Co-Op: Not Good with Customer Service

The Co-Operative – Good with Food.

Okay. We’ll get to that misnomer later, but first a tale about their customer service, or lack of in this case. Yes dear blog reader, it’s rant time! So gather round ye olde laptop as I tell you a story of why Co-Op Supermarkets are evil.

Back in the day, when Sonic the Hedgehog was my TV pal, when I delivered newspapers on my battered bike and the world was a happy place – I worked at the Co-Operative in my local village. I stacked shelves and organised stuff in the warehouse, nothing special. The staff were okay, a little seasoned perhaps and some lacked basic social skills that infants would find laughable. I was a young lad, 17 or so, but even then I knew how to interact with customers in a professional and courteous manner and why dressing like a soggy tramp wasn’t a good thing.

For those of you who don’t know what Co-Op is, imagine a village or small town where the only supermarket is one that sells reconstituted food packed with preservatives and cardboard. A store that thinks selling things for £1 is a good bargain for penniless customers living on unemployment benefit. A store that looks colourful and lively, with Fair Trade offers and fresh-baked bread, but has a seedy underbelly where the staff worship the Gods of Ignorance and Rudeness.

Oh sure, it LOOKS nice from the outside with fresh flowers and 2 packs of Crumpets for £1, not to mention the happy smiling posters “Buy all this shite for £4 and have a family feast!” and “Fancy a BBQ? Look no farther than our summer bargains: 50 Burgers, 50 MEAT Sausages, 50 Unidentifiable Things – ONLY £6!!”

Wow, at that price it must be good because I love processed meat that’s 99% water and shrivels up to nothing when I cook it. And the nutrition must be top quality.

Before I bash our local unfriendly Co-Op store I should point out its good points.

# 1. It’s open till 10 at night.

You can’t tell by reading this but I actually took a long time to think of a # 2. There isn’t one.

Most of the time there’s only one reason for venturing into my local Co-Op, and that’s because it’s late and I forgot to get some cheese or milk on my way home. And the reason why I avoid it is because of the surly morons who work there. Okay, some attempt a smile…actually 2 but the rest are either rude or openly look at me with disgust, like I’m wasting their time.

A couple of weeks ago I popped in for a loaf of bread, milk, bacon and a packet of sweeties because I’d been a good lad and finished all my work on time. At the checkout I stood roughly fifth in line, behind a lady with a screaming baby, a man with a pair of tatty jeans, a woman wearing a green horsey coat and two old dears who were buying nothing apparently, or had lost their shopping basket half way around the store and couldn’t remember where they were or why they had left their house 8 hours ago.

I’m a patient person.

I don’t mind waiting.

To a degree.

Twice in Netto I’ve left a full shopping trolley at the checkout because my patience wore thin after waiting for 20 minutes to be served.

Us English know how to queue. We’re known for joining a queue just to see what people are queueing for. If queuing was an Olympic sport we wouldn’t win because we’d still be in the queue to sign up for the event. We’re that good!

So there I am, without a basket because I didn’t intend to buy more than I could carry, my fault I know, but still I’m juggling these items so the milk doesn’t squash the bread, and the bread doesn’t slip on the floor, and the milk doesn’t freeze my fingers off.

So what’s the hold up?

Why is the queue taking so long to move?

Why, where there are 3 checkouts, is only one open? I’ve spotted at least 4 employees lurking around the aisles pretending to work, so what are they doing? In the big supermarkets I love to hear the announcement:

“Will all multi-skilled members sprint to the nearest checkout! Let’s get these people served and on their way home! Move it people!!”

Marvellous isn’t it?

I step to my right and peer along the queue to see what the hold up is all about. Perhaps Dorris, the 98-year-old lady is inserting her Bingo Card into the machine, or someone is returning a leg of lamb that has mould growing on it. I’m not joking about that either. Last year I took a pack of mince beef back because it was green underneath! Oh and I returned a fresh chicken because it smelled like a dead hobo’s ball sack.

But no. It’s not Dorris or another pissed off customer.

Two Co-Op employees are having a bit of a natter. An old chin-wag. Banter.

I call it Bullshit or wasting my freakin time

I don’t know if one has just finished their shift and is buying something before they push-off home, or she’s a bit peckish and needs something to scoff as she slouches around the store pretending to work. Either way there was no good reason for either of them to stand and chat for roughly 6 minutes about nothing important.

Behind me were half a dozen other shoppers. Patient to a fault.

Stupid English don’t-make-a-fuss sense of pride crap.

