The devil is in the detail – believe you me!

Any of you with children will relate to this first story of mine.
When my kids were younger we used to ask them where they would like to go for a treat. They had a choice between MacDonald’s, KFC, or a Spur meal? The answer they gave us was always dependent on the gift that was on offer from that particular franchise – it had nothing to do with the meal itself! That R10 toy got a family of 4 for dinner that day. Only R10! (probably less if bought in bulk via China!)
The same is true of any convenience outlet – “give” a toy away supposedly for free – and the kids will get you to stop there! Engen are currently running a promotion with the concept of a “free” soft dog toy. A different version of the same sort of thing. Luckily for me they are now old enough to do some math’s of their own – as they worked out they would each need to spend in excess of R1000 to qualify for the supposedly free toy! Not so free after all!
But the point is that this type of marketing is very powerful and works! Time and again! It is the small additional “extra” as a reward for using your services that counts. This was brought home to me again recently by my children who are now in their teens.
Very seldom do I frequent the movie houses whereas my kids seem to live there and recently I took them to watch a movie at a Nu Metro movie house. They were really galled that I would even go there. Want to know why?
They charge an extra R2 for salt on your popcorn! Ster Kinekor do not charge extra for salt – it is inclusive of the price for popcorn and so it should be in my view! I had not noticed that my children only frequent Ster Kinekor movie houses.
I wonder how many kids out there feel the same as mine if it comes out of their allotted pocket monies? R2 for salt? How many “bums in seats” have they lost for just R2? Who thought this one through? Is that R2 really worth it in the long run?
After we had watched the movie, my children then also explained that if we had gone to the competitor’s movie house – our 3D glasses were also for free! We had to pay R5 a pair.
Another thing happened to me on a Bp site recently in Cape Town. I am in the habit of checking with the forecourt attendant that they do in fact take my debit card before I fill up my tank as I hate having to go into the shop to pay for my fuel.
On this occasion I did check and the answer was “we take all debit cards”. Great on that basis I asked him to fill up my tank.
I handed him my debit card to pay for the transaction and was told that type of debit card needed to be swiped at the shop terminal. So I was annoyed to say the least. Anyway once I got to the shop terminal the manager was called who explained to me that yes they take debit cards – but not one like mine!
Mine was a cheque debit card and that was not acceptable as a form of payment for fuel! Now I was really getting fed up! Look I am just a mere customer here – what the heck is the difference? I refused to back down as I had asked if they took debit cards and the answer was yes.
Guess what the manager did – he added 5% to the overall cost of the fuel transaction to cover the costs of swiping my debit card! Really customer friendly indeed!
I wonder how many clients are lost due to these stupid decisions.
I ask you; R2 for salt, advertise that you take debit cards – only to be told that your one is not acceptable – and make the customer pay an additional 5% on the transaction! Is this good customer relationship building?
No these are not endearing to the most resolute of customers, even for me who was an avid Wild Bean coffee purchaser! Will I go there again? Absolutely not!
Ok so here is the message for this week – look at the little things – the details that the customer sees in each transaction. Is it encouraging – does it entice me to come back time and time again?
Are we building customer relationships or protecting our potential losses and costs? Our business is service, who keeps our door open?

Take care out there

Jocelyn Daly


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  1. #1 by Steven Montgomery on March 24, 2011 - 4:24 pm

    Great article!

    I have stated that “retail is detail” for many years – first to our internal staff when I was a retailer and now to our clients. Another phase we sometimes use is “To see what Jane Smith buys, you have to see through Jane Smith’s eyes.”

    Enjoy you website. If you ever come to the states for a NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) convention (here in Chicago this year) please let me know, I would enjoy the chance to meet you in person.

  2. #2 by Lynn on April 11, 2011 - 12:16 pm

    RE: The Devil is in the Detail

    Hello Joss

    What a pleasure to receive your subscription again. The contents of your notes are so information and useful. Many thanks for keeping me in mind. Hope you are well and let’s stay in touch.

    Warm regards

  3. #3 by Lettie on April 11, 2011 - 12:25 pm

    Hi Jocelyn,

    If a convenient store retailers don’t want to accept all methods of payments, why call yourself a convenient store. My view is that price is added to the little word convenient. Cash handling fees charged by banks is non-avoided. Due to the huge increase in armed robberies, retailers should reconsider their view if not taking debit/cheque and credit cards, unfortunately it must be very strict control and discipline to avoid fraud. I personally feel that government should regulate charges to card payments and minimize cost to retailers this will bring down crime, which include also the retailer charging the customer the fee when paying with a card.

    As a fuel retailer, I must confess that Fuel is regulated and we work with very tight margins, you really need to pump huge volumes to offer this service to the consumer when paying for fuel, it is clear that the banks offer certain cards to customers to their advantage raising more funds at the cost of the retailer. It is compulsory for a retailer to advertise at the pumps the cards accepted on site, but please note, government made it clear that it is not law that a fuel retailers must accept debit/credit or cheque cards at all. In the case were the petrol attendant indicated the acceptance of a card and the consumer then pick up a problem as per the letter, I blame the retailer for not advertising properly but the bank for lack of training provided to the retailer/cashier petrol attendant and the consumer, conflict could be avoided if proper training and hand over of cards was provided . We become merchants for the bank and get charge a fee, pay for thermo paper and all stationary required, nothing for free. Training was never offered to my company in all the years in this industry. The majority of customers using cards for payment have no clue what is written in their agreements, the banks should briefed them before handing the card and point out certain areas that might cause hassles. this should not become the duty of the petrol attendant/ cashier or retailers. What amaze me is that many restaurant with huge margins may add a service fee and it is allowed, but the fuel retailer is not, what is the difference? Remember it is a service we provide and not a regulated product that we sell, banks manipulates this offer.

    The market become very competitive and every one of my customers is valid, I will not lose a sale to opposition but rather carry the cost, even if this affects my cash flow. I believe in Raymond Ackerman’s words, “Rather one cent than no cent.”

    What the toy and giveaways concerns, it is a working tool for retail, and I am proud to say in my brand always well organized and good value for money, if not blame the franchisor who enforce the promotion to the franchisee, and there are many of them, always remember the capital outlay we as franchisees have, this is always compulsory and so many times after duration outlets still sit with the minimum order that was delivered at cost. Wasted cash not frequently available become charity, a promotion that comes to an end, immediately gets deleted of the system, but no one cares about the non-moveable stock the poor retailer still have on hand, imagine how many thousands of R10 this poor retailer must turnover before recovery of his/her loses.

    I trust this will give you a good idea why certain fuel retailers, have to fight for the % they charge on the sale amount, and the reason why some don’t accept certain card payment methods at all, “ purely because they cannot afford.”

    Kind regards

  4. #4 by Steven Montgomery on April 11, 2011 - 2:43 pm

    Here in the U.S. we understand a fuel retailer’s dilemma when it comes to taking credit cards. At the recent National Association of Convenience Stores State Of the Industry meeting, the association released its 2010 report. The industry paid $9.0B in card fees which is about 40% more the than $6.5 pretax profit the entire industry made!

    Given that 75% of all fuel in the U.S. is sold to customers using a credit card, the situation will not get better unless the government regulates fees. The U.S. government passed such a regulation, but with all the changes going on there is a movement to delay or revise the legislation.

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