January 29, 2007

Monday bitching


THE nerve of this woman! She should practice what she preaches first, noh? Ang kapal, grabeh!
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Anyway, what I really wanted to bitch about today is the really slackening customer relations management of most of our supposedly old reliable department stores and malls.

My first beef is with SM. Look, I love SM because of the many products they sell at reasonable prices. Often, I find the stuff I need, even in last-minute situations, in the department store or its various outlets like Watson's or the Home section.

I've already gotten over the fact that most of its sales staff and cashiers don't really have very high IQs, are inefficient and would rather chat among themselves instead of actually attending to their customers. But there are some very few jewels in the rough among them who make up for their inadequate grey matter by being courteous and polite.

What I absolutely hate, however, is buying stuff from SM using gift cards. Normally, I love getting gift cards because these are practical presents. The gift giver would rather want me to buy stuff I want instead of he or she making the mistake of giving me the wrong gift.

These ubiquitous gift cards are slowly replacing the gift cheques and come in several denominations like P500 or P1,000, and I supppose SM makes a lot of money from selling those to its customers. What sucks, however, is the fact that most of SM's cashiers are utterly clueless on what to do with them. I present the plastic and everything goes downhill from there. The cashier will stop and stare at the card, look around helplessly, swipe it at the POS terminal a few times pretending she knows what to do with it until help arrives. When she finally realizes she doesn't know what to do with it, she gets up from her chair or tells the bagger to get up and go, says "Sandali lang mam", then waits for a supervisor to come over and help her with it. In the meantime, a long line of customers has formed behind me, getting impatient as I am.

Now this happened to me unfailingly in the past two weeks alone. The cashiers are especially dumbfounded when the gift card amounts to P1,000. I don't understand why. It's the same card with only different loads. Parang pre-paid card yan 'ne.

This obviously isn't the fault of the cashiers. That's why they're operating those machines because they're not smarter to do something else, like be Tessie Sy's right hand. So these impossible situations can only be the fault of SM's training department or the supervisors themselves. Why issue these frigging gift cards without training the cashiers on what to do with them and give them all sorts of scenarios to operate in (e.g. what to do when there is a balance? And can customers use 2 cards at once?)

So let me warn all of you who are thinking of giving out gift cards as presents...don't buy them from SM. You might end up being sworn at by the recipient of your otherwise good heart.
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Rustan's is a good place to get your gift certificates, and I always love shopping there. I've been going there as far back as I can remember, usually either to their San Marcelino branch or the main branch in Makati (back when it used to be known as Makati commercial center), tagging along with my mother. I feel safe, clean, and calm when I shop there.

So I've had my own discount card, then a frequent shopper's card/discount card in one since way back. When I lost my wallet to a petty thief at the Glorietta activity center last November, however, I've had to basically rebuild my identity by getting replacement cards from government offices, banks and credit card companies and yes, even from SM, Rustan's, Healthy Options and the like.

What bugs me is that when I applied for a replacement for my FSP card, I was told that Rustan's is now issuing separate cards – one FSP and one discount card. But why? I asked. It's just how it is, I was told. Still, why? What folly this is as I would know have to carry around 2 different Rustan's cards in my wallet instead of just one. Not very customer-friendly. The old system worked very well. I don't know who among the new managers thought up of this new system. Is Rustan's going to make more money by issuing two different cards? Duh.
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My favorite customer relations horror story of all time, of course, is the Glorietta mall. Its security system obviously only protects customers against terrorists and not petty thieves.

People have been asking me whatever happened to my case at the Glorietta. (Just to refresh everyone's memory, please click here.) I usually tell them that after the initial flurry of email messages sent between me and Ayala Land's PR and some officer at Glorietta's management, NOTHING. NADA. ZILCH. Never got my stuff back, not that I actually expected that happen. They said there was a group of thieves arrested the evening of the incident, but none of my items were among the thieves' stuff.

I am just appalled by the mall's ssssllllllloooooooow response to the issue. Glorietta officers never thought of looking through their closed circuit camera tapes in the area (and Ayala execs claim they do have those CCDs in their mall) on the evening my bag was pilfered, until I asked them. Of course, they eventually got back to me one month after the fact, and asked me to view the tapes with them. By that time it was December already. And believe me, you wouldn't want to get caught in the middle of Makati during December.

I told Ayala Land's PR that I really don't know what going there to view the tapes would accomplish since they really never said what they were going to do in case I do identify the thieves. There was nothing concrete discussed about implementing better security measures. Expectedly, he never got back to me. He probably had more important Christmassy stuff to attend to than my complaint.

These days I try to avoid the Glorietta mall as much as possible and tell my friends and relatives, especially those coming in from abroad, not to shop there anymore. Surely this won't make a dent in Ayala's revenues enough for its management to beef up security and think of better ways to protect mall customers, but at least, my friends and relatives won't get victimized like me. If I need to meet people, I would rather do it somewhere else like Shangri-La Edsa Plaza, Rockwell Power Plant, Gateway in Cubao even. Better to be safe than sorry.

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