Month: March 2011

Bed Bath And Beyond Basic Training

I do not return things.

If I paid too much or it doesn’t fit or is somehow not right, I figure it’s my error and I go along on the trail of life with yet another lesson firmly locked away later to be forgotten.

But today my wife and I were at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Yep, I used their name.  I did!

And that’s where today’s tale originates.  But this is not a story about BB&B…it’s a more general story about how businesses view training.  It could be almost any retailer.  And in my experience, over time, it has been most retailers with whom I’ve done business.

Today’s adventure started shortly after we’d checked out.  We had purchased four items that were, we thought, clearly marked at $1.39 each.  After we’d paid and walked toward the parking lot, my wife checked the receipt thinking the total was high.  Well, it was too high.  Because each of the four items had charged to us at $1.99…a 60-cent difference per item.  Yep, that’s right, you did the math correctly:  over-charged by $2.40.  In the olden days that would have bought a gallon of gasoline.

In my single days I would have said a few bad words or kicked a pebble in the parking lot.  In my married days, my indignation over being wronged rose up with venom and I encouraged my wife to go back to the little people inside the store and make a scene.  A really big, loud scene!

Well, she didn’t want to make a scene, but she did want to go back in and check the sign to make sure we hadn’t mis-read it.  I was a little nervous about walking back through the store with our bag full of goods.  I was afraid we’d be shot as suspected shoplifters.  But my wife assured me that we didn’t need Kevlar, our receipt was protection enough.

We arrived  at the display and yes, we agreed, the sign was pretty clear that our items should have cost us $1.39…not the $1.99 that appeared on our receipt.

So off we trekked to the Customer Service counter where the sign indicated that we should  queue up to have the mistake handled.

We got in line behind a woman who was exchanging a set of bed linens — exchanging queen-sized for king-sized.   It didn’t take hours for me to determine that the employee behind the counter was a little green behind the gills.  She was polite and friendly, but seemed to flounder over the details of how to handle the woman’s transaction.

We waited, shifting our weight from foot to foot, waiting for our turn to present our case.

After a few weeks, it magically became our turn at bat.  My wife pleasantly explained that we had been overcharged, that the sign said the item was $1.39 but we had been charged $1.99.  The clerk was very confused.  She took our receipt and one of the items and read them both…including the bio-hazzard warnings and the first 11 chapters of War and Peace.  It appeared to me that she sorta, kinda, in a vague way, knew what she needed to do, but didn’t quite know what buttons to push on the computer to make it all become a living reality.

What transpired during the next many minutes was mildly painful:  for us and the clerk.  She inquired of approximately five co-workers for information on what she needed to do.  The most-helpful clerk nearby stated that she needed to push Department 009 and then pro-rate the coupon and factor in the binary rate of taxation recovery and the bogus-charge-reduction-fee and the hazardous waste disposal fee and the electrical use rebate….  Oy, what a bunch of buttons she was told to push!

Then she got stuck.  She had all kinds of help from her colleagues to tell her which of the myriad and non-sensical buttons to push and paper forms to complete, but yet she was confused.

She didn’t quite comprehend the phrase on the receipt that read:  “4 @ $1.99”.  My wife kindly explained that we had purchased four copies of the item, at $1.99 per item.

“Aha!” the gal exclaimed.  NOW it all made sense to her.  She was so proud, and who could blame her?

Her next step was to verify that we weren’t liars by calling on the two-way radio to the “Soft Goods Department” to enquire as to the per-item price that was shown on the sign.  This took multiple tries as the soft-goods person couldn’t hear her clearly, and she could hear the responses from the soft-goods person clearly, either.  At day’s long end it was determined that we were honest people and that we merely wanted our $2.40 returned to us.

But we weren’t yet on our way to an enjoyable late lunch.  No, now she had to push the buttons that would actually record the error and get us our refund.  That took many more minutes.  Oh, and we couldn’t have the debit to our debit card “fixed”…no, she had to give us cash in return.  This was because we’d used a debit card.  Presumably if we’d used shells and chickens, she could have credited our account.

All this took place in a fairly busy store, with many people in line behind us, and many “managers” milling about, helping out with one question at a time rather than stepping in to service the customer and get us all on our ways.

I’m sure by now you can appreciate that I was a little torqued off.

Where’s the training!?  I know, it’s not cost-effective to properly train employees.  But is it cost-effective NOT to train them?  This poor kid was in front of a bunch of people who were more impatient by the second.  She was doing her best to figure out the process (and she was smart and friendly and professional — I am NOT in ANY way criticizing her).  But she didn’t know what to do because, I suspect, this was her very first time dealing with a transaction of this nature.  That should never happen!  There should be some formal training before someone is dropped into the den of wolves that is the public.

I firmly believe that this poor child was hired on Tuesday and the person hiring her, after asking her to complete the W-4, put her with another employee and said “Watch and learn.”

That is simply not right.

Especially for a large, national company like this.  They should have online training.  Training should include a visual of the cash register showing how to process any transaction.  And lessons should teach how to handle returns, refunds, exchanges and split transactions.  It doesn’t serve the business, the customer nor the employee to have them wallow in confusion and frustration.  Spend a few hours to TRAIN them so that they can confidently handle the job.  I know it wasn’t Susie Salesperson’s fault — it was the fault of the system that failed to train her and prepare her for her job.

I’ll think two or five times about going back to Bed, Bath and Beyond.  Not because they overcharged us by $2.40.  But because they made us stand at the Customer Service counter for 15 minutes of our lives while the whole world continued to spin out there.  It was painful.

To me it seems so simple.  If I were to hire someone, I would not want them to represent me, my business, my metrics and my potential bonus until they understood how to use my computer system and hot to process the majority of transactions that they may see.  It’s laziness, in my opinion.  Training takes some time and it’s an investment in doing business.  Do it, people.  Train employees, give them confidence, give them the ability to put the best face on your business.  Your cashiers and customer service people are the front lines of your business.

Please don’t just put  humans out there with every inclination toward failure.  Rather, give them every tool to help them, and you, succeed.

It all seems so simple to me.