manager about the fruit fly issue and pointed out to him that his competitor – literally across the street no less – does not have this issue.  Said manager didn’t seem all that concerned with my feedback).  This particular store (whose name rhymes with toga) is a national chain, not a small mom and pop place.  After not finding many of the national items I was in search of, I decided it was time for us to leave (without purchasing anything at all).

We then headed to the competitor across the street.  This particular grocer (also national  – actually global – in scale), that takes pride in offering low prices was better in terms of stocked shelves.  I believe (but I could be wrong) that because of this company’s focus on keeping costs low, they are always low on staff.  They must have 8-10 registers that are meant to be staffed by humans and no more than 2-3 are ever staffed.  Also, you don’t see many employees walking around the store that you can ask for assistance.  The lack of employees on registers does not seem to be a big issue because it rarely takes long to check out as not many other customers ever seem to shop at this store.  I’m not quite sure how this particular location stays open.

We then proceeded onto the third store  – Trader Joe’s – for what always turns out to be somewhat specialty items you tend not to find anywhere else.  As usual, Trader Joe’s has lots of traffic and yes the shelves are always stocked.  Even though the store was busy we were able to check out quickly.  We probably spent no more than 30 minutes in the store.  Upon exiting the store, my 12 year old informs me that Trader Joe’s (I believe this is the first time I have taken her to Trader Joe’s) is her favorite grocery store.  I asked her why and she made what I found to be a very interesting observation (so interesting I decided to write a post about, want to read it?) Her comments were along the lines that everyone in Trader Joe’s seemed happy and were nice.  They seemed to enjoy their jobs and everyone had a smile on their face and greeted you with a smile.  I have previously written a post on  said subject: https://rindgeleaphart.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/customer-facing-employees-with-the-right-attitude/  I am not sure of what Trader Joe’s does differently (employee selection, pay, training, or some combination thereof) but it works.  Upon further discussion with my daughter she was spot on; the employees at Trader Joe’s did seem much happier, they did smile, and that was radically different from the other stores we visited that day.  When my daughter starts shopping on her own, I suspect she will make a beeline for Trader Joe’s.  The lesson?  Probably many based on your perspective, but for me a great reminder that customers appreciate doing business with others who are pleasant to deal with and who seem to genuinely enjoy their job.  Customers can tell, especially 12 year old kids.

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart

https://rindgeleaphart.wordpress.com/

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