What’s Happening To The Service Industry?

It seems to me that I’m doing more and more for myself without the benefit of any reduction in price, and sometimes I’m even paying extra.

Let me give some examples from the service industry:

  • Recently, when shopping in certain stores, I’ve had a hard time finding any sales associates to help me find what I’m looking for.  There is just no one to be found.  I think I missed the memo that advised me that these stores are now self-serve.  On top of that, they want me to use their own store credit card to pay for my purchases so they can make even more money off me with their high interest rates.
  • I pay an annual fee for shopping at Costco and then take their garbage (boxes) away for them.  When grocery shopping at Superstore, I have to buy my own bags and then have the privilege of bagging my own groceries.  And now I can scan them through the checkout myself.  I actually don’t mind the self-checkout but I’m embarrassed to admit that I talk back to the snippy automated cash register.

ACR:  “Place the item in the bag.”

Me:  “I’ve already put it in the bag!”

ACR:  “Place the item in the bag.”

  • I have rarely set foot in my bank branch for years.  I do all of my banking online and even view all my account statements online and they still charge $9 a month on my chequing account.
  • In fact, all the companies that allow you to pay bills online via e-post should give us some kind of discount.  After all, we’re saving them thousands of dollars on paper, ink, envelopes and postage.
  • I fly with WestJet to visit my parents in Kelowna.  Their fares have tripled since they first came along with their “no frills – cheap fares” airline.  I now book my flight online and print my own boarding pass.  If I want to choose a seat I can pay an extra $3 – $15 for that privilege.  At the airport I can tag my own luggage before dropping it off.  What’s next?  Will I have to run it down the tarmac to the plane and pay extra to have it stowed securely in the baggage compartment?  On my last flight I received a half a glass of water for my refreshment!

When everything is done online or becomes self-serve will my only contact with an actual person be on the phone to a call centre that’s not even in my own city?

And why do I have to pay extra to speak to an agent?  Sometimes I have a problem or need clarification.  This used to be basic customer service – someone to help you.  They just don’t get it.

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  1. Sustainable PF on December 2, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I couldn’t agree more Boomer & Echo! Some of these stores are awful at providing service. For instance, we’d much prefer to shop at a Canadian box store like Rona, however, we can never find anyone to help us! Head down the block to Home Depot and you find lots of help. While pricier, we find Canadian owned Home Hardware far superior to Rona.

    Those self serve stations are very frustrating. A few times when the single attendant (for 4 to 6 check outs) is helping some other befuddled customer for what seems like ages, and we’ve needed assistance, we’ve simply walks out with the item sitting on the scanner or “bag area”. Argh!

    Regarding your banking, you really need a new bank! PCF has no fee everything and will suit your style of online banking (as they have no “banks”). No service fees and you can use your debit @ any of their or CIBC machines, no charge.

  2. Beth on December 2, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I’ve had great customer service lately — but not in the big retail or grocery stores! (Unless you count high pressure sales tactics as “customer service”)

    When I receive good service, I make it a point of telling them so. I’ve worked retail and know it is a thankless job. I wonder if people are getting so frustrated that they’re just giving up?

    • Boomer on December 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      @Beth. I currently work part time in retail and it’s probably the only job I’ve ever had where I’ve felt so little valued – both by customers and employer. Luckily for me, I have a choice. There are many that don’t and you’re right that making a point of recognizing good service can make a difference.

  3. Financial Cents on December 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Nice lil’ rant Boomer 🙂

    BTW – I enjoyed the G&M article. I commented on it. Well done.

    My Own Advisor

    • Boomer on December 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm

      Thanks for the comment Financial Cents. I appreciate your support.

  4. Ian Brennan on December 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    I still remember receiving an invitation from one of the major Canadian banks to do my banking online – all I had to do was BUY their software! Like that was ever going to happen! Get used to paying banks for receiving customer service. It would seem greed has no boundaries. Yet another reason we need real competition within the banking sector in Canada. It wouldn’t hurt to let your MP know how you feel, either.

    • Boomer on December 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

      Hi Ian. I worked in banking for over 25 years and it has always burned me to see the millions in profits they earn every year.

  5. youngandthrifty on December 3, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I like the fact that we need to bring our own bags or else we’ll be charged- better for the environment that way 🙂

    I have to keep a minimum balance of $2K in my bank account or else I will get charged about $9 too.

    My gripe is that for longish flights with Westjet or Air Canada, you have to PAY for food! (And not very appetizing food, at that) This is after forking over an arm and a leg for a plane ticket, too.

    • Boomer on December 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm

      @young & thrifty. I also use my own cloth bags whenever I shop and keep a minimum monthly balance in my account. You can avoid paying some charges. My point really was that a lot of companies still charge for service that they used to provide – but now expect you to do it yourself.

  6. Canadian_sadie on December 5, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    The self-scan aisles at the grocery store are exactly the reason you can’t find any help there. If you’re willing to pay for the privilege of doing the job yourself, why on earth would the retailer pay someone else to do it?

    • Echo on December 5, 2010 at 11:32 pm

      What I find amusing is that the retailer does pay someone to “supervise” that area since people have trouble with the self-scanners, or they’re afraid of theft. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

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