A new meaning for customer service?

Here's a customer service story with a twist in the tail (it concerns fish). 

The scene earlier today at my local Waitrose, which recently re-opened following a major renovation and expansion. I ask the young man behind the gleaming new, well-stocked fish service counter for some Cornish sardines. As he wraps them up and gives them to me I ask him what is the cheapest, most sustainable fish they sell at Waitrose. Now, this is of course a trick question, as the answer is ... Cornish sardines, but I just wanted to test his knowledge a bit, to see if there had been any investment in staff training to go with the new fixtures and fittings.

The young man says he doesn't know, so to give him a clue I explain that the cheapest fish tend also to be the most plentiful and hence sustainable, and caught locally rather than imported. Still a blank, so as another hint I ask where these sardines I've just bought (£1.85 for four, or £4.99/kg) come from. He says he has no idea.. Hmm. I remind him (gently) they are from, well, Cornwall and explain that sardines are shallow water fish that can only be caught by small local boats, rather than the huge vessels that suck the life out of deeper waters. As I'm at it, I throw in they are also extremely good for you (full of Omega 3 for a healthy heart and free of contaminants such as mercury), tasty and easy to cook - just grill as is or with some lemon, parsley and garlic. 

The young man says "thanks for that, good to know" as if he means it, which is nice. Now comes the interesting part: a lady who had come up behind me at the end of my tale (the tail-end? - sorry) asked me to repeat what I'd been saying about healthy, tasty, cheap and sustainable fish as this was exactly the advice she wanted. So I repeated what I'd told the young Waitrose "fishmonger". By that time several other people had come up and were also listening in. At which point I left them to it at the counter.

You could say this experience provides a new meaning for customer service - i.e., where the customer provides the service, instead of the retailer. Still, I think it's actually a really good indication of how food retailers could engage their customers so much more effectively, simply by teaching staff about what they are selling. 


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