|The slow burn is on...|
So three weeks ago, Cookie announced he was going to Target. Well not just any Target, the largest Target in the region.
We needed a few things, and the store was recently remodeled with the latest look and products. So why not. The house needed a cleaning product that they carry, and we needed laundry detergent.
Lately, Target's stocking of the store out here in the Baltimore region has been pretty hit or miss on the house care, laundry care aisles. So I figured I see if this store was stocked better.
What I noticed is that the new Target look is more like a department store selling soft goods, makeup and housewares that a store selling the stuff you need for your home. The grocery section is still thinly stocked. But the stuff of life, the laundry detergent, the house cleaning things have been scaled back. Instead of three sizes of detergent, they carry only the huge size. Need trash bags? One vendor. Name brands? Nope, in-store brands.
I'm not trying to be difficult but I go looking for Tide, I want Tide, not Up & Up Brand. Vexed - because now I had to go to another store, I went looking for Murphy's Oil Soap Wipes. They've carried them for years, and not a sign of them. So I flag down a stockman and ask him and he said: "We used to carry them, people come in here looking for them, I have to tell them I can get them." How many people? Maybe 9, more like 30.
So now I don't have the things I need. So I go over to the Service Counter to ask if they can get them. There two people behind the service counter, and an employee clowning around with the older person behind the desk. No one pays attention to me. Finally, the younger employee asks if she can help me. I walk over, ask if this is temporary or permanent. She smiles sweetly and says she doesn't know but she'll ask the manager when she sees them.
She doesn't write down the name of the product. I ask her one more time if she remembers the name and she said "Baby wipes?"
No. I restate the product name. "You know, it might be better if you call the 800 number because we just stock what they send us." Some customer service.
So out in the car, I call the 800-line. The first call gets dropped, the second one gets stuck in the phone tree, the third call is a charm, or so I think.
A seemingly nice man listens and parrots back what I say, says he'll send it up and thanks me for the call. Wait a minute, says I. Isn't anyone going to send me an email even to say they are looking into it?
"All calls to Target's customer service regarding products are recorded as anonymous calls," says the man.
Huh? That doesn't make sense.
"We never perform callbacks or confirmation emails. All calls are put into the system anonymously. You see Target is the most trusted name in the value store category, and we have built our business on stocking the stores with what customers need, and we never want to put any employee in the position of delivering news about any product to any consumer."
Now Cookie has worked in customer service. You don't to be number one by ignoring your customers. That only works if you have a monopoly and all the cash in the world. You take care of people. You check back with them. And if you don't have the product, if you aren't going to carry the product, you can at least direct them to the manufacturer for more information on whether or not they make it, and if so, where to buy it. You know, the old Macy's Gimbel's idea of building trust.
Not this prissy pants. The buck stopped with him.
Could I speak to a manager, please?
"No, I'm sorry, our managers are not available."
So I ended the call.
I called back in, got a different person and spoke with her. "Could I speak to a manager?"
"Of course. Hold for one minute."
And in a minute I get a manager. I explain what I am looking for, and how the guy I was on the phone with refused to take my name.
"Well we normally don't take that information because we don't want to call with unhappy news...blah, blah, blah...but I will take you name and email, I will get back with you in one week. I have to send it to the buyer's department. But you will hear back from me."
I thanked her, but I asked her if you aren't tracking these calls by phone number, how do you tell who speaks with whom? I mean, did that guy understand his job? How do you coach an employee if you can't track who he has had encounters with?
"That's a good point."
One week later she wrote me an email and said that the buyer's group in that area will look at the says in that area and decide if we should stock the product.
GREAT! You can't hope for more when dealing with a monolith like Target.
But here's the thing, we don't wear Target clothing. We don't shop for groceries at Target. We are not women or drag queens, and if I were my drag name would be Tempest Fugit. So I don't need a makeup department. And their hardware area has been shrunken to nothing. We have no children, so we don't need baby items or children's clothes or toys. And I don't buy things off the web for home delivery unless they are very basic - like pencils or light bulbs.
And evidently, they don't give a dam what customers want or need or care about.
In other words, Target no longer has a purpose in my life. I can't trust it to carry what I need. And I don't spend money where I am not wanted.
But I did find those Murphy's wipes. Where? Ace Hardware! And they are locally owned - they can carry whatever they want. They need to stock the stores with a certain percentage of items bought through Ace's warehouses.
But have you been in an actual hardware store, lately? Not Lowe's or Home Depot, but the locally owned stores? That is where you find customer service. That is where you find the parts of life, the bits, and nails and bolts. They want your business and they will look for what you want or need, and if they can't get it, they know who might.
And that got me thinking, the biggest retailers don't need to care. They have no competition. They carry what they want you to buy, not what you want. And frankly, Target isn't inexpensive anymore like it used to be.
So farewell, Target. I am spending my money locally. I would tell you that, but you don't care.