10 Most Hated Retail / Service Experiences

02.02.12 | Comment?

DMV Office Misery

As we embark on our stealth retail project, one of the things we’ve done is talk about the worst experiences possible in a retail / service environment. Now you’ll see why my wife calls me a G.O.M. aka “grumpy old man.” What follows is our Top 10 list of retail / service infamy. If you have others, please contribute as a comment!

#10 – IKEA – This will be a controversial entry I’m sure. Many people I know love the IKEA experience of being herded through the store like cattle on a drive from deep New Mexico to St. Louis. But not me. Why this makes the Top 10 is because it’s a forced experience regardless of the shopper’s desire to participate.

#9 – Safeway – Modern grocery stores are the embodiment of the factory model as fitted into retail science. Optimized to shove as many people through the store in as short a time as possible while picking clean their pockets along the way. In addition to this, the “loyalty cards” or penalty for not having one, take big brother to a whole new level.

#8 – Fry’s Electronics – In as much as the geek in me loves the varied product at Fry’s, it’s simply a high-tech supermarket with commissioned sales people who a) know very little about their products and b) are unable to understand the notion of browsing. Couple this with the abysmal product return experience and it’s a wonder people continue to shop there.

#7 – Nearly Any Art Gallery – One of the things we have in abundance in Half Moon Bay are art galleries. Now, I know they have interesting and expensive stuff, but the general feeling one gets as one walks in is that “you are a suspect” bound to steal or destroy the merchandise. Keep your hands in your pockets Bub!

#6 – Primary Physician’s Office – While not strictly retail, it is in the service industry (did you hear that Doc? service industry.) Starting with the whole appointment charade a visit to the Doctor’s office is an exercise in extreme patience for the patient. Hurry up, wait, wait, wait, wait, in your underwear for a 5 minute consultation that happens somewhere between 30-60 minutes after your scheduled appointment time.

#5 – Costco – It’s a little disingenuous to put Costco here because, if you go to Costco, you know what you’re getting into. As a membership based warehouse it’s supposed to be bargain city. But, caveat emptor! Many of those bargains aren’t in that the merchandise is in some way defective or “off”. The worst part about Costco is the check out system by far. Lane after lane of carts looking like scenes from a city after a disaster evacuation. Ugh. Avoid at all costs.

#4 – Best Buy – Bad service, bait and switch tactics, clueless associates. That would be a step up from the average Best Buy experience. Once considered to be an alternative to places like Fry’s, now essentially a mattress discount store dressed up as a high-end electronics store.

#3 – Airport Check-in – The only reason this isn’t the #1 most hated experience is the advent of electronic check-in with carry-on baggage. However, if you do have to check bags, are traveling with your family, or have anything slightly non-standard happening, look out. There are now virtually no humans available and the wait (or antics) required to garner their attention is unbearable.

#2 – Mattress Stores – It’s a good thing mattresses last for a reasonably long time. If people had to buy them routinely, there would likely be a rifle in the hands of a madman scene in one of them each week. These stores are the pinnacle of bogus claims, questionable practices, hidden fees, and bait and switch techniques. There is very little transparency about the products and it is nearly impossible to compare across stores even on the same product brand. The sales associates would sell you rust proofing on the mattress if they could…

#1 – California DMV – As I walk into any DMV office, I wonder if it would be possible to make it any seedier, any less efficient, and any less friendly than it already is. Take a number and wait for an indefinite period of time. Check online for wait times at the office in question, there is no relationship between that time and reality. Make an appointment, you’re still waiting like it’s a doctor’s office (at least you have your clothes on – or at least I hope you have your clothes on!) Once at the window, the experience degrades with non-friendly, non-helpful staff. The only reason people go to the DMV is because there is no other choice for some driving / registration related activities!

Well, that’s our wall of shame…Things that we definitely won’t be modeling as we create our retail experience!

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