Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dear CVS (aka: I would argue there's no employment crisis, but a priority crisis in leadership)

Dear CVS,
Excited by the news that you’ve bravely chosen to rid your stores of tobacco products, I drove well out of my way yesterday morning to pick up a few medicine cabinet staples and offer immediate positive feedback. As the loyal customer of a competitor, I wanted to do my part in rewarding you for breaking status quo and doing what’s right, in spite of what’s more immediately profitable. Still job-hunting after 23 months, my enthusiasm had been invigorated by a dynamic presentation on branding at a successful networking function I attended the previous day. 

So, I happily drove several miles out of my way, refining my presentation as I went. If serving on the administration end of the equation isn’t currently possible, at least I could provide the feedback necessary to close the marketing circuit as a customer. And for an organization that has taken a financial risk aligning their actions with their mission. . .! I was absolutely giddy!!

Parking in a sunny spot directly adjacent to the door, I strode in with purpose. Half way down the aisle headed for the back, I heard the girl from the register call,  “Welcome to CVS. How are you today?” I turned to see who was behind me, as there had been no one else in the parking lot. There was no one. She’d meant me. “Do I yell back that I’m fine?” I wondered. I figured it must be one of those stores where they train employees to greet each customer upon entry, took a moment to appreciate indoctrination, and wrote off the awkwardness.

Turning, I was disheartened by the chaotic display shelves. Items were haphazardly arranged, a number of items needed restocking, and the whole place felt overcrowded. Is it that my regular drugstore has wider aisles or broader shelves? Still, I was undeterred. Although one item I wanted wasn’t available, I was able to find a similar substitute, and successfully found the second product.

Feeling righteous, I headed for the cashier desk. Where I stood. For a few minutes. By myself. With my items (and my feedback!). The one employee was over near the beverages, presumably checking what the vendor, who was also visible from my position, was delivering. I waited. Candy shelf. . .”where are they going to put the Mega M&Ms I see unopened on the counter when they’ve already got plain, peanut, mint, peanut butter and pretzel right there? I guess if they moved the Rolos down. . . Oh, here she comes.”

She apologized for my wait, asked if there was anything else I wanted but had been unable to find, and rang me up. When she’d bagged my items and looked up to thank me, I said, “I wanted you to know, and please tell your manager, that I drove out of my way to come here today because I heard you’ll be taking tobacco products off your shelves. I’m usually a Walgreen’s woman, but a decision like this could bring me around to your stores.”

She looked behind her at the rows of cigarettes and said, with some apparent wonder, that she had no idea about that. Then, obviously confused, she asked “So, did you want to BUY some cigarettes?” I thanked her and declined. Then I left, completely deflated.

If you, as employer and retailer, don’t know what needs to be done to fix all of the many things that contributed to what is wrong with this scenario, please hire me so I can help you. It’s what I do.

Best regards, 

P.S. - (updated 2/20/14) Authenticity, too!

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