Out-of-Stock – Out-of-Chances
Editorial by George Anderson
Among the things that really burn customers up are walking into a store to buy something only to find it is out-of-stock. The vast majority of customers can understand this happening once or perhaps even twice but at some point, if the situation persists, they are going to take their business to another retailer. That brings us to our gripe of the day…
Trader Joe’s, known for its outstanding customer service, is like any other retailer in that it has some stores that deliver higher levels of performance than others. The company’s store in Westfield, NJ is among those with an established reputation for taking special care of its affluent customer base. I know this firsthand, having done some field research working as a crewmember in the store a few years back as well as shopping there since it first opened its doors.
But, customer service goes beyond friendly and knowledgeable staff. It also deals with having product in stock. In the case about to be referenced, it means having product in stock after 7:00 P.M. when the customer counts typically start to drop off.
Early in the store’s traffic pattern, having come through the front door, there is a frozen end-cap immediately on the shopper’s right. In recent weeks, the unit has been stocked with varieties of Trader Joe’s frozen pizza. Imagine my surprise a about a month ago walking into the store to buy frozen pizza, among other things, and finding the end-cap was more than half empty and didn’t have a single package of the varieties I was looking for.
A crewmember said there was probably some pizza in the backroom and that she would be happy to go check for me if I’d like. Again, having worked in that store and knowing that getting items out of the freezer (it’s quite cramped) could involve a lot of work, I said never mind, I would get it next time. Strike one — sorta.
Well folks, when next time came around, again on a weeknight after 7:00, the end-cap was in the same condition. Luckily, there was one box of the particular pizza I was looking for. In this instance, when checking out, I mentioned that the end-cap always seemed to be empty when I came in at night. The crewmember expressed regret, asked if I would like someone to go back and check. My response that it wasn’t necessary but what I would like the crewmember to do is mention to the captain or first mate that I saw a trend developing in the store and, as a shopper, I would like to see it corrected. Strike two — definitely.
Last night, I went for a quick shop at the same Trader Joe’s around 6:15 PM. Imagine my total lack of surprise to enter the store and see the end-cap more than half empty and, of course, none of the pies I wanted in stock.
When I got to the checkout, the crewmember asked if there was anything I had been looking for and hadn’t been able to find. I just smiled. Amy’s makes a very fine organic pizza; it’s just not sold in the Trader Joe’s where I shop. I had to make another stop on the way home for that.
Moderator’s Comment: Where do out-of-stocks, alternatively having stock on shelves, fit within the customer’s perception of the level of service offered
by a store? Is it common, as described in the column, for customers during certain day-parts to feel as though they are being shortchanged by stores?
Sunday morning 9:00 AM is the best time to shop at Trader Joe’s in Westfield, NJ. The shelves are full, the store opens at nine, and traffic is light. The
store can’t sell wine until 10:00 by law. Of course, this is not much solace for those shoppers who can not go shopping then but, instead, enter the store at 6:15 on a weekday
George Anderson – Moderator