Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

A very nice day spent with my brother, his son, my son and my mother at my mom's house in Sun City. This is the original Sun City - the horse properties, the expensive homes, the nice area. Mom made a very tasty dinner - as usual for her - she is a great cook and I have always admired her ability as such. I have attempted to follow in her footsteps - I think I will always look at her as my cooking hero : )

I am not gay, btw, if that's what brings that statement to mind. I also like growing flowers because - God made them and they are beautiful and smell wonderful. I like plants and having a property full of them. I like God's creation - He created these things, we are inclined to like His creation in all the many facets that that entails. There is a huge difference, in my mind if no-one else's, in looking at a house that has all kinds of vegetation versus a house that has none or very little.

I find it far more unnatural to have a barren property than to have something like mine: 200 plus plants and trees growing on all sides of the house, maintained, groomed and looking nice. There are years worth of growth to go before most of it is mature. It is also almost totally covered with drip irrigation - water saving system that also almost totally eliminates weed growth. I am perfecting that system - fine tuning it. I want only to have to go out there, turn a handle on a ball valve, and then go watch the plants being watered - versus spending hours out there with a garden hose. SOME areas will still be covered with water hose, but the time drain of 1 to 2 hours every day out there just watering stuff will be eliminated, my drip system will do it for me.

That's it. It's my bedtime and - I'm going to bed.



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.

Fry's Food Stores Service Issues (Ongoing "Discussion)

I have written about customer service issues at Fry's Food Stores for quite some time now. The point? If they are not motivated to do anything about it themselves, perhaps some negative exposure to the entire world WILL. I have seen many Google searches for Fry's service coming here on the Feedjit software to the side of my blog. This is some kind of indication that SOMEBODY else must also be interested in seeing things change at Fry's Food Stores, even if in ever so small, incremental steps.

My latest round of emails were sent to all kinds of individuals within the Kroger's corporate structure. Whether any of those people read those emails and did anything (besides dump them into the recycle bin on their computer), I have no idea. The form I filled out through customer input on their website did get someone's attention. I believe they always respond to whatever comes their way through that forum.

This time, I received a reply email from a lady, after that I got a call from an individual that is regional manager or some title from someone else and yesterday, I got a call from the store's general manager. They were all apologetic. I sincerely believe they have great intentions, too. I also sincerely believe that absolutely nothing will be done about it.

Case in point: I sent this email out a week and a half plus ago. This information had already been received by the store's general manager. Yet, 2 days ago, I saw the general manager and a floor manager walking around the front of the store, discussing whatever and totally ignoring customers that were OBVIOUSLY waiting for help at the self-service checkouts. The floor manager had the device in her hand that remote controls all the screens - she was SUPPOSED to be tending to the customers and whatever issues come up with self-checkout, instead, she was babbling with the store's manager.

I was in a full-service lane at the time, watching this nonsense. The man was standing at the self-serve terminal where the employee is supposed to be helping people. Another guy was standing there, looking around, at a self-serve checkout, waiting for an attendant. Only when the lady that was supposed to be engaging herself with this setup looked up - and shock came over her face seeing people waiting to be helped - did they get helped.

I have threatened to take a video camera in there and film this nonsense, I always forget to take it in there with me. I could have acquired at least 4 videos of these people - whether employees or management - totally ignoring the customers. One of the videos would have shown fully FOUR employees, including a manager, standing there talking and yapping away, while I and another individual were standing there, waiting for whenever they might get their social hour over with, look up and do what they are supposed to be doing (well, one assumes that they are supposed to engaging in the work at hand, one does not necessarily believe that assumption after years of seeing this stuff going on).

Hey, the new manager of the store sounds like a very nice person. I'm not saying they are a-holes working there, I AM saying that there are some pretty spacey people who apparently have the attention span of a gnat working there. Well, there ARE a couple of a-holes working there, most notably a black man that works in the meat department who started what akins to a fist-fight with me over my question about why there was no chicken available that was advertised - and had NOT been available for the nearly 5 days I had gone in there looking for such. He got testy with me saying I would have to come in when they had it. It was aggregious attitude at best. When I went and got a manager - who went with me to approach this individual - this man started in on me, right there, with the manager standing there! He became VERY aggressive in his stance and speech and started walking towards me.

The manager shut him down. They SHOULD have FIRED his stupid ass. Forgive my language, but that kind of action towards a customer that is ONLY asking a question is beyond uncalled for, that person should NOT be working there.

So now what? I will continue to go in there and observe what's going on while I'm shopping. I never said I wasn't going to shop there at all - though I am spending some of my grocery dollars at other stores at this point, especially at Fresh and Easy since they have some great coupons. Oh, and the individual that called me wanted to know about the conveyor belts being used at Fresh and Easy - EVERYONE checks themself out there, but it is FAR easier to use than the ridiculous system that have at Fry's. I couldn't tell him if they are using a scale system like Fry's is - but I will ask them the next time I go in there. The point is you can get the scanning job 3 times faster - at least - than at Fry's because you don't have to wait for the system to weigh the product and verify it is the correct weight for the item that was scanned. Further, the employees are scurrying around at Fresh and Easy helping bag customer's groceries and whatever issues customers might have with the scanning system. They are VERY focused and do their jobs 100% better than anything I have experienced at Fry's Food Stores with their self-checkouts.

More to this story in the near future.


Interesting day. Up early - 4:00, jolted out of deep sleep by the ridiculous phone alarm - annoying as all get out but that's the inten...