It’s all in the bag…

I’m in WHSmith, which as far as I can work out, exists solely to cater for a niche market of middle aged men (who don’t have an iPad); who decide that morning they fancy a new hobby and immediately need to read a magazine about it.

…So here I am.  I grab a few magazines (I think I could excel at this, nothing too ambitious at first, then perhaps moving onto a cross-stitch jumper?) and proceed to the till. The kid behind the counter rings it in and I pay by card.

Then, it’s that moment; I wait patiently, assuming they will place my purchases in a bag automatically (like they used to!) but no. I just receive a glum stare and then a semi-frustrated look seemingly asking, ‘are you gonna take your pile of stuff off my counter or what?’ This goes on for a few moments, like a guns-blazing Western showdown…

I bottle first and ask, “Can I  have a bag please?” A wry Clint Eastwood smile appears on the cashier’s face. She’s got me. “Bags are 1p each,” she says, and secretly in her head, ‘and you’ve already paid. Sucker’.

I don’t have any change – the transaction’s been done, they never asked me if I wanted a bag – so short of a quick draw of my Nerf® gun and blasting a foam pellet square in the centre of their cerebral cortex, I’m out of options. I gather up my pile, apologise like a true Brit and hobble out…

Conversely, the day before I was in Starbucks. I ordered my Marmite panini (to die for) and my Vanilla Latte (what? it’s what real men drink) whipped out the AMEX (accepted worldwide, just as long as you are in Starbucks) and job done. I waited patiently at the counter, but wait, did I not say I wanted that Poppy Seed muffin? Damn…  I  sheepishly muttered under my breath to the barista behind the counter, “Oh, I thought I had ordered a muffin, no worries.”

I collected my drink and was on the way out, when the lady handed me a small bag and said, “I’ve popped a Poppy Seed muffin in there for you, have a nice day.”

Sure, customer service in the hospitality sector has always been ahead of the retail market but in the relentless age of the consumer, isn’t it time that changed?

Going into WHSmith is only on a whim these days, it has to be; seeing as I can download any magazine I want on my iPad. So unless they can offer a human side; a real connection in their customer service experience which goes far beyond what the hospitality sector prides itself on already, they’ll become redundant. They’re seamlessly preparing us for the transition to storefronts with a glass screen, and we won’t even notice the difference.

I can guess which of these two companies will still be serving in 5 years…

 

About James Olden

An ideas man; direct my own, invest in others.