A Sainsbury’s customer, unhappy with the level of service he regularly received in his local store, has forwarded me the following letter of complaint that he sent to their head office. This is a real gem.
I am very happy to reproduce this, with his kind permission, as a master class in how to write a memorable letter of complaint. Names and locations of individuals have been removed to protect their privacy.
Dear [name deleted]
I understand from recent media reports that Sainsbury’s has suffered worse than expected sales over the past few months and that there’s more bad news to come for shareholders.
While I don’t pretend to have the answers to turn around your entire chain, I do have some thoughts on how you can make the Sainsbury’s Local at [location deleted] a more attractive place to shop and so thought I’d pop them over to you for consideration.
If I wanted to hear young men talk loudly about who they’d like to have sex with or, as they often express it, who they ‘would’, I’d pop along to one of the rougher local pubs or start sitting on the top deck of a bus. But being pretty old fashioned I find this an undesirable and unprofessional topic of conversation in the branch of a major retailer and it’s perhaps something your staff should stop?
While as a chap I find the topic boorish, I suspect that for female shoppers it has an altogether more sinister feel, especially when it’s them the staff seem to be talking about.
Equally, hearing the young women on your payroll squawk and scream as they push and shove one another, or hearing them call down the aisles to colleagues to discuss aspects of their social life or complain about the shifts they’ve been allocated isn’t really my ideal shopping experience.
My particular ‘highlight’ took place late last year when I had to ask a staff member serving me if she could stop talking to her non-staff member friend about a birthday cake she was ordering for someone’s birthday and look at me while processing my purchase.
Just the other day I had to walk through three staff members, one apparently the duty supervisor, who were discussing how one of the team’s teeth were so large they needed chopsticks to pick the food out of them. Just the sort of talk customers want to hear while doing their shopping.
In fairness to your staff, they’re not always behaving like unsupervised brats on the shop floor. They also spend quite a lot of the working day smoking outside the branch. Sometimes there are so many of them smoking outside that the only staff presence in the store is provided by the Loomis security operative. This is especially helpful when the self-service machines suffer a fault or an age restricted item needs to be approved.
The time spent on misbehaving and smoking seems to lead to shelves being filled, on those few occasions when they are, all at once. This leads to aisles being blocked by roller cages and shelves hidden away so that customers can’t actually reach their desired items.
While I have worked in retail management at branch level, I don’t claim to be an expert in the sector. But if you bothered to appoint a store manager – there appears never to be one on duty so I assume none exists – and if this person was sufficiently robust to explain the difference between professional behaviour and yobbery, the store could become a lot more pleasant to visit.
And having fewer staff smoking outside and, at the risk of being wholly outlandish, behind tills or quietly focussed on re-filling shelves, more customers might be able to find the items they want and be able to pay you for them, helping you address your falling sales and profits.
I do hope the above is useful, if any of the suggestions or observations would help improve other stores in your empire, do feel free to apply them.