Sunday, September 14, 2008

Letter to Kroger Corporate HQ's

I mentioned in a prior post about the letter we had written to Kroger customer service regarding our bad experience. Here it is:

Dear Sir

Having had two distinctly different experiences whilst visiting my local Kroger stores this weekend, I feel compelled to comment. Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Kroger Store at 7251 Interstate Blvd., Horn Lake MS 38637 in particular Pam and Kathryn who made my checkout as simple as could be. Armed with two carts full of groceries, a fist full of coupons and three children I cannot praise Pam enough for the calm way in which she not only assisted with my transaction but took the time and effort to talk to my children and distract them while I paid. This is the kind of friendly, considerate style of customer service that does your organization credit and I will certainly be encouraging my friends to use this store.

On a less positive note, I visited the Kroger store at 5995 Stage Road · Bartlett, TN 38134 last night and was appalled by the lack of professionalism, competence and sheer good manners that I had the misfortune to experience. Having filled two carts with groceries; I had a large number of grocery coupons that were going to allow me to make substantial savings. As an experienced coupon user, I am extremely careful to ensure that I use my coupons legally and in line with both the store and the manufacturers guidelines. I take great care to group multiple items together in my cart ( to make it easier for the cashier to compare the coupons presented to the register printout) and even put my coupons in order to make the process as painless as possible.

I am happy to acknowledge, and very proud to say that I probably use far more coupons than your average customers and can understand that the complexity that this might add to my transactions. I try very hard to be patient and I am typically happy to be patient while any queries are ironed out regarding the coupon usage. This being said, the fiasco I was faced with last night was completely unnecessary, was an embarrassment to Kroger and almost resorted in my husband calling the police to deal with one of your employees.

On completion of my shopping I queued at the only open register (apart from self service) to check out. Until this point, everything was good…from this point my issues are as follows:

1.) The gentleman who was packing my bags appeared to have very little interest in what he was doing. The first time he squashed my bakery items I politely smiled and said oops. The second bakery item that was crushed with heavy items caused me to comment politely that I was worried about my goods being damaged. By the time my bag of flour was split, and then placed in my bags with no offer to replace the damaged item, I decided that my comments were worthless as he was more interested in giving me an icy stare.
2.) My cashier (Natalie Gibbons), on being presented with my coupons at the end of the transaction, made a number of comments about how there were ‘so many coupons for one transaction’. We politely informed her that all the coupons were valid and being used correctly and that we had been advised by Kroger that as long as the coupons were used appropriately, there were no limits on the number we could use. After scanning a few coupons and spending an age trying to spot items on the register printout ( the goods had all been messed up during scanning and the coupons had been scattered out of order), we had a few more comments along the lines of ‘there are just too many coupons..this isn’t right’, Natalie called for Pam Bell who I assume was another cashier. Natalie’s confusion is quite understandable. It was late in the evening and she was perhaps not used to dealing with coupons – I will give her the benefit of the doubt. What was inexcusable to me was the off-handed comments, the ‘exhalations of breath’ and the time it took for her to contact somebody that could help her. I like to consider myself a smart shopper but this kind of begrudging attitude was obviously designed to let me know that she had been inconvenienced and that I was doing something wrong, in her opinion. Natalie and Pam refused a number of my coupons on the grounds that I had more than eight identical items that each had coupons. They were adamant that this was a company policy and Natalie even left her register for 7 minutes ‘mid transaction’ to call ‘Doreen’ at home as ‘Doreen’ had been with the company for a lot of years. Having had previous issues such as this, we had already received confirmation from Kroger corporate Customer Services that they would be happy to accept and double up to eight identical manufacturers coupons to a value of sixty cents (providing they were used according to the manufacturer guidelines). On this occasion however we were not even asking for coupons to be doubled – they were valid on their own merits.

3.) Having endured this confusion for thirty minutes we asked to see a manager so that the situation could be resolved in some way. In fact we had to ask FIVE times before somebody was called. According to Natalie nobody really knew who was responsible for the store at that time. Pam speculated that ‘the new guy Mr. Neil’ was probably in charge but after attempting to page him decided that he had probably gone home for the night. Our request to Natalie was clear and polite, we wanted to talk to somebody who was responsible for the store and who had the appropriate authority to help resolve this situation. With Pam’s assistance it was decided that ‘Tim’ was the one in charge and made a page for him. After no response and a second page, Natalie offered me her phone to ‘Tim’ as he was busy. I informed her politely that I considered this extremely rude after all the time I had been kept waiting and that I expecting him to show me the courtesy of talking to me face to face.

