Tuesday, 19 June 2007

John Lewis shoe department

We are in John Lewis kiddy shoe department. It is empty, apart from me, Tiger, and Rana, the sales staff, who asks me if I have a ticket. Ticket? Ticket? I'm clearly expected to have a ticket if Tiger wants to look at sandals and decide whether she's pushing off to Next.

Now I've been here before, and I remember. Probably to overcome the rush at term starts, John Lewis has a ticket system. In the past it's been a cross between bingo and the deli counter. The staff shout out a few numbers until one comes up and then I shout up 'House!' and all goes well.

Only it doesn't go well. Not at all. Because John Lewis has installed a fancy new computer-driven ticket system. There is a computer screen now that asks the question 'Are you interested in the fitting service for shoes?' I can answer Yes or No. Answering something smart like, 'I am in the shoe department because I want to buy an oven' doesn't figure. So I press 'Yes'. Then up comes some more screens: How many children? What ages? Boys? Girls? By now I half expect it to ask what shoe size I'd like measuring for. It all seems a time wasting palaver to me, given the fact that Rana is the only person watching us, but I'm guessing that's what John Lewis are doing it for. To waste my time, and free up the time of Rana who probably is in need of a cup of tea by the time she's seen to James and Geraldine and Davy and Martin and Katy and Clara.

When the machine gives me a ticket, it reads we can be seen by Rana at 4.49. It is 4.15, and we are the only ones in the department. Now, naturally, Grit becomes a bit stroppy. 'Shall I wait?' I shout. 'I can wait if you'd rather!' 'I can wait over here!' Tiger has already eyed up some expensive pink Birkenstocks and I could probably tell Rana that Tiger takes size 13. Now Rana is very good and poopoohs my ticket, even though I have got bolshy with it. 'No!' I say. 'Let me wait! The ticket says 4.49!' She is even nicer now, and smiles a lot and offers to find shoes in size 13 for Tiger.

Now this is where the trouble really starts. Because another mother turns up. And she is worse than Grit with the machine. She is Fuming Mother, and she does not play the game. She slams the keypad with No No No and says it is bloody rubbish and why can't her son look at some shoes when Rana is ready because there is no-one else here apart from the mother with electrocuted hair and a daughter who looks like she has already chosen expensive pink Birkenstocks in size 13.

Grit is naturally delighted at finding someone else who is even more stroppy than she. So Grit can have a secret smile while Rana goes off to find shoes for son of Fuming Mother, and while Tiger jumps up and down some more in expensive pink Birkenstocks, just in case, she says, she might like the other pink ones better.

And then, disaster. It is 4.36. And Hulk Mother, the owner of ticket 4.33, arrives at the shoe department. And what does she see? Rana is actually measuring someone else's feet! And there is a child jumping up and down in expensive pink Birkenstocks who has evidently been measured already! Hulk Mother is not happy. Not at all. She is worse than Grit and Fuming Mother put together. She stops, and shouts out across the floor for us all to hear, 'I have a ticket! And somebody-' she shoots a mean, accusing, glance at Rana, 'Somebody decided to serve somebody else! Even though I have a ticket!' Hulk Mother brandishes the ticket like it is the sword of truth just plucked from the mountainside of honour.

Now if I were Rana, this perfectly horrible woman would probably reduce me to tears, or I would lose my job for telling Hulk Mother to shove her ticket, but Rana is evidently a much more professional person than me. Rana just smiles, patiently. Even while there is a big fighty scene going on, with lots of John Lewis staff trying to run discreetly, Hulk Mother glowering meanly, the head of shoes whispering about complaint procedures, and Tiger, still jumping up and down in expensive pink Birkenstocks.

What I can make from this, John Lewis, is that your new computerised ticket system is simply not working. Today it undermined your staff and put them in a position where they were punished for using their initiative and their common sense. It undermined your customers and it put us all at odds with each other. It got Grit's sarcasm flowing, got Fuming Mother's hackles up, and gave Hulk Mother an opportunity to vent her rage back at your staff.

So whether you stock expensive pink Birkenstocks or not, we're not coming back in a hurry. And I think whoever installed the computer system in the kiddy shoe department owes Rana a bunch of flowers and an apology.


Anonymous said...

thank you for my laugh today, DH thinks I'm a looney laughing at the laptop out loud at this woman who decided to called herself grit. You are indeed very brave to enter John Lewis at all, let alone with a child! I can't wait to take my 2 in and really do a number on them and the ticket machine ;-)

Elizabeth said...

I had to google Birkenstock because, as you know, I don't get out much and I didn't know what they were. Now i find that i cannot live without a pair of Boston black SUPER GRIP size 7. M says he is going to have several 'words' with you?