What if they treated us like Disney ‘guests’ at the grocery store?

My family recently had the good fortune to cruise on the *Disney Fantasy for a relaxing family vacation.

The Disney Fantasy

* As a marketing professional, I’ve long been fascinated with the Disney Way. In fact, when Disney came to talk to my college communication class, I pretty much decided I wanted to go to work at Disney World. Having experience as a furry character, I figured Goofy at Disney World was a realistic entry level job as I joined the work force. But I digress.

Anyway, it was back from Fantasy to reality after the cruise. Late on Saturday night after arriving home that day, my wife wanted me to pick up a couple things at the store. (Actually, she was asleep on the couch after the exhausting vacation, but had she been awake she would have asked me to pick up some milk and bread, so I did as I would have been told if she were awake to tell me.)

So I walk into the store, late at night on the weekend, and there were as many people working as there were customers in the store. I walked past the customer service counter where four or five employees were standing around talking to each other. After I got by them, I almost stopped in my tracks. Something was amiss, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then I realized that no one said a word to me as I entered the store and walked by the employees. (Granted, I didn’t say anything either, so there is blame to go around.) But I had just spent a week on a Disney cruise where you don’t walk by any employee without their acknowledging you with a “hello” or “good morning” or “how are you, sir?” Wouldn’t I feel more welcomed if I were greeted politely?

I understand that Disney is getting a lot more for the cruise than the grocery store is getting for a couple gallons of milk and a loaf of bread. So Disney can afford to treat their ‘guests’ a little better. But do we really have to be invisible when we walk into the home town grocery? Worse yet, I passed one employee no less than three times as I wondered aimlessly around the store trying to find where they hid the breakfast bars or ramen noodles or pickles or something. Each time, the employee was chatting away on her phone in an obvious personal conversation (she wasn’t trying to hide it). Wouldn’t it have been nice if she had asked if she could help me find something?

To top it off, I took my mini-cart of 10-or-less items to the register to wait with about 10 other folks. Only one register was open. I literally got behind one extended family that had — amongst a cruise-ship-load of other items — three cases of those ramen noodles I was searching for. And the cashier had to count every last one of them, and scan all the other items in their cart, and personally bag every item because no one was there to help him. About the time I got to the front, one of the four or five employees I encountered on the way in broke away from the conversation (not the one on the phone … she was still walking in circles around the store on the phone) to open another register.

“I can help someone over here,” she said. And the guy who was tenth in my line rushed over to be the first in the new line.  Wouldn’t it have been great if she had said, “I can help the guest who has been waiting the longest”?

And, in general, wouldn’t it be great if we could be treated as ‘guests’ in the hometown grocery store like we are on vacation thousands of miles away? A “welcome to our store” or “may I help you find anything” goes a long way toward earning our loyalty, and perhaps making us feel a little better about spending our money in the same place on a weekly basis.

Do your customers or clients feel like ‘guests’ when they do business with you?