There it sat, right in the middle of the aisle, the poor backpack. It had fallen from an overstocked fixture and now it sat in the middle of the main aisle circling the store. I am not sure how long it had been there when I spotted it.
Being small, the pack did not block traffic and was easy enough to walk around or step over. I figured that if it was still on the floor when I got to it, I would put it back on the fixture.
As I stood watching, I noticed two employees walking up the aisle towards the backpack. Ah, I thought, I won’t have to pick up the pack, surely one of these two employees will. I was wrong. In fact, one actually stepped over the pack and continued up the aisle.
I was a bit dumbfounded. How could these employees step over product that was in middle of the aisle posing a tripping hazard? The store was not very busy and there was plenty of staff visible throughout the store. Why had no one picked up the pack?
I then decided that rather than pick up the pack, I would see how long the pack might sit in the aisle, so I started my stopwatch as I continued my browsing. 1 minute, 2, then 3 minutes past with numerous customers and yet another employee walking past the pack without picking it up.
Along came yet another employee, this one carrying a clipboard. They stop to give instructions to another employee in the bike department so I thought they were a manager or at least someone in authority. Then they walked past the pack too distracted by the clipboard to be observing the floor.
Approaching the camping department, I saw that there were three employees stocking shelves directly across the aisle from the pack. As they worked, they talked and joked amongst themselves oblivious to their surroundings.
Along with the pack on the floor nearby, there were 2 different customers standing at the nearby counter waiting for assistance looking at product that was locked up just out of their reach. The employees continued to talk with each other and stock their merchandise, all while wearing the vests that identified them as sales staff seemingly ignoring customers.
The lack of attentiveness to customers was not my primary focus, it was the poor backpack. Just how long will the pack sit on the floor in the aisle?
I continued to watch the backpack as I shopped through the travel packs and pack accessories as one more employee walked past it. I watched the pack as I checked out freeze dried food. After 10 minutes of watching and wandering, I arrived in the footwear department, my destination.
While I was waiting for assistance, I continued to watch the pack. Another employee walked towards the pack. As he approached the pack, it appeared he didn’t notice it sitting on the floor. Just as he was passing the pack, he saw it. I thought finally the pack will be returned to the fixture. Nope. The employee merely nudged the pack with his foot so that it was no longer in the middle of the aisle but rather off to one side. Amazing, even though the employee noticed the pack, they could not be bothered to actually pick it up.
After waiting 5 minutes for assistance in the footwear department, I left that department, stopped to restock the pack and then headed out the door.
If it had been one employee that walked past the pack, I would say that some coaching was called for. If the store had been packed and all the staff was busy with customers, I could understand a pack sitting in the aisle. But that was not the case. The store was not terribly busy and most employees were not engaged.
Since numerous employees (by final count I saw 6 walk past the pack along with the three working within 10 feet of it) failed to return the pack to its correct place, it seems that there may be some bigger issues. As a manager, I would:
- Reestablish the standard that every employee is responsible for housekeeping in the store.
- Remind people of their role in customer safety since the pack posed a tripping hazard.
- Coach people on the importance of being aware of customers and the store environment.
- Model the correct behavior on the floor.
After my visit as a customer, I was left feeling that neither customers nor product were held in very high importance by the store. I guess I will buy my new boots somewhere else.