I listen in to the 2 Co-Op employees as they laughed and shot the shit. After a few minutes (but felt like 2 ice ages) one of them looked around, ever so casual and with speed slower than glacial drift, acknowledged the queue of shoppers and…continued to talk!! Yep. Their conversation about nothing took president over customers. I kid you not. They just carried on talking.

The second before I was about to drop my groceries on the floor and walk out, the checkout girl rang the buzzer, a loud screeching noise that tells other employees:

“Hey, errrrrrm, guys, we’ve got, like, a few people here….er, a little help…no pressure, when you’re ready.”

About a minute later a greasy teenage meat tube with floppy black hair, tattoos and funky gothic earings, sidled up and opens a second checkout. He clearly has a brain made of Vegetable Soup and the aspirations of mould. The 2 girls finish their lovely chit-chat and the queue starts moving. I’m a little annoyed at this. I’ve been working all day and I want to get home. I want to shout:

“Oi! Serve me you bunch of feckless feckers!”

But I wait. I hold my tongue. I don’t want an argument. I’m not in the mood. I’m not argumentative by nature, well, sometimes, but only with a smile on my face. I approach the idiot boy on the checkout and drop my grocery on the extremely low tabley bit. He doesn’t smile. Doesn’t say hello. Just looks at me and says: “There’s baskets by the door.”

“I know,” I say with a smile, trying to make the best of it. “It’s always the way isn’t it? Come in for one thing and end up with more than you expect.”

He grunts and scans my stuff.

Then I ask him for a pack of headache tablets. I point to the shelf behind him. Nurofen Express please. With a huge sigh he turns and trudges the vast distance of 1.5 feet to the shelf, snatches a pack of pills and scans them. Sorry, I didn’t mean those. I wanted the other ones, not the Co-Op brand but Nurofen Express. I thought I made it very obvious by saying the words written on the packet.

I’ve got a headache you stupid fuckwit.

Obviously I don’t say this. I keep smiling.

Checkout boy with his big dark earing and fancy trendy arm tattoos – those big stars that everyone will regret having in 4 years time – takes another pack of pills off the shelf. “These?” he asks with such venom it surprises me. I nod. Yes please.

“You could have said.”

WTF???

I almost bit my tongue off.

He scans the new pack of pills and I offer him a £10 note. He doesn’t snatch it from me but it comes close. “Haven’t you got anything smaller?” he asks.

No. I don’t. You have a cash machine built into the front of your store. What do you expect people to pay with? A roll of pennies? The boy roots around in the cash drawer, rattling change and making it very obvious I have caused him to actually do some work. He doesn’t have enough so rings the buzzer again. Another employee sidled up to him and they have a discussion about the cash drawer, both employees look at me as if I’m just dropped my trousers and laid a nice steaming chud monkey on the checkout.

One of them walks away.

I wait.

The queue waits.

And ice or two passes us by.

More change arrives and I say thank you when it’s dropped into my hand, not placed or handed to me, but dropped from a few inches so some of the coins bounce and land on the floor. The boy watches as I pick up my change.

Nasty little Co-Optsies.

Now, before I continue I should point out that Co-Op have a very nasty habit when it comes to serving customers. Other supermarkets wait till you’ve packed your bags and vacated the checkout area before accepting the next customer. Co-Op staff scan your stuff as fast as possible and prompt you for the money before you’ve had chance to pack your grocery away. Not only that but the second your change/receipt has been given back to you they start scanning the grocery of the next customer.

Which means your stuff and their stuff is now kind of mixed together, but separated by the 1 inch barrier of air between them. That customer then has to wait while you pack your stuff, lingering behind you in case you steal some of their stuff. I don’t let this happen these days. I pack my stuff, and let them repeat themselves at least twice before I’m ready to pay.

“That’ll be £5.89.”

Pause. I pack.

“That’ll be £5.89.”

Before I’m finished packing.

Hey! I’m packing here!!!

So, back to my story. I’ve paid before packing because there are no bags. Surly checkout boy is reaching for the next customers grocery and he looks at me stood there. “You need a bag?” Well, yes please. Just because I lugged this shit around your store in my arms doesn’t mean I want to juggle it all the way to the freakin car!

A big sigh. And I do mean big. Try it. Suck in all the air you can then let it out in a huge woosh. That’ll come close.

He reaches under the counter and drops a bag on my grocery. Then stands there with his arms folded.

“Didn’t think you’d want a bag.”

