Monday, November 12, 2007


Visited a store in Bombay which is a cross between a grocery and a supermarket . Formerly this store used to stock a range that was quite average - with neither depth nor breadth . With the advent of large industrial groups making a serious foray into food retailing this chain of stores seems to have gone back to the drawing board . Now , they stock a wide range of non-Indian cuisine ingredients - Italian , Thai , Japanese , a whole section dedicated to wines . As well as a focused selection of fruits and vegetables that would complement these cuisines. It's a good response as a business as well as for the consumer . We could do without yet another store carrying the same range of products . And we can do with a store where one can be reasonably sure of finding a good selection of products for other cuisines .

From the earlier visits to this store I remembered that they have a peculiar practice that the security guard at the exit would insist on the receipt and stamp it " paid " . For some reason a lot of the supermarket type stores in Bombay seem to have this practice . On that day I found the store manager and asked him the reason for this procedure . His explanation was that 'if you need to return / exchange something then we need the bill which is confirmed as being paid ' . Fair enough . I asked the manager if that's the objective why not make the cashier stamp the bill as 'paid' ? Only the cashier can confirm whether the bill was paid or not . How will the security guard know whether the bill was paid or how many items were paid for ?
Normal consumer behaviour is that when one gets the receipt it is put into the wallet or bag . And the focus is then on the balancing act of holding the various bags . With this tight-rope act in full progress one reaches the door and is asked to stop and retreive the receipt . Most papers follow Murphy's law . Or sink to the bottom of the bag not unlike the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean .The consumer will eventually locate the receipt only to have it stamped 'paid' by someone who has no basis to know whether the payment was made or to what extent .

Faced with stuff that flies in the face of common sense I tend to be persistent . Idea being that hopefully the individual / business will relook at the process /action and make a change . The response of the manager was interesting .The logic of what was being presented to him was undeniable . At the same time the idea of changing a simple process seemed quite unthinkable .

Often organisations have some processes that serve no purpose . These could be procedures that involve the customer directly or backend processes that the customer does not experience or witness and sometimes is not impacted at all by it . These are the process equivalents of a vestigial organ . These can still be endured as while they do no good they don't inconvenience either . Processes that serve no purpose and actively inconvenience the customer need to be scrutinised and done away with .

The reaction of the manager was symptomatic of the inside-out view that businesses often tend to develop ( in varying degrees ) .
Take a few minutes to introspect whether your business has the equivalent of ' security guard stamps the receipt paid ' . Better still - ask your customers !