I am a big supporter of local businesses. That is why it pains me to see Dierbergs becoming one of my least favorite places to go.
I get it. The economy is bad. Staffing is expensive. But really, guys, if you are going to tout customer service as something that sets you apart from those national chains, and expect me to pay a premium for it, then you gotta give me some customer service.
The past 5 times (yep, I started counting after the 3rd time in a row) I have had to bag my own groceries. Not a single time in the past 5 times did a courtesy clerk or “bagger” come to help me. In most cases, the store was simply understaffed but there was a case when I was bagging my own groceries and a clerk was standing at the checkout lane next to me, waiting for her aisle to get a customer. Last night, there was nary a bagger in sight.
I am aware that I sound like some sort of entitled-yuppie-high maintenance-overly demanding jerk by even writing this post, but seriously, come on. I could easily save $20 off my biweekly grocery bill if I shopped at a store that requires you to bag your own stuff. Part of the reason I am willing to pay more at Dierbergs is the perceived better customer service experience. Besides, as someone who did a brief stint as a grocery bagger when I was 16, I know that it is an added value to the customer.
I mentioned my dissatisfaction to a clerk at the courtesy counter. She replied by saying she didn’t know if management would do anything about it, but would pass along the message anyway.
I smiled. I was nice. I was polite. I wasn’t even irritated. I honestly just wanted to let them know that it was an ongoing issue so they could rectify it and hopefully not lose any customers. Really. I walked out of the store, confident that the kind lady at the counter would pass the message along and glad that my feedback would help them be a better local business in the community I love.
I dodged the minefield of carts strewn across the parking lot to get to my car and unload my groceries.
Then, I noticed something peculiar. Two young men, in their official yellow cart-collecting vests, standing in front of a cart corral filled to the brim. They were looking at something. As I got closer, I realized they were playing some sort of game, downloading an app or possibly checking their Facebook profile on an iPhone. They stood there right next to me the whole time I unloaded, clearly oblivious to the fact that I was watching them with a disapproving look.
Now, I was annoyed.
I finished filling my car and walked back in to the store. I went up to the same woman I had approached earlier and said, verbatim: “Hi there. Once again, like I said before, I don’t want to be rude. But I just wanted to let you know…I think you might not have an understaffing issue at all. It seems that the courtesy clerks are simply playing on an iPhone in the parking lot. Perhaps they could help bag some groceries when they’re finished with their game?”
Here’s the thing. Apparently I am not the only one this has happened to recently.
My husband was not surprised. He is a die hard Dierbergs fan, a “Dier Hard” Fan, if you will. (I crack myself up.) In fact, he is the one who converted me to Dierbergs years ago. As one of their traditionally biggest fans, it is sad to hear him talk about how much they have fallen short lately.
I told my coworkers the story at lunch, and they were not surprised at all. In fact, a couple of them said they’d had similar experiences at Dierbergs and decided that instead of bagging their own groceries and paying a lot for them, they started shopping at another store where you get a discount for bagging your own stuff.
I really, really love my neighborhood Dierbergs. I want my local businesses to do well. But at some point, I gotta look out for me, right?