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January 12, 2007
Paul McEnany discovers a hot mess at a department store, and documents quite a lot of it with his cellphone camera.
Here's the thing: 156 million Americans use high-speed cellphone networks that allow them to take pictures like this and post them immediately to a blog where, naturally, they can spread.
Pew estimates that 41 percent of American cellphone owners use their phones as content creation tools. That translates into about 64 million people in the U.S. alone who have the potential to be not-so-secret shoppers.
Update: In the comments, Paul asks: How should Kohl's (the department store in question) respond? It's one thing to thank a customer for pointing out sloppy work, which Kohl's did, but should the company do anything else?
If Kohl's had an organized customer community, or at least a blog, it could write an effective mea culpa. Something self-deprecating, with a pledge to keep their stores a bit more neat and tidy.
If Kohl's was feeling really ambitious, it would embrace the future of cellphone-toting, not-so-secret shoppers and encourage them to report stores that are hot messes.
So long as Kohl's admits it's not perfect and it occasionally resembles Britney Spears on a bad night, it can score points by talking and behaving less like a corporation and more like a company of people.
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(shudder) Anyone who has ever worked retail during the Christmas season can relate to this.
Shoppers bring in 10 items, and throw anything they aren't buying on the ground, and then the next person comes in with 10 items, and after about a dozen people, you send the newbie in to gather it all up and put it on a cart.
The real shame is the amount of food, drink, ruined clothes (from make-up), trash, and, uh, other things that end up in dressing rooms.
Ben- Thanks for posting about this! So, from the expert of all experts on the subject, how do you think Kohl's should respond to this? Should they respond at all?
Paul -- I'm not familiar with Kohl's culture, so their response to you may have been perfectly normal for what they do. It's hard to calibrate unfamiliar expectations.
It could have been, as Jim Durbin suggests, a really bad day for the store. Or it could have been an accurate reflection of a day in the life of a discount store.
We get quite a lot of such vigilante journalism in Singapore, and littering is a common topic. So are other unsocial behaviours. In fact, our mainstream paper The Straits Times now depends on tip-offs from people submitting photos and videos taken with their mobile phones.
Have a look at www.stomp.com.sg guys.
I think that any smart organisation should provide a response as soon as possible when such an incident occurs. Even explaining the mess would be better than remaining silent if it is a rationale and reasonable explanation. At least people may then be more sympathetic.
Wow! That is the most frightening picture of Britney. Ever. :)
And, I think you're right in the update. The problem is, a response like that requires the organization to have some sort of personality, or in a bigger sense, hunanity. A canned-PR response like that would indicate to me that they're ill-equipped to handle situations in that manner.
Maybe this is a chance for them to learn...
Paul said, "And, I think you're right in the update. The problem is, a response like that requires the organization to have some sort of personality, or in a bigger sense, humanity."
...which I'm pretty sure Kohls does not. Occassionally I'm forced into my local Kohls, and what I always take away from the experience is surly, unmotivated staff. Messy retail space is only the tip of the iceberg, I'm guessing... the real mess seems to reside somewhere deeper in that organization.
I put this on Digg with this comment:
This is Kohl's but could be any of the others like JC Penney, Macy's or whatever they're called. Let's expose them all. Good work!
Why do we let them get away with it? Too bad I didn't take a picture of my recent visit to Tokyo where I went to stores like Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi or Seibu. What a difference. Sales staff actually being helpful and answering questions and yes, saying "Thank You for shopping with us", how about that novelty thought!
I actually work in a Kohl's and I take pride in saying that the store I work in has never even been a fraction that messy. However, I'm sure that there are also some Mervyn's, JC Penney and Sears stores that don't look much nicer. Out of 817+ stores, one or two are going to be ugly; especially if it's in a worse for the wear part of town.
Back in January, right before inventory, we had lots of clearance items marked down by insane (up to 90% off) proportions and for the week or two this was going on, we had lots of pretty low rent, low class people in the store bargain hunting. Imagine working checkout and having one after another customers who refuse to even try speaking English, arguing over 1 cent differences and leaving carts packed with crap just sitting in the way of other customers just because they didn't appreciate that they misread a sign or something of the sort and feel the need to take it out on the store. It also baffles me that I'll find merchandise on the floor but the hangers for it nowhere; almost as if we have mutants who eat those things (seriously, they aren't expensive, if you want, I'll give you as many as I can pull out from my work area).
Next up are customers who are just to snotty for their own good. Just last week I was in the shoe department when I saw and overheard a mother with her kid looking at shoes. The kid actually asked if she needed to put the shoebox back after looking and maybe clean up the paper and such to which the mother replied with "no, they didn't make me an employee so why should I do that other people get paid too!" and drug the child away.
Luckily, where I work, most of the customers are great to work with but even on good days, a department associate has lots of work to do. The store pictured appears badly neglected and beyond any acceptable standard and while I have no clue if it's the result of careless employees, short staff or both, I say consideration has to be given to both sides. If I was the store manager I'd have every employee (including supervisors) under whip and chain nitpicking until the store was spotless (save for some people set aside for customer assistance) but as much as we can call that pictured scene neglected, we can call it personalized as it's not the employees who leave the clothing like that.
I was recently in a Kohls in Medford, Ma and had a similar experience. The store was an extreme mess and my fiancee and I were trying to register on the Bridal Registry. We found out the machine and scanners they give to customers had been broken for three weeks. A sales rep. called fro a supervisor or a manger and that took about 30 min. They handed us a paper and saids write down the the upc numbers so someone could record them for us later. I called the customer care line 2 days ago and was promised a call back. It has been 48 hrs and no call back. This should show the type of employees hired by the company. The only way fro Kohls to get it is for the consumers to write, call, and possible boycott the stores until the company gets a clue.