“Yes. I do.”

“You should have said.”

I lean across the checkout and say in a quiet voice. “Be as rude as you like and I’ll stand here all night.”

Still with his arms folded he just stares at me. I realise he’s got lots of patience, like a cow, because there’s nothing going on inside the vacuum between his ears. In fact the only way you can tell he’s actually alive is because his eyes occasionally move under the strain of waiting for the next thought to arrive.

I take my stuff and leave. Fuming.

Comparison Time.

Now I understand that not every supermarket will have top quality staff all the time. But they can and do. Take Waitrose for example, and for those not familiar with Waitrose, this is an upmarket supermarket where the Range Rover Club and horsey folk go to shop. In Waitrose the staff are polite, well dressed, courteous and happy to help. They don’t have tattoos on proud display, or have lank greasy hair, or dozens of bits of metal skewered through their skin – ear, nose, eye brow, cheek, lip etc. Their uniforms are not fashion accessories to be customised and their clothes are never ripped, torn, stained, shredded – but worn with diligent pride.

Tesco staff, when asked where the sliced pickles are, will not only tell you but take you straight to them, and point out any offers if there are any. They do it with a smile and a cheery lilt in their voice. Even the spotty teenage students seem to take pride in being helpful.

Co-Op supermarket staff are none of these things. They are rude, ignorant and the majority have no clue or care about their appearance. And I’ve only seen 2-3 smiles on Co-Op employees faces since I was 17.

Job Application.

In the summer our lad applied for a job at Co-Op. It was convenient. A few minutes walk from home, offered flexible hours to fit around his studies etc. He filled in the application form, spent some considerable time working on his CV/Resume and handed it in, certain they would offer him a job. He’s a smart lad, excelled at college, is polite, courteous, happy…you get the idea. For years he had been working at a local hotel, admin stuff mostly, dealing with customers, promoting the business online and doing a very good job.

He waited for a reply from Co-Op.

A few weeks later a letter arrives.

A few weeks!

If you walk from our house it ill take you about 8 minutes!

This letter isn’t on company headed paper. No logo. Nothing. It has obviously been written by someone who has a vague idea of how to layout a letter, but beyond that the basics of English language is a mystery to them. It has grammar a 5-year-old would be ashamed of. The layout is dreadful, unprofessional and sloppy. It’s a rejection letter. I was tempted to head straight for the Co-Op and ask for the manager and demand why, when someone takes the time to apply for a job, they have to wait weeks for a reply and then be given something I wouldn’t wipe my arse on!

But I’m persuaded not to.

Sigh.

Not Good With Food.

Co-Op sells cheap crap for pennies. I dare anyone to prove me otherwise. Maybe this is the point, affordable food that’s kinda okay to eat, a bit like McDonald’s, you can eat it but don’t expect to get any nutritional value from it. In August I’m in my local Co-Op and I see a box of chocolate sea shells for £1. Ooh, they look nice. The picture on the box is enticing. I like choccy sea shells. I put them in my basket without considering the fact that for £1 I could end up eating squirrel turds.

I should have given it more thought.

When I get them home I take off the wrapper around the box. Open the box and unwrap the inner wrapper. What a waste of oil. I stare at the collection of pathetic hunks of chocolate and then take a good hard look at the ones pictured on the box.

No way are they the same product!

I had to take a photo because it didn’t seem possible that a company that prides itself with the moniker “Good With Food” would make such foul-tasting, evil-looking curls of shit like these. Take a look for yourself. Click for a bigger view and laugh till you cry. These things honestly came out of that box!

And these are just 2 reasons why Co-Op is evil.

I have so many other stories about this supermarket but I won’t bore you further, dear blog reader, for you have suffered enough with this overly long rant. I feel so much better now that’s out of my system, blog therapy for the win!!

Do you have any poor customer service stories to tell?

Let it all out right here or post a story on your blog!

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14 thoughts on “Co-Op: Not Good with Customer Service

  1. Oh Dave I feel for you and your post did make me laugh out loud! the store manager wants sacking.

    Here in Portugal I went to our local farmers co op. they sell everything from seeds and rabbit food to tractors and rat poison. The old guy there is a right asshole. 2years I’d been going there and so so much as a grunt or a smile. Finally, in desperation I looked at him and said “It must be nice to be so HAPPY in your work” a pulled my mouth into an exagerated shape of a smile. Only the woman behnd the till spoke English and she laughed. HE gared at both of us. I now drive to the next town.

