I rarely call a company out by name but I have a real bee in my bonnet this time so let’s talk about Shoppers Drug Mart. They are owned and operated by Loblaws, and net earnings were roughly $1.9 billion in 2022. Wow! According to a line taken from their public financial report, “Higher sales and leverage from focused cost-control measures drove earnings growth in the fourth quarter.” Now this is a great formula for success in any business, right? But at what cost?
In our neighborhood, they are using my Shoppers as a pilot program with their self-checkouts and a sign at the cashier saying, “Cash, lottery, transit, gift card transactions only. For all other transactions, please use self-checkout.” Do I know how to use a self-checkout? Yes, of course. Do I like using a self-checkout? Not. At. All.
If you’ve ever visited a Shoppers on a Thursday, you’ll know it’s Seniors’ Day which makes it extremely busy. Add in the fact that they are making the seniors use these self-checkouts and it really slows things down. Some of the seniors don’t seem to mind using the machines, but others, well, you can see the dismay on their faces. Maybe they are like me and just enjoy chatting with the employees that work there. Shoppers should give everyone the choice of in-person or using the machine, but never forcing the machines on us.
This plan came directly from head office: Loblaws. So I did some homework. I also visited other Shoppers and they are still using cashiers but you have the option if you want to use self-checkouts, which is the way to do it. Unfortunately, there is a catch at these stores as well (I know because when I visited other Shoppers locations to purchase items, I spoke with employees at each location). I was told that the cashiers are supposed to encourage people to use the self-checkouts. If head office doesn’t see enough transactions being put through each month, the employees have been told that layoffs will happen, which will force people to use them. So, the employees are in a pickle now. If they don’t encourage people to use them, jobs could be lost. If they do encourage people to use them then, down the road, jobs will be lost because they won’t need as many employees working each day. I know we should use our head instead of our heart when making business decisions, but when it comes to our employees, we cannot treat them as a number. They are human beings with needs and wants and dreams and goals like everyone else on this planet.
So, I sent an email into Loblaws and received a phone call a few days after. I told them I have a prescription that will need filling shortly but I am considering taking it elsewhere and the rest of my weekly business elsewhere because I am ready to boycott Shoppers because of their new policy. The gentleman on the other end of the line had to be careful what he said and spoke like a politician, not revealing what the master plan was, but wouldn’t deny that layoffs would likely happen once these machines were being used the way they wanted them to be used. He didn’t try to keep me as a customer. He did say that he would have the store manager take down the sign immediately (see below) so people didn’t have to use the self-checkouts. I have not been back yet to verify if the sign has been taken down but, regardless, I have almost completely eliminated shopping at Shoppers. How many like me will it take for them to realize they have made a huge mistake?
Please, take care of your customers. They are the ones supporting your business. Check in with them if you are about to make changes. Check in with them after you’ve made changes. Check in with them if they seem to have disappeared for awhile. Please also take care of your employees. Without them, you cannot run your business properly and cannot take care of your customers.
Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit russdantu.com.
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