Monday, June 24, 2019

Reality Check: Time Is Finite; Waste Not, Want Not


Dear Sam’s Club,

Here’s an example of how you turn more people away and decrease market share:

My experience this morning in my local Sam’s Club.

“Are You a Plus Member? “

I wasn’t really listening. Thinking about all I had to do today and looking for my credit card after presenting my Sam’s Club “old” membership card which they hadn’t changed when I “demoted” my membership from Plus to “Regular”.

“Not at this time,” I replied.

“Well, I can change that by adding $8.00 today.”

“No thank you”, I replied, “It’s due for renewal in a little over 30 days, I’ll wait until then.”

“You Aren’t Supposed To Be Here Now….”  He said.

Surprised by the negative admonition, he added, “Well, I can give you a one time “Courtesy” pass.” Which he did and which appeared in large print on the screen making me feel really bad about “not knowing better”.

“You’re supposed to be here after 10 AM.”

Really. Must have missed the Memo. But then I don’t shop Sam’s Club “regularly”.

That’s why I don’t get the “upgraded” membership – the extra “kickback”, excuse me, bonus reward, for spending up to a certain amount. No….I have credit cards that reward me without putting constraints on where I shop and with whom I shop.  

I tried the “Plus membership and found it a waste of money. This was before the Home Delivery and other “benefits” now added to the program which I don’t want or need.

I’m a Senior. I’ve seen lots of us in this age group shopping at Sam’s Club, especially earlier in the morning. Of course, for all I know they could be Plus Members. It’s just I notice demographics; it’s been my training to observe, to evaluate and to make positive changes based on various marketing analytics.

When it first opened, “our” Sams’ Club” was “the place” to buy our business supplies, home items, stock our freezer and feed two growing sons who could empty the refrigerator before I could get all the food out of the bags and into storage for, if I was lucky, a few days, before making another trip to what was then a great way to save on everyday items and larger quantities of food and other supplies.

This was pre Amazon and so many others who now lead the way along with other Membership and Non Membership businesses all seeking to retain, build and increase market share.

Sam’s Club Membership is $45 or $100 for Plus

All I want to do is walk through the door of this Warehouse Shopping giant and buy the items I use in bulk and be on my way.

Now, I’m told, my spending is welcome only during certain times that interrupt my morning which for me is an important part of my business day. It used to be 9 AM and now I found out it’s been raised. 

Next thing I know, it could be Noon or later before I’m “welcome” to spend my money in their facility that is mass market, bulk buying with a little bit of regular sized items at somewhat discounted pricing they hope you’ll pick up while you’re there.

For the record, I liked shopping at Sam’s Club; it apparently only likes my shopping there during times they determine and change and then publicly admonish you if you should “violate” their protocol.

I get the benefits concept of the levels of membership; I don’t get the discrimination of shopping times except for the fact having staff come in and opening your doors at 7 AM, for example, means more cost of staffing, etc (I am a business person, after all).

 So…..open for a few, charge for this “benefit” and no longer “card” people at the door to ensure they have the level of “membership” before they load their cart and get in the checkout line?

Poor policy.  Poor procedures. Speaks volumes about the business……

Yes, I work, have my own business and place a value on time and opportunity. We share a car, daughter and I, because we can’t afford two cars and we’ve come a long way in eight years because we’ve lived the lessons of life we’ve known and learned and one of them is to consider how we use what we have and what we are given.

We’ve survived and now we’re returning to being able to thrive and that includes choosing with whom and where we shop and spend time.

I wasn’t interested in the “perks” – not even the add ons for “just” an additional $40 when I was finally able to afford, yes afford, “going back” to Sam’s Club.

Sam’s seems to be equating or trying to become more “niche market” by excluding rather than including the community. That’s a business choice. A model. Poor one. Chosen one. Out of touch.

I always research when I “come up against” challenges like this one. Here’s what I found on the company’s website comparing the two membership levels benefits:

“Early shopping hours  Get in and out faster without the crowds starting at 7AM Monday - Friday (not available at all clubs) https://www.samsclub.com/sams/pagedetails/content.jsp?pageName=aboutSams

NOTE:  Their own website states “Not available at all clubs”. 

And, you’ll notice there is no on line posting about what time we “lesser customers” are allowed to spend “our money”. Wow! Discrimination seems to be changing again and refocusing on new categories.

So….how many of you reading this take the time to read the sign posted outside Sam’s Club door?  Last time I read it Plus Members were admitted earlier at that 7 am time and regular hours were 9 AM for others. Today I saw the 10 AM. Or maybe your Sam’s Club has other hours??

What about that “security” person who stands at the front entry who USED TO CHECK YOUR CARD before you could even enter.  Not now. You don’t need to show it, you just grab a cart and if you have  anything to “return”, they put a sticker on the item but anyone could walk in and look around.

I’d been surprised visiting Costco several months ago when no one asked to see my membership card and then surprised again when Sam’s Club seemed to “pick up” this practice and we no longer needed to “present” the card for membership.

As someone with a degree in Marketing Management – the ship has sailed….and it’s leaving behind many who don’t need to “walk in” to get what they want or need – it can be delivered, it can be waiting for pickup, it can be from many “bulk buyers” and “discounters”.

Walmart/Sam’s Club used to lead the way, were highly innovative and often controversial.

Now, they’re followers instead of leaders.

This lack of customer consideration and service lowers them even further in my opinion.

For the record, Sam’s Club … when we were celebrating a historical WIN in St Louis, you missed the shot.

Not a single St Louis Blues shirt or any other memorabilia was on your tables, racks or in your stacks. While at Costco---they were flying out the door.

I believe I made the right choice when we joined Costco. I was going to renew Sam’s also for the “convenience” – they’re on the way back from where I drive to take my daughter to work on the day’s I use the car. Guess that won’t be my plan any more because it takes away from “my time”.

It’s my choice, as a consumer. I do not see the benefit for our spending even the “small additional amount” which I can use to donate to a local charity or spend on something else we still need and have been putting aside purchasing – even at Sam’s Club.

My time is valuable. Even one hour. I’ll spend part of that time driving a little farther to where, at least from what I’ve seen, I’m still appreciated as a customer, a member.

Interesting how when the major force behind some businesses is no longer involved changes that aren’t focused on understanding what you say, how you say it along with what you do and how you do it, make the difference between revenue generation and revenue reduction.

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