First Impressions

I recently had two experiences while shopping for groceries that I want to share. I do most of the grocery shopping for our family in the evenings when the crowds are lighter and the kids are in bed. 

I decided to try the largest grocery store in the area. Inside is a deli, bank, pharmacy and coffee shop. This store is open 24 hours. I entered the store around 9 pm, grabbed a cart and made my way down the aisles. I was especially impressed with the bakery, but when I got to the produce area, I noticed most sections were covered with large tarps. It felt like a game of hide-and-seek trying to find the gala apples and seedless grapes, but I managed to find what I came for and headed towards the checkout stands. 

And that's where the experience fell apart. 

Not a single checkstand was open. Instead, a woman directed me to the self-checkout area. I explained that I had a shopping cart full of food, but that didn't faze her. I was on my own because the checkers head home at 9 pm. I began scanning the items in my cart at about a 40% success rate. I had so many bags lined up in the area that the computer contantly reminded me to either remove or add the last item. The computer would then lock up, and could only be unlocked by an attendent, who would eventually show up, type in a code, and I was good for another item or two. 

I left the store exhausted. I had spent over $200 on groceries yet I had to scan and bag all my items? That just didn't seem right. This isn't a discount grocery store where I bag my own groceries in exchange for lower prices. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth. 

But, this isn't my only option for groceries. I decided to try the small local market located a few blocks from my home. This market is probably half the size of the produce area at the previous grocery store. It doesn't include a bank or bakery or pharmacy. But it does include most staple items along with a small produce area. 

As I entered the store, I was greeted by an employee who pulled a cart from the rack and rolled it towards me. As I made my way around the store, an employee asked if there was anything she could help me find. I mentioned that I wish they carried hummus. The owner of the store came around the corner and said, "I'm going to put hummus on the the wish list." He had overheard our conversation from the other side of the aisle. 

When I finished shopping, I rolled my cart towards the two checkout stands. "Did you know a gallon of milk is $1.99 since you spent over $25 today?" Good to know, but we had milk at home. As I began to grab the bags full of groceries, the owner showed up again and grabbed the rest of my bags. "I'll help you out to your car with these." he said. 

As we walked outside the owner said, "I want you to know I appreciate your business and I also want you to know it matters." 

Only one of these grocery stores made me feel like they value me as a customer. When you sell a product that can be found elsewhere, you had better find a way to differentiate yourself. That's one reason I'm proud to work for a small business like Puget Systems. 

I spend a good portion of my day speaking to customers in order to learn how we can improve our products and service. Occasionally a customer will say, "I'm just a regular guy who orders a new PC every few years. I'm sure you have larger, more important customers than me." 

Larger? Yes. More important? No way. 

We build computers for "regular" people every single day, and we love it. We know you have many choices when it comes to selecting a custom PC builder. I like to think we are like the owner of the small grocery store who walks his store listening to customers, and searching for ways to make his store better.

Tonight I stopped by the local market to pickup some snacks for school lunches. And there, in the cooler, next to the cheese was my favorite brand of hummus.