Originally created 02/26/97

Some shoppers require extra effort



I hope supermarket cashiers and baggers will read the following letter. If you work in a supermarket, please post it on the employee bulletin board. I have changed the reader's name and omitted her address. She could be one of your customers!

Dear Martin: I have a knee injury, and I use one crutch in order to stand or walk. This leaves me with only one free hand. The supermarket at which I do my shopping is the one most convenient to my home, so I have to shop there. This store also has the best prices.

When I reach the cash register, using the crutch with one hand, I unload my shopping cart with the other hand. It isn't easy. Yet no one has ever offered to help me unload the heavy items in my cart.

The baggers often begin putting my groceries in paper bags, even though I have told the cashier it has to be plastic, because plastic bags have the handles I need.

The way they load the bags is a problem, too. They are often loaded unevenly, and I find that most of the heaviest items - detergent, milk, juice - are all in the same bag.

I no longer ask them to carry my bags to my car because they walk too fast and I can't keep up. They get impatient with me although I do my best and have never complained.

When I get home, I must carry my bags, one at a time, into my home. As I think of the treatment I have received at this store, it makes me feel bad. I can only believe that the store employees who train the cashiers and the baggers know little or nothing about helping people, like me, who have handicaps.

Do you have any thoughts? Can you help? - Carol

Dear Carol:

Thank you for your letter. To my readers who are cashiers and baggers:

Carol could be one of your customers. When she arrives at your checkout counter, it's important to pay attention to HER as well as her order. Noticing that she has special needs should trigger your response. You should be thinking about how you can help Carol.

She needs assistance in unloading her shopping cart. Special care should be taken in giving her the type of bag she can handle. More than ordinary attention should be paid in loading her bags. Remember, Carol may not have anyone to help her bring the bags in when she gets home.

If your own mother, sister or child had a similar problem, how would you want her to be treated? With thoughtfulness, certainly. You should do the same for Carol and customers like her.

So the next time Carol comes into your store, think "How can I help her?" Other shoppers won't mind your giving Carol an extra measure of your attention. Instead of her going home feeling bad, she will become one of your supermarket's happiest customers and she will tell her friends about it.

If you are a supermarket executive, be sure you train your front-end employees to look for ways to assist people who have special needs. The Food Marketing Institute's training video Bag It Right! emphasizes it. And when they are sensitive and helpful, you should recognize an employee's outstanding service.

Each time I walk through the aisles of a supermarket, owned by A&P, in my area I get a good feeling when I hear the announcement over the in-store broadcast system, "If you are a shopper who needs assistance, please ask the manager and we will be pleased to help you." This announcement makes customers aware of the store's willingness to help, and it raises this awareness in every employee.

If you are a cashier or a bagger, or a customer who would like to express an opinion concerning this column, write to me, Martin Sloane, the "Supermarket Shopper," in care of this newspaper. I publish the most interesting letters.

This week's Smart Shopper Award goes to Debbie Crawford of Long Beach, Calif.

"I just had to tell you about the terrific bargain I got at Ralph's supermarket on one of their "Price Breakers!" on Maalox antacid," she said. "The 12-ounce package was priced at $3.59 and included a free package of Motrin IB gel caps. I had a $1 Maalox coupon that Ralph's doubled, bringing my cost down to $1.59. But here's the clincher: I had a certificate for a $2.50 REFUND on the Maalox! In other words, I actually MADE MONEY! Isn't that great?"

Dear Debbie:

Congratulations! You made a great "home run" savings! And I will be sending you a copy of my book, the Guide to Coupons and Refunds.

Have you made a terrific bargain? A "double play" or "triple play" savings or even a "home run" profit? Write and tell me about it. If I publish your letter you will receive a copy of my money-saving book.

Send questions and comments to Martin Sloane in care of this newspaper. The volume of mail precludes individual replies to every letter, but Martin Sloane will respond to letters of general interest in the column.