THE READER
April
2007

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Front End News

A New Manager’s Perspective

by Kristin Esselstrom, Front End Manager

When my husband and I moved to Madison, we rented an apartment on Williamson Street. We loved the neighborhood, the businesses and the people. When it came time to buy a house, we ended up having to leave the Willy Street area and settle just outside Madison. In one of life’s funny turns, I ended up getting a job as the Assistant Store Manager at the St. Vincent de Paul Store on Willy Street, just a few houses down from our old apartment. I started walking over to the Co-op on my lunch hour to buy groceries.

As a Co-op customer, I never gave much thought to the purchasing of my groceries. I filled my basket as I walked around the store, then emptied it on the conveyor belt at the register. The cashier rang them up, I paid for them, and walked out the door. I was not aware of the systems in place that made this possible. What was the PLU (Price Look Up) for the broccoli I selected? I didn’t know, yet like magic it would get rung up and I was on my way. Once, when a small problem came up, I was whisked over to Customer Service. After a few clicks of the mouse, the problem was quickly solved.

A mixture of excitement and anxiety

One day I saw a job opening for a Front End Manager at the Co-op. With a background in retail management and as a customer, this seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. My lunchtime trips took on an additional role, that of research. I started watching the cashiers as they worked, paying attention to how they did their jobs. As I progressed through the interview process and was offered the job, my feelings became a mixture of excitement and anxiety. The opportunity to be a part of the Co-op was thrilling, but I knew from my experience that the first few months would be overwhelming.

Challenging moments

Some of my most challenging moments these first few months have been cashiering. This job that I took for granted as a customer had my head spinning after the first few hours. The scanning of the barcodes looked easy, yet in practice this graceful motion was jerky and often times did not yield the “beep” of the register that confirmed the item was scanned. The Produce department might not seem that large when you’re shopping, but when you are learning the slight differences between the many types of oranges and tangerines along with the PLUs for each kind, it can be rather overwhelming at first. Even now, when I help out as a cashier, I will give a silent cheer of success for remembering that the PLU for baby bok choy is #729, only to be discouraged that I have to look up the PLU for burdock root. At least I didn’t have to ask the customer what this funny looking root vegetable was (although I did the first time I saw it)!

Both sides now

Why am I taking the time to share this with you? This is to let everyone know that I’m seeing the Front End from both sides of the register. I’m approaching the challenge of providing a high level of customer service by realizing that it starts the first day a new staff member arrives and continues every day.

Ongoing training

I have plans to work with our team of Shift Supervisors to improve cashier training, both for new cashiers and as an ongoing learning experience. We have staff members who are providing excellent training for new cashiers, however, I would like to make it more efficient and offer more follow-up. By providing cashiers with the tools to do their jobs better everyone benefits: the Co-op, the employees and, most of all, the customers.

Cash-only lane now open

We are making a commitment to making the Cash-Only Lane (located between Register 6 and the Customer Service Desk) a success. We are staffing this lane from 11:00am until 7:00pm seven days a week. Paying with cash is a win-win situation: customers can save time and save the Co-op (and, ultimately, themselves) money.

Bagging groceries

We are addressing some recent problems with bagging customer purchases. It is wonderful when customers bring in their own bags, however, we are always happy to provide paper bags and assist with bagging your groceries. I am encouraging cashiers to offer options. If there are many heavy items, would two lighter bags be better than one heavy bag? Boxes are available if customers would prefer. Also, the handles on the bags will not support a lot of weight, so we are encouraging cashiers to remind customers to support the bags from the bottom to avoid accidents.

We welcome feedback

I hope all of the Co-op customers appreciate the Front End staff and their work as much as I do. There is always room for improvement and I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to fill out Customer Comment cards, stop in at Customer Service or just chat with your cashier.