I work retail and I would like to say to all of you snobs out there who think this mess is obnoxious. I have an answer. PICK UP YOUR MESS. After you clean your house, wouldn't it really tick you off if someone came and threw everything on the ground? Well it's your house and your mess to pick up, right? Didn't think so. The best part, is when I hear people complain about there not being anyone on the floor to help them. Sorry, I'm picking up your mess from the fitting room. If you want service like you're shopping at an expensive store, then shop at one and pay the expensive prices. I don't have time to clean up after you when you're buying a 2 dollar shirt. sorry
Thanks for your support
Posted by: Alex | May 01, 2006 at 05:47 PM
The classic.goowy link is taking me to the same screen that tells me
I must download flash 8. HELP!
Posted by: R. Weaver | May 01, 2006 at 06:48 PM
Will we be able to use the website at all on May 3rd?
Posted by: Abby | May 01, 2006 at 09:17 PM
Many new people to comment the posts in this blog!... nice to see
Any big updates in this maintenance?
Pls let us know...
Posted by: Madhu | May 01, 2006 at 11:52 PM
this suz i mean i really wanna use it but can u tell me wat ur gonna
Posted by: fullmetalkitty | May 02, 2006 at 11:44 AM
Do you have any plans to import calendar info from Outlook?
Posted by: Gail | May 02, 2006 at 01:45 PM
Nice site, but when its down its a great problem for me. Cool carry
Posted by: Arijit | May 02, 2006 at 09:30 PM
What, are you're hands broken or something? How long does it normally
take for you people to do these things?
Posted by: ... | May 03, 2006 at 12:08 PM
Thanks Alex for not disposing the classic goowy login feature
permanently. I really like the Flashy login feature very much due to
see thru email.
Pls dont del it in future too.
How abt a free sync of Goowy mail with OUTLOOK(pop/imap)?
Posted by: Madhu | May 05, 2006 at 04:37 AM
at iLike we take our user's security very seriously. We have been running our iLike Sidebar software this way for over a year. Over a million users have installed it and this is the first time we've heard somebody complain about our automatic self-update.
Our self-updater uses code-signing to verify the authenticity of the code that is being installed to make sure it has only been certified and code-signed after human verification by iLike staff, thus preventing security attacks. This should eliminate any concerns about viruses, malware, etc
In our testing of user experience, we've found that users greatly prefer systems that 'just work' and update themselves without annoying the user with too many options, questions, and preferences. However, we do notify users with a dialog box to let them know that an update is available and they can choose to get it "now or later"
Note also that we cannot maintain backwards compatibility for older versions of the iLike Sidebar as the Sidebar requires tight integration with our web services to function properly. Thus a client-side update is required for the Sidebar to function properly for the long-term.
- Hadi Partovi, President, iLike.com
Posted by: Hadi Partovi | January 04, 2008 at 01:13 PM
I installed the update on one Mac and saw that you have removed the related section. Booo! I refuse to update my other computers until I see it make its return. The related section helped me find new listeners quickly and conveniently. Why was it removed in the first place?
Posted by: Vincent | January 07, 2008 at 05:36 AM
I also vote for re-instating the "who's a listener of this band" section. That's essentially all I used iLike for; and since you've taken it away, I haven't used it at all.
Posted by: M1EK | January 14, 2008 at 12:54 PM
WinAmp Support, really i spend all day listening to music on WinAmp, i hate WMP for music, and only have iTunes cause of my iPod, so please make a release for WinAmp. Im sure im not the only one who uses WinAmp.
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I work at a Kohl's in Texas and I can definitely sympathize with the person who spoke about the mexicans that come in the store just for the clearance items. They let their brat kids run around the store, screaming at the tops of their lungs and getting lost. The mothers don't give a damn about them after they spit them out, so the empolyees have to keep an eye on them, making sure they don't trip and fall. Yeah, that is exactly what one of those jerks would love to happen so they can sue the store.
Try working at kohls and then form your opinion. People treat the store as one step up from a thrift store. The problem lies within human decency and therefore the customer. People have NO respect for retail workers and can't even hang their clothes up anymore much less bring them out. Even when checking the dressing room regularly, I have found it to be a total disaster (result of customers bringing in a ton of items and leaving them strewn all over the floor).
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I work at Kohls and i have seen people knock stuff of of the shelves and keep walking or knock items off the shelves and only put them back because they saw an employee watching... i saw fitting rooms and they are horriable. its not the employees who leave it that way but the nasty lazy customoers who leave loads of clothing in there. and with Kohls "yes we can policy" no one limits the amount of items being taken in there. I don't work on the floor but i do work as a Cashier which has to be the hardest job ever. So don't blame the employees blame the lazyness of people.
I have also been to Kohl's and seen very similar situations. It gives me a bad impression of the store in general. You would think that the management would want to work with a secret shopping company that would be more active in order to help them catch the lack of some employees engagement in the overall appearance of the store.
I agree. Catching people doing things wrong is one good when using mystery shopping, but only if you use the info on employee weaknesses to constructively coach the employee. I think the more important benefit with respect to a mystery shopping program is the opportunity to catch employees doing things RIGHT! When companies use mystery shopping to catch employees doing things right and reward / recognize high service performance, it shows a commitment to the customer experience that employees can buy into. I work for a large hotel and our mystery shopping company (http://www.bestmark.com/) made sure employees understood that they really wanted shoppers to catch people doing things RIGHT!