I don’t usually do consumer stuff here, but today I have 13 good reasons not to shop at B&Q again.
First good reason is that, on Saturday at 4pm I ordered some specialised wood cleaning product on ebay and, with a knock at the door, it arrived at 9:30am Sunday morning.
Now, that isn’t a good enough reason in itself. I try to support actual shops, they have a tough job to keep going and the only reason I used ebay this time was because this was a specialist product not available at the local DIY outlets.
But here come the 12 other reasons.
Yesterday at 5pm I visited our local B&Q to buy a few bits to help repair a lintel on our dormer window. I know their till service is dreadful and so prefer Wickes, but their product range is good and I was close by and so decided to give them a go. Having collected what I needed I headed to the 12 tills. Not a single person on a till, not one. My heart sank when I realised that the only option was self-checkout.
I approached, waved my product under the scanner to be met by a flashing light and a ‘contact assistant’ message. A young lady approached, “Oh I need to get it approved for over 21!” (I am over 50 and sadly the days when I looked under 21 are some time behind me). She was not able to do this herself due to her age so wandered off towards the refund desk. A lady looked over at me, and nodded. Phew, I was apparently over 21.
The young lady wandered back and clicked a pass key against the till, then she wandered away.
2 seconds later the till bleeped again. She came back. “Oh yes, I need to click that again,” so she attached her pass key again.
Me, “I guess you don’t remember the days when there were assistants actually serving customers in shops?” She didn’t get it.
I struggled on, reading through the menus presented to me; I finally pressed the ‘pay by credit card’ option.
I then realised that I hadn’t scanned my B&Q card. I looked for a button to scan it and tried a random scan, nothing.
I looked across for the ‘helper’ and she began to wander over (I am still the only person at any till, so she isn’t busy).
I began to explain that I needed to scan my B&Q card, but didn’t know how.
At that point I realised just how stupid this all was.
Me to ‘helper’, “Do you know what, if B&Q can’t be bothered to have a single till open and you can’t be bothered to serve me then why should I bother to try to be a customer. You can keep this and I will go somewhere that actually wants my business.”
I left my things at the till and walked away.
The one thing that shops have over online purchasing is the personal service. They used to have immediacy of availability. I remember only a few years ago when you ordered things by post or phone that delivery was always quoted as ‘within 28 days’, and it often was only just that. Now, it is a click and fewer than 28 hours away, generally cheaper and always with greater choice.
Shops seem to now be willingly pushing us away from any human contact. They are committing suicide with home-made swords. Each shop expecting us to become an expert with their unique computer scanning system in order to be allowed to buy anything. All the time avoiding eye contact should we actually want to ask anyone anything.
There are many reasons why the likes of Aldi are doing so well. One might just be that they actually have people on their tills, serving.
Perhaps B&Q will read this, perhaps not. I am sure they have lots of statistics presented to their senior management showing how much quicker self-service is for customers, and so how great it is. They used to do this for ‘offshoring’ call centres, before realising that the reality was that customers don’t like it and go elsewhere where they can. Now companies positively advertise ‘UK call centres’ as a feature of their business.
B&Q management might hide behind blaming the young assistant for ‘not providing the customer service they expect’, but that isn’t the point. The point is the senior management decision to put her in that place, too young to actually process many items, and to then leave the 12 perfectly good tills unattended. But they will never acknowledge that, it would be too close to home and too much of a question against the strategy they carefully crafted during a long away-day somewhere.
Give it a couple of years and those large shops still left might suddenly have a new modern approach to their last bastion, customer service. They might have people actually behind tills to serve you, with a smile and a cheery, helpful approach. You can always hope.
In the meantime, must go, I hear the doorbell. It’s the bits I needed for the lintel repair arriving from the ebay order I placed last night…