A Blog Series on Shopper Marketing

By Cyndi Pyburn

Okay, I was pressed for time.  It was late on a Saturday and I had to pick up a few groceries to complete the meal for a dinner party I was hosting in less than 2 hours.  UGH.    I was driving by Sobey’s and decided it was convenient and I would quickly pop in.  Saturday late afternoon …. when everybody and their brother is out shopping.  I couldn’t find a parking spot – for those suburbanites, it is an ‘urban’ Sobey’s (aka:  limited parking).  So I cheated.  I parked in front of the docking and loading zone.  I know.  It was wrong.  But I was just running in to pick up a few items.  And besides, it was a Saturday …. who is shipping on a Saturday?

Needless to say, I was longer than anticipated.  I could have figured that out given the crammed parking lot.  When I returned to my car, I was met with a very irate truck driver. Here I was holding him up and he likely had to get home too.  I felt badly.   I ran to the car, calling out “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”  To exacerbate the situation, the store manager was chasing me.  I was thinking between the pair of them, they are going to ensure my car gets towed and I get a hefty parking ticket.  Much to my surprise, the store manager told me to stop running, that it was okay.  He understood.  I was dumb-founded.

“The customer is always right” is a motto or slogan which exhorts service staff to give a high priority to customer satisfaction.  It was popularised by pioneering and successful retailers such as Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field.   They advocated that customer complaints should be treated seriously so that customers should not feel cheated or deceived. Of course, these entrepreneurs didn’t intend to be taken literally. What they were attempting to do was to make the customer feel special by instructing their staff to behave as if the customer was right, even when they weren’t.

While I won’t park in a loading zone anytime soon, I must admit that Sobey’s has made a more loyal customer out of me.   While I am a convenience shopper, if there is a choice nearby, I choose Sobey’s.  The store manager, likely very seasoned, saw an opportunity to help a frantic customer, clearly in the wrong, feel better about their poor decision.  Here’s to the old adage.  It assuaged my guilt.  Others can benefit from this.