    When we were back in the UK recently we went into a DIY shop. We were really surprised to be greeted at the door by an elderly member of staff who informed us if we needed anything he was there to help. As we looked around the store it had an army of senior citizens all with a smile and helpful attitude. A far cry from your fwits at the co-op.

    Seashells look nice, not! I won’t eat processed food any more or no dairy or gluten.

    PiP

    • I won’t give it away but that DIY store sounds exactly the same as where I work! They pride themselves on their more mature staff for their knowledge and helpful attitude, and indeed they have people to welcome you to the store. I’ve not worked for a better company than this one! And yes, a far cry from the dunderheads who work at the Co-Op!

  2. This is funny as hell!!! And you thought you were ranting..?? I have to agree with Helen above… you are so articulate when you’re angry. How DO you do it?! 😀

    I have to agree with you though… one of the things that REALLY tick me is bad customer service. I used to be very polite, now I just cut to the chase (and if I can help it, I shop somewhere else to save myself the trouble). If I’m really upset I tell them, “…and yes, I’m raising my voice because if I was smiling and talking sweetly you’d be confused instead of getting that I AM AN UPSET CUSTOMER PAYING FOR YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE, and I have the right to tell you that I am not happy! I always have a higher pitch when I’m either upset, or passionate or excited about something. I do try to contain it though, but I do not smile when I am upset. Otherwise I wouldn’t be upset, right? “…You’re smiling, so what’s the problem?,,,”

    I have to admit though: sometimes I’ll think out loud – on purpose – while in the cue. I think that people need to sometimes be told – they can just be too thick to realize it on their own. On the other hand I wonder, do they not realize that if they upset customers that they make it worse for themselves in having to deal with that upset person, or is the skin simply that think and the echo in the hollow space between the ears that deafening that they don’t care?

    Glad you’re feeling better! 🙂

    • Hehe, thanks! I wonder if anger is the key to fine tuning an argument. I let that situation boil away at the back of my mind for a few days until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Usually I’m more than happy to vent my anger at shoddy customer service, but that day I was so tired and just wanted to get home without forcing my headache to explode inside my head.

      What I don’t understand is that any manager of that shop must know the staff are morons with the social skills of fungus. I can’t believe they look around at their store and think “Hmm, I’m running a tight ship here. I must give myself a pat on the back.”

      I’d be ashamed to be the manager of a bunch of half-wits and idiots like those.

      • If I was the manager there one of two things would happen: either things would change noticably in in a fairly short while, or I’d be fired for wanting to rock the boat, but it staying the way it is…? I don’t think so! 😉

  3. I’m either gonna get into a lot of scuffles, or make a lot of people cry when I visit the UK…

    I tend to lose the filter between my brain and mouth when customer service lacks…

    The upside is, quite occasionally I’ve gotten a voucher as an apology for some kids ignorant ways. So I give it to our local youth center and avoid the places at all costs… I mean, I will use the nasal tissues when i run out of toilet paper and wait until the next day to drhalf hour to town to get two pensure I never run out…

    I tend to use the two packets before I realize I am out again.

  4. Wow, I can not say I’ve ever had such poor customer service in any store here in the US. I’ve had bad service, but nothing like you describe! Of course, at least in the Tri-state area (NY, CT, NJ) of the US where I am, there is no way in hell the customers would be as patient and polite as you were!

    That may part of the reason customer service is somewhat better (not great, but better). Fear of a screaming customers calling managers and the like will snap a chatty cashier into moving the line along rather quickly.

    On the occasion when I’ve had poor service, it is usually remedied quickly by management and the person providing the poor service is either retrained or, well, fired. Again, not to say we don’t have horrific stories here, but wow, I am amazed you remained so calm. That must really be a British thing because here we just call it “Pulling a New Yorker” when the attitude needs readjustment LOL

    • I do admire the way the Americans tell it like it is. Over the years I’ve tried to adopt that take no BS approach and it does work when I remember to step up and make a point. But the English have this poor knack of walking away and bitching about it later when it do any good.

      I am known for speaking my mind when it’s needed, especially when in my working life I never fail to respond to a customer with respect and courtesy, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t expect the same in return.

      Having said that, if it wasn’t for the rude idiot on the checkout I wouldn’t have had fun writing this post!

  5. Oh David that did make me chuckle! i just had to keep reading as i can relate to your experience very well. Co-op seems to be taking over the world. Every village, town, small row of shops, motoway services etc has a co-op!!!
    great writing and very funny.
    love sis xxx

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