Retail & Consumers – Followup


My last post citing incidents from experiences across retail stores is the first post, out of some 250-odd posts, where no one disagreed with me. People just kept adding their own experiences. Apart from comments at desicritics and on my blog, I also received a lot of e-mails. And a few phone calls including one from a customer services head of one of the stores that I had mentioned in the post. Now what I infer from all the feedback and rejoinders to the post is what I am trying to put across in this post on Retail & Consumers.

Retail Consumers Follow-up opinion, representative image
Representative image courtesy Shutterstock

Retail & Consumers – Followup

Billing Fraud

Billing fraud in retail stores is much bigger than I had imagined. While writing about it, I was not very sure if I was doing the right thing. Since it could have been a series of coincidences with me. But the replies to my post confirm that organized fraud in retail stores can be much bigger than I first thought. Or much bigger than what we can manage to ignore. There are two perspectives to this potential fraud. One is from the customer’s or consumers’ perspective, who are the ones being cheated. Now as a customer, I have no clue if the employee at the counter is cheating or if the retail store is also involved in the process.

Representative of the Company

To me, as a consumer, the employee standing at the counter is nothing but the representative of the retail organization. So from my perspective, the retail organization is cheating me. At the same time, if I flip the situation and see it from the retailer’s perspective, they could also be at the suffering end of this problem. As their employees pocket the money or the items from the wrong billing. Though stores may not suffer financially, but, they do suffer in terms of brand value and customer loss.

Far too many Shop Floor Staff with little Knowledge of Products

Second, the area of poor customer service also has ironical viewpoints when observed from customers’ and retailers’ perspectives. Almost all customers feel that there are far too many people on the shop floor. On top of it, they do not know anything about what they are selling in the store, or where is it located. Basically are useless from the customer’s perspective. You would usually find salespersons cuddled together in a corner and often see customers and their queries as an interruption. All our friends in retail think they do not have enough people and the quality of people is a big issue.

Quality – Retail & Consumers

I can not comment on the quality of people employed. That seems to be an issue across the industries. But I am sure retailers need to seriously look at the number of people they deploy on the shop floor and also their knowledge of the products. In grocery stores, it should not be very tough. Probably training needs to involve the usage of not-so-common items by staff members. So that they know about what the customer is asking for.

Let me take an example, you go and ask for Tofu from any salesperson and they would not know about it. Probably because they have never used it themselves. While it is lying on the shelves they would often mistake it for Paneer or Cheese.

Number of Staff

As far as the number of people is concerned, I am sure retailers are using some benchmark numbers that may have come from the Western world. Hence may not be relevant as such in India. They probably need to work out the number of people on the shop floor based on the total area of the store, the cultural element, expected footfalls, and the usability of those people to the customers. I am sure customers would prefer fewer people, who can help them when required and not intrude on them when not required. I seriously believe that the retailers who can manage their customer service are the ones who are going to survive or thrive.

Check your bills properly – Retail & Consumers

The only point-in-time solution that I can think of is to ‘Check your bills properly every time you shop.’ Do not think that since there is a barcode reader and a computer involved, nothing can go wrong. There are those fingers on the machine that have mastered the art of manipulating the system and hence you. Doordarshan’s ads on ‘Jago Grahak Jago’ seem to be just in time.

Latest Issue

PS: Can’t help sharing another incident that happened last evening. I went to Nilgiris and picked up an item that came in two sizes. The smaller one was priced at Rs12/. The larger one was priced at Rs22/-. I picked up the smaller one. I had only 4 items in the basket and since my last post, I have been observing the behavior of people at the counters even more keenly. The lady on the counter swipes the items on the barcode reader. When she swipes the above-mentioned item the barcode reader correctly picks up the item and shows Rs12/- on the screen.


The lady very quickly goes and changes the item code and the screen now shows Rs22/-. I asked her what is she doing. She first gives me a look ‘What did I do?’. Then when I tell her what she did, she says Sorry as rudely as possible and then corrects the bill. Then in her frustration, she gave me Rs 1.50 less than what she was supposed to return. When I ask for the same, she takes it out and gives me as if she is obliging me. I was amazed to see the manipulation done with immense ease.

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