Not a very supermarket

State of the nation: a world credit crunch leaves no corner of industry untouched. Every business is feeling the squeeze. The retail sector is a battleground with stores desperate just to hold onto market share and ride out the storm.

With one remarkable exception: Business analysts are flocking to Sainsburies at Kingsway in Derby to try and understand how they are able to successfuly operate in a way that defies commercial logic. They observe the following:

  • Far too few trolleys which are rarely returned to bays near the store entrance. Shoppers have walk to all four corners of the carpark in all weathers to find a trolley so they can get on with the business of shopping.
  • Customers arriving on foot, of which there are many, must negotiate the relentless traffic flow without the aid of any pedestrian crossing.
  • Once in the store there are always missing mainstream stock items. Which rare & exotic grocery will be missing this week? Will it be onions, apples or maybe carrots?
  • Every few weeks whole sections will be entirely absent. Sorry, no fresh fish counter today. Or perhaps the chiller units are out of order so there will be no meat.
  • Sometimes when stock is regrettably available the store will move sections around just to make it harder to find what you want. “I say, soup’s selling well – lets move it a few aisles away for no reason so people can’t find it any more.”
  • Finally, why not alienate the people who have stuck with this farce as far as the till by charging the wrong amount? Labelled 2 for 1 on the shelf? Not at the till. Reduced item? To you – full price. In one case I was asked to pay ¬£47 for 6 items in a basket by an unblinking checkout girl. I had to point out that this couldn’t be right and it took several minutes to recalculate the bill as less than a tenner. No apology or reason of course.

    Rival groups are hoping to understand this marketing approach so they too can operate with impunity and save costs on management, staffing and facilities.

Fuel for thought

Get this. My dual gas/electric energy supplier has been sending me bills based on estimates because… well that’s another story of post-privitisation incompetence. I thought I would do their job for them and phone through with actual meter readings, as prompted by my latest bill, which implored me to phone through a reading to ensure accurate billing.

When I told them my actual readings they told me they would only be able to use these readings “for information” and not to adjust my bill ?!?!?!?!?!?!? In order for them to adjust my bill based on the readings they need to be taken within 2 weeks of a billing date. When I then asked exactly what “for information” actually meant they uhm’d and ah’d before realising that their customer training hadn’t provided them with a scripted bluff for this question. I suggested that “for information” meant that they would do precisely nothing in response to my phone call and the customer service operative was reluctantly forced to agree.

It’s a good job there isn’t an open market for energy supply or I might just look for a less clueless supplier.

Oh, hang on a second…