4.) From the point he arrived at the register, Tim’s demeanor and tone indicated he was ‘put out’ and really did not want to be involved. He paced straight to the two cashiers, asked them bluntly ‘what all the problems were about and what they needed him for’. Pam and Natalie explained that we were using such a large number of coupons’ and that we disagreed with them over how many could be used. I explained that the number of coupons being used was completely irrelevant and that we expected them to be honored in line with Kroger policy. Tim’s response to this, and I quote….was ‘So what do you want me to do? Do you want me to just give you a different answer to them. I don’t know anything about this.’My husband explained that we wanted the manager in charge to explain to us why we were unable to make our coupon transaction and to provide the ‘final word’ on behalf of the store. He explained clearly that we had been kept waiting for an unacceptable period of time and that he wanted a decision from somebody that could be held accountable.At this point , although still standing on the opposite side of the cashiers desk, Tim faced my husband, made eye contact and started to raise his voice. His very words were ‘I am not going to be accountable for anything; not for $8 an hour. I am not paid to be a manager, I am a stocker. I am not going to make any decisions for you – I need to cover my ass.’ His tone was loud, his gestures aggressive and I felt threatened. My husband (who is 280 pounds, 6ft2 and ex military) was appalled and explained to Tim in an equally loud and perfectly matched tone that he had no interest in how much he was paid and that if he wasn’t responsible for making decisions he needed to find somebody who would. I object to being subjected to such aggressive behavior, I objected to being treated with such a lack of respect and more importantly how dare your employee choose to curse in front of myself and my infant child who was in the shopping cart. By this point everybody was staring at us and I was shaken at such an outburst. My husband was concerned enough to suggest to me that maybe we just call the Police as his behavior was threatening. Tim then just told the cashiers to scan the coupons and accept them if they went through (which they did) and as he walked away told my husband he was sorry for the outburst and that he had been having a bad day. Credit to him for his apology but this was too little too late.5.) Our transaction took almost an hour in total and as it was being completed, the cashiers both made comments about being late to finish their shift. I have every sympathy with them but to be honest to you this should not have been my concern and was a less than subtle way for them to try and make me feel bad about what should have been a simple transaction. On top of this, I then had to stand and watch whilst Natalie stopped scanning my coupons to make a call on her cell phone. On completion of the transaction, I was just handed my receipt and change with no eye contact, no thanks and no apology for the ridiculous performance that we had just experienced.

I am smart enough to know that everybody has a bad day and that no matter how good a store might be, there are going to be occasions where things don’t go smoothly. What I refuse to accept though is aggressive, threatening behavior and the use of such language in front of my child. I will not be made to feel as if I am doing something wrong by using coupons and I will not be the subject of a store employees intimidation just because he is having ‘a bad day’. As my husband commented after the event, had he not been there with me, how much more aggressive would Tim have been, or how many other shoppers have had to endure his improper behavior.I hope that something constructive can come out of such a horrible experience and I would welcome an apology directed at myself and my son. This would go a long way towards indicating that as a company you do not condone this type of behavior. Secondly, I would suggest that there are some very obvious staffing and training issues at this store – how can so many members of staff not be able to work out who was responsible for the store at that time? There is obviously a huge amount of confusion over exactly what is or isn’t permissible in terms of coupon use and there is some serious interpersonal skills training needed. How would these three individuals have felt if they had been subjected to this kind of behavior themselves?

I look forward to hearing from someone regarding this matter as soon as possible. I appreciate your time and quick response.



tucky on September 21, 2008 at 3:51 PM said...

Hey there Deb, I am in awe of your stockpile.. I keep checking back to see the deals your making to see if I can match some of them..

Keep up the awesome work and I love your blog!


tucky on September 21, 2008 at 3:51 PM said...

Oh and I meant to ask, Did you ever hear back from Kroger on this situation.. I'm hoping they send you a big fat gift card!!