Pickles and chips

When someone orders a sandwich in our deli, the workers there automatically offer them a little sleeve of bulk Kettle-brand potato chips – pretty good chips.  Or the customer could substitute a pickle, though I don’t think that option is automatically offered each time.

When a customer pulls a pre-made sandwich out of the cooler directly across from the pizza/sandwich station, they are equally eligible for a pickle or chips – but there is nobody there to tell them this.  When I was telling a friend about this situation, they recommended that a sign be put up next to the cooler.  There’s a lot to recommend in this, but I wouldn’t support it.

I want us cashiers to be the one to tell them!

I do have to clarify to people that the chips being offered are not the ones in the fancy packages.

I do have to clarify to people that the chips being offered are not the ones in the fancy packages.

They're bulk chips in little paper sacks - but I make a point to say that they are Kettle brand, a good label.

They’re bulk chips in little paper sacks – but I make a point to say that they are Kettle brand, a good label.

I have for the past several months been on a personal mission to tell people about their pickle and chips – because it’s so satisfying to do this!  When I tell people, “You know you can get a pickle or a little bag of chips with your sandwich?” they very seldom do know this.  They usually respond to my offer in one of three ways, in relatively equal proportion:

  1. They have no interest. “I don’t like pickles and I don’t need the chips.”  I think sometimes they still like being offered – they get it that the store is offering them a little treat for free.
  2. They like the offer, but don’t want it today. They’re in a rush or not in the mood.  Here’s where that sign by the cooler seems like a good idea, but I don’t think it outweighs the pluses of the cashier conveying the info.
  3. They really like the idea – they get enthused. They want to go right back and get their pickle or chips.  I have to slow them down:  “Lets finish the transaction first and then go back.”

To the extent that they have even a little fleeting positive response to this offer, let’s pair it with a human face – maybe even someone they already like – rather than just a sign on the cooler.

And let’s give the cashier the chance to offer something nice to the customer.  We recently cut way back on our discounts to seniors and military, now offering each just one day a week instead of every day.  Even if I believe the company line that this step is taken in service of keeping prices low across the board – every day for everybody – there’s no getting around this move being a loss for cashiers at least as much as customers.

  • We empathize with their loss..

    Who feels good about seniors losing their discount?  And while we're at it, what's up with all the Google Images for seniors being smiling couples or groups - no singles and nobody not smiling.  I chose this Google image because they were less posing for the camera and less attractive than most of the shots.

    Who feels good about seniors losing their discount? And while we’re at it, what’s up with all the Google Images for seniors being smiling couples or groups – no singles and nobody not smiling. I chose this Google image because they were less posing for the camera and less attractive than most of the shots.

  • We bear the brunt of their upset – though, honestly, lots of people have responded with tremendous poise, or blow off steam once and then seem over it.  (Some of the nicest people have responded by being especially bitter about the change.)
  • It is a loss for us because it feels really good to offer people discounts.  I used to really enjoy asking “Do you have any coupons or discounts?”, because there was a much better chance of a yes answer, maybe with a little clarification of what the discounts are.  Now there is much less likelihood of a yes and it’s hard for me to even ask the question.

So let’s not miss this chance to offer something to our customers.  It shows that we care about them – we go out of our way to offer them something nice.  It feels good to do – it takes us beyond just swiping groceries.  What a cheap way to boost the customer’s mood – and ours – and build their loyalty to our store.  And get them to like us cashiers more.  It’s a win all around.

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4 thoughts on “Pickles and chips

  1. If I owned a store, I would sure want you as an employee. Your blog reminds me of when I worked for DHS years ago and one reason I left (besides immaturity on my part) was that MBA’s in the state capital (TN) were making decisions that negatively affected the happiness of the workers at my level, not to mention the effectiveness of our work with clients. Those above us in Nashville had, for the most part, never been in the trenches. We live in a materialistic society where most businesses seem to be offering a little something for almost nothing, and we have gotten used to that. Small discounts make us feel privileged, honored, whatever. And as you say, they increase opportunities for positive interaction. In Knoxville, people I know are shopping less and less at EF and going more to Kroger (which has enlarged its healthy food departments and gives gas discounts), Trader Joe’s (lower prices and just fun) and now we have Whole Foods (expensive but so bountiful and beautiful). I honor you, Majo, for doing your job to the best of your abilities, one day at a time. Keep up the good work, and if I lived in Asheville, I’m sure I would shop there just to go through your line.

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  2. Shopgirl – It seems like you really know this terrain. Your readership and affirmation mean a lot to me. You’re just who I want to find this helpful.

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