Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fresh And Easy Grocery Stores: GREAT Customer Service!

Let's get off of the subject of Fry's/Krogers and Walmart Supercenters. Well, we may throw the names in the discussion, but the focus will be on the Fresh and Easy grocery chain. Not sure how long ago - maybe 3 years? .....that Fresh and Easy started to move into town. They started building and building and building -- or taking over existing structures and completely re-doing them - until they had stores all over the place.

The nearest one to me is 4 miles away.

I have not been shopping at Fresh and Easy very long, they haven't BEEN here very long. In contrast, I have been shopping at Fry's Food Stores since 1974 and I have been shopping at Walmart Supercenters off and on for the last 10 or so years. I have almost completely given up on buying anything at Walmart simply because of the HORRIFIC customer service issues that are to be found there in a shopper's nightmare of neglect; abusive treatment and even total dissing, right to your face. I go, on average, to Walmart about once a month compared to the several times a week I USED to go there years ago. Walmart may be about low prices - but they don't pay their employees anything and yes, definitely, they get what they pay for in terms of complete, total lack of customer service.

I USED to overlook Walmart's abusive customer service issues, but over the years I just got to the point where I could take it no longer. The last time I was there, which was about 3 weeks ago, I went to the deli counter to get some turkey sliced into lunch meat portions. There were fully 4 people working in the back. I waited for 30 seconds before someone finally voiced: "We'll be with you in a minute". I left. I also complained to the district manager, again. I refuse to put up with a single second's worth of bad service from anyone there.

I WILL start to remember to bring my camera into these stores - eventually - to begin documenting this stuff and posting it on the web for the entire world to see.

Totally got off-subject, but relevant to the discussion, as I have never had ANY problems at Fresh and Easy. I do NOT go into stores looking for trouble. In fact, I am very focused: get what I went in there to get and get out of there as fast as possible as I pretty much abhor going into any of those places. BUT, I do not abhor going into Fresh and Easy! I can say that because they ALWAYS cheery, friendly and helpful. If I ask them where something is, they will take you there. There is no malice in their voices (as in, you are an intrusion into our daily work lives, we don't need you, you need us type of attitude). They most definitely do NOT have the best prices around, but - their prices aren't bad, either. Well, I'll take that back.

On certain items, they do have killer deals. Notably their frozen potatoes section which has a full line of their own brand, I'm guessing - that is much lower than Fry's or Walmart. They also seem to have good, on-going deals on half-hams at 77 cents per pound. That's pretty good, really. Other stuff is comparable to Fry's or Walmart and then there's other things that are simply beyond what I am willing to pay..........UNLESS.........I have one of those great coupons.

But what makes or breaks a company's "deal" for me? Customer service, ALWAYS. Whether for good or for bad, that is the single-most thing that I am looking for. If you find a place that has good deals on some things, the same deals on others but a little higher on yet more - I am going to take that place and shun the rest. Well, I haven't gotten that far with it. They are not huge stores though they do have a good selection on some things. I don't think I could ever get to the point I could say that Fresh and Easy is the place where I spend most of my grocery money just because of that. That being there isn't enough there to cover everything.

But don't let that statement deter you, there are many items that they do have a great selection on - I don't think they are trying to cover the universe in that arena, they are trying to offer quality items at a good, great or decent price. Yet, what attracts me to the place is the always-great attitude I have experienced there - at least so far.

I have NEVER had the issues I have had at both Fry's and Walmart with the checkouts at Fresh and Easy. It's very simple stuff and the employees I have encountered have actually made it an enjoyable experience. Last time I was there - earlier this week - I forgot to get some cookies for the kids - but had already started checking my stuff through the scanner. I asked where the cookies were - yes, the lady offered to take me over to them, I just asked to be directed in the general direction as she was obviously busy and I did not want to take her away from dealing with others that needed help as well. I also asked if it was okay to do so, I am not the kind to want to hold others up - there were plenty of open checkouts, so it was nothing in terms of making myself a nuisance customer to other customers. I went, got the cookies, found all my items scanned and bagged, only waiting for me to scan the cookies and pay for the items.

It wasn't JUST that she was willing to go out of her way to help me (though that in itself is a shopper's dream at this point in time), it was the way she went about it. In terms of customer service, this person was brilliant. Her total focus on making sure I was happy with my experience, without me having to ask for it, was something you might think to find at a fine restaurant with pricey food fares and expectant high percentage tips. She was moving very quickly, relentlessly, back and forth from one checkout to another, helping others in almost angelic-like proportions in her total smoothness and ability to deal with a lot going on and not missing a beat. I hope she is paid well for such enthusiastic, energetic, awesome output.

Ohhh, but that was just her, you say. NO, I reply. That is just ONE example. You see, I hear apologies from companies about "what happened". BUT, the apology never comes from the offender, it always has to come from some level of management. I don't even have to GO there at Fresh and Easy. Disclaimer: I am NOT an employee of Fresh and Easy, I do NOT work in the grocery business but I am an avid shopper as I spend a GREAT deal of money on food on any given month. However, I AM in the customer service industry, but it is far removed from the food industry.

TREAT PEOPLE AS YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED YOURSELF. I have no idea if that is any mantra in the corporate climate of Fresh and Easy, whether it is or isn't, that's the way I see their outlook on the subject. Coming from a person like me - not that I'm anyone, but still - that's high praise.

I thought today, why always tout the deficiencies of one company: Fry's Food Stores, and not tout a store I might happen to be totally satisfied with? Okay, okay, Fry's is not ALL bad, but there's enough there to make me speak out against that corporation on a frequent basis. They simply don't have "it" down at the employee level. It matters not if high-level management is all about customer service: if it is not reflected in each store employee's attitude, who gives a damn what a person you will never see or talks to thinks about it? I don't GO to Fry's to see high level management, I go there to get groceries. I don't expect high-level management to be attending the checkout line. I don't even expect that they are there. In fact, I don't expect much of anything at this point from Fry's, excepting the fact that I probably will run into some kind of BS when I am there. If it were not for their pricing - that is pretty much outstanding - I wouldn't go there at all.

So, kudos to Fresh and Easy. To Fry's Food Stores - You have a LONG ways to go. Your prices are fantastic but it does not nullify the TERRIBLE customer service that I frequently experience there.

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Well it's almost 3 pm and I haven't heard from the manager about a run for tomorrow, so I'm going to assume that it isn't go...