The following was all resolved after a meeting with the Luke Louw, GM of PnP’s northern region. Mr Molefe apologised and the apology was accepted. It all brings into focus the importance of ongoing efforts to maintain quality as well as staff training and motivation. And that’s never easy with SA’s diverse cultures. But Pick n Pay is serious about it and, at senior management level, has the ethic to follow through. And I am more than delighted to be back, shopping at Pick n Pay.
I was kicked out of Pick n Pay last week and told to rather shop at Shoprite!
My family started shopping at PnP just after Raymond Ackerman bought the company from Jack Goldin in 1967 and I’ve been a loyal PnP shopper ever since. I met Raymond Ackerman in 1985 when I first worked with him on a project that was a catalyst for the development of the V&A Waterfront and he still inspires me every time we meet.
So having my shopping basket taken away as I arrived at the till to pay and told to go to Shoprite was the ultimate slap in the face. So much for PnP’s belief in customer sovereignity.
But then Pick n Pay Mokopane must be their worst store in South Africa. My first experience there was of the rudest staff I’ve ever encountered.
It reminded me of an account when ACSA was established and started managing Cape Town Airport: “When we arrived, the staff attitude was – what a great little airport we have. It’s just a pity about the passengers.”
Well it was accepted for PnP Mokopane’s staff to finish discussions with colleagues and friends before attending to customers. And a parrot-like “Hello-how-are-you-plastic?” was their standard greeting without making any eye contact. (They were also asking if you wanted a plastic bag.)
Was this a Mokopane-wide problem? No, because the corporate culture at local Woolworths and Checkers still shines through.
And it got worse. The store was filthy. PnP-brand milk was often sour. There were often long queues with only a few till points open. When I complained that roast chickens were often only available at 5.30, the management agreed they had a problem and said they would deliver one as soon as they were ready. I called at 6pm to find out what was happening — they forgot!
The management lost my bank card after it was handed in by a teller who forgot to give it to me — no apology, just a shrug!
The store does have a very friendly customer service lady who does try very hard. She commented after a holiday in Cape Town, where she visited PnP stores there, how surprised she was that they all had everything ready for business at opening time…
It was so appalling that I wrote to Jonathan Ackerman saying that it seems as though there is a Shoprite store impersonating PnP. I was assured that matters are being attended to.
When it didn’t get better, I wrote to Nick Badminton, PnP’s CEO, and had a call from the northern region’s GM to say the store was getting a new manager soon and complaints were being taken seriously.
Now I don’t like complaining and this is the first time I’ve ever complained about a PnP store. I’ve complained for the simple reason that I know PnP can and must be better than what I experienced in Mokopane. I am proud of PnP’s Cape Town roots.
In the past two months I’ve driven 9,000km around South Africa and I’ve been into scores of PnP stores. At Roodepoort, I complimented a manager and was proudly taken on a tour that explained why it was so special. “It is a Family PnP,” he said as he showed off a wider range of products than the coporate stores sell. I experienced the same in stores in KZN and the Western Cape — with Waterfront and Constantia still my favourite corporate stores.
After two months away, there seemed to be little if any improvement but then the new manager had said the store has been managed so badly for the last two years, it will take time to get it right. But one doesn’t expect to find frozen foods fridges that are empty and have been broken for weeks.
So last week when I bought milk that was sour, I took it back. The new milk was sour too so it went back the next day.
And that’s when I encountered Aubrey Molefe, the duty manager. He doesn’t like me — I complained to him about something else once before. Last time he told me he doesn’t have to listen to my complaints and walked away.
This time he took the milk and said he would inform the supplier. No apology. When I said that’s just not good enough, he used his “I don”t have to listen to your complaints” again. Then who does? I suggested that he’s in the wrong job with that attitude. When I said I’m really tempted to write about my bad experiences, his was response was “Please go ahead,” and that I would get my money back … so I walked off to do other shopping, saying “asshole” to the aisles in front of me.
But it was when I got back to the till that I had my basket grabbed away and told to get out, to shop at Shoprite.
So here, Mr Molefe, is the story you urged me to go ahead and write. It is inspired by you!
It’s this type of man that inspires one to become a shareholder activist — to ask if Corporate PnP is losing it; if that signature on the guarantee is meaningless now that Raymond Ackerman has retired. To ask if the old spirit of PnP doesn’t lie in family-owned and managed stores?