Turn out the light

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Attention all Kmart shoppers. I grew up shopping at in Kmart. I grew up seeing the Blue Light Special.  I rode the mini mechanical rides out front and placed things on lay-away. My Kmart had a cafeteria and a deli. We would occasionally get food from the cafeteria, although more commonly getting sandwiches to go from the deli.

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Dagwood sandwiches from Kmart

They usually would be a bologna dagwood sandwich, which consisted of bologna, cheese, a little shredded lettuce and tomato, and sliced onion. I learned the value of mustard while eating these childhood sandwiches.

 

Kmart sold everything .They had toys and comic books. Many G.I. Joe’s were bought from them. They had bikes, fishing gear, and soccer balls. They had school supplies and televisions, and eventually video games. I got most of my new clothes from Kmart, from jeans to socks.

Now they are closing the final Kmart in Sioux Falls. Although the Kmart of my childhood is still open in Rapid City, I will not have one in my current home town. The brand has not been able to keep up with the changes in society. I have worked for their largest competitor and Kmart could not compete. Their brand and their name has not fared well over the years. Their buildings are old and so are their customers. I will always fondly remember the brand and the memories that I have. Unfortunately, it is time to turn out the blue light…the party is over.

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Blue Light Special. Photo credit: babyboomerflashback.blogspot.com

Fear of an “Unlike”

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thumbs-down-signThe other day I received a call from a woman who had purchased a photo frame from our store. She took it home, placed it in an envelope, and mailed it to her mother three hours away. When the photo frame arrived in the mail to her mother, the glass was broken.

The issue for this woman was that she believed that it was our store’s responsibility to replace the frame in its entirety. Never-mind the fact that when she left the store, the frame was in perfect condition and the glass was not broken. She admitted that the damage was likely caused by the postal service and that the frame had no manufacture defect.

After discussing the fact that our return policy is intended for defects and change of hearts, she would not relent. She insisted that we should take responsibility and stand up for our customer. Her personal accountability was not in question. Since Hobby Lobby is a company that believes in Christian values, we should be responsible to take care of all requests.

In the end, I agreed to replace the frame at her convenience. I could have continued to point out that it was not our fault that the frame was damaged. It was not our responsibility to ensure the safe shipping of merchandise once it had left our premises. All my arguments would continue to fall on deaf ears. Even if I had flat out refused to replace the item, she would have likely contacted our corporate office and they would have either issued her a refund for the product or instructed me to replace it for her. The frame was a $10 item which would hardly impact the bottom line of the company. The goodwill is worth much more than the dollar.

I appreciate the fact that it was the right thing to do for the customer and the company. It was not a large inconvenience nor an impact on our balance sheet. I am just disappointed that this woman took no personal responsibility for this situation. She packaged the frame, either with or without padding. She placed it in an envelope, or a box, or some other means to ship it. She chose the method in which to ship the package, either via postal or courier. She chose whether to insure or not the package. All these decisions were made while the frame was in her possession and in good condition.

At what point had our society lost accountability? How about integrity? When did it become acceptable to make bad choices and then blame others? In this age of social media and instant communication, individuals hold a great deal of influence. A single post or tweet can impact a company in the blink of an eye. Viral videos and Facebook “likes” hold significant power. Companies are in constant states of fear. They are held hostage by the customer and the customer is not held to the same standard. They accommodate unreasonable requests for fear of a negative Yelp review or a Thumbs Down on a comment section.

Hopefully this woman is an exception. Hopefully she is just wanting to remedy a bad situation and could not think of another option. In the end, the woman got what she wanted. She is happy and the issue is resolved. No negative press was recorded and the company is well with her. All is well…?

All I want for Christmas

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BarbieThe other day, I got to help celebrate Christmas with a family that I never met, and still do not know. They will never really know me and have probably since forgotten me, but they are in my mind.

Christmas is a big deal working for a major retailer. We see thousands of people in our store daily, all of them needing something. I had the opportunity to meet my family while working one night nearby the toy department (a popular department around Christmas time). The dad was in a frantic search to find a Barbie bunk-bed for his little girl. Our shelf was empty and we were the only store that was carrying this toy (an exclusive). He came to me, with his mother along (grandmother to the little princess) and needed my help.

“Do you have this toy?” he asked as he showed me a picture of it on his smart-phone.

“Hmmm…I don’t know.” was my reply.

“Can you help me look? I need it for Christmas and the website says that you have it.” he pleaded.

“Absolutely, let’s go look” I responded.

Off we went to the Barbie aisle (yes, she is that big of a retail product she has nearly an entire aisle for all her products). We found the location of where the toy was supposed to be, but it was empty.

An empty space this close to Christmas usually was not a good sign, as it indicated that the product was out of stock in our store. I used my hand-held scanner to see if our inventory reflected the “out”. It showed that we indeed did have some in stock…but where were they?

Our store has a computerized system to indicate if we have a product in stock, and if so, where the product is located in the store. It shows us if the product is either on the sales-floor or in the backroom. If in the backroom, it will also share where it is so that we can find it. It’s a great system….if we set it up correctly and do all the steps to maintain it.

This product indicated that we had some in the store and that they should be on the sales-floor. They were not anywhere to be found. Usually, this error could be caused by a number of factors, and we would just indicate that we were out-of-stock. However, I was determined that we had this item, although I had no reason to believe it was true.

I asked the man to wait for a couple of minutes, as I was going to go look for the product and find it. Eventually (after more than a couple of minutes), I did find the bunk-bed buried in a pile of other erchandise. Wow!

I excitedly hurried back to the toy department carrying the “booty” for the customer. Thankfully, they had been patient and waited for my return.

The smile that I received from the Dad was all the thanks that I needed. He and his mother repeatedly thanked me, even shook my hand.

“Merry Christmas!” I wished them as I began to walk away.

“My daughter will agree with you!” the Dad responded. “Merry Christmas to you as well!”

Christmas morning, his daughter (who I will never know) woke in the morning to find a Barbie bunk-bed under her Christmas tree. I imagine the delight in her eyes (as I have a daughter whom I have seen the same delight) as she saw it. Although I don’t know the family, and never saw the morning, I know that I got to spend a moment of their Christmas with them.