The Worst Pick n Pay in South Africa?


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.

PnPSo 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?


14 responses to “The Worst Pick n Pay in South Africa?”

  1. We used to always have a braai for Sunday lunch and often sent the men to do the shopping on Sunday mornings. More than once they came back with the chicken bought at the Potties PnP and when we wanted to start preparing it we found it to be rotten. Now, and we are not the only to do this, you have make a hole in the wrapping to smell the chicken, before buying it. Better yet, we don’t buy chicken at PnP if not necessary.

  2. Nope. Knysna’s the worst. You got kicked out? I got attacked by a member of staff and then manhandled out by the manager.

    Pick n Pay? Never again. Any where. Not if it was the last shop in the country

  3. I take my hat off to you for writting about the store…I wish they would do someting about the staff and management in kNysna tey are just plain out rude never willing to help and because of that I only shop at shoprite and spar as they have much friendlier staff and attentive management that will go the extra mile to help or atend to ay need PNP sadly has gone right down the drain

  4. Try the Empangeni Pick and pay its disgusting the meat section has meat cuts in it that look like they were inspired from the movie “District Nine” and yes the chicken thing is an age old problem at PnP. I have shopped at PnP for years but have found that the dedication and wonderful staff are all gone not to mention the prices

  5. This is a great story of poor service delivery – one I sincerely hope the top management of Pick and Pay South Africa will take cognizance of. I recently started using my own website to expose poor service executed by large South African brands. But also excellent service from the same / other brands.

    Unfortunately this is the sub-culture of service in South Africa at the moment. There are many good examples, but if you look closely it is but a few individuals making the difference and not the corporately culture.

    My recommendation to you is to turn on the heat with this story and leverage it through social media. Try Tweeting / Re-tweeting it a couple of tiomes to get the attention of a broader corporate audience (and hopefully their PR people as well). On my site I integrated various elements of social media to expose the brand (poor or excellent).

    And I further hope that Mr Molefe will have many sleepless nights.

    Keep on writing.

    Vernon Chalmers
    http://www.vernoncjalmers.com

  6. It is with sadness that I read the complaint about our Empangani Store.

    I apologise for the inconvenience caused.

    Be assured that it would be addressed immediately.

    Wim Theron
    GM – KZN Region

  7. Morning Martin I do apologise for the poor service recieved from our Knysna store I will be dealing with issues raised personally.I would like to contact you to discuss the detail of the incident.

    Ian Hughes
    GM-EASTERN CAPE

  8. Just for the record… I had an email from Jonathan Ackerman (who’s overseas) a few hours after the story was posted. Later in the day I had a call from the GM of PnP’s northern region asking for a meeting on Wednesday, and an apologetic SMS from Nick Badminton, PnP’s CEO, last night saying he’ll call me today. PnP DOES care and bad service often follows unprotesting consumers! Although, in Mokopane’s case, I know the local Chamber of Commerce also wrote to and had meetings with PnP complaining about the store.

  9. Vernon is right (Vernon always seems to be right)… with social media we can have a voice against all these big brands. Many who think that no-one is listening. I had issues with Neotel, Telkom and a few others all of which I dealt with through social media and blogging. When a big brand does not respond then blog about it and then send it to every social media out there, you will soon see them all running around trying to get hold of you.

  10. Good morning.

    It seems like Pick & Pay is going down the drain.

    When shopping at Wonderpark, Akasia, Pretoria, you’ll find in many cases – first hand experience- that pre-weight products, i.e fish, garlic rolls, etc. is wrongly priced and if you as customer is not wide awake you pay more for an item than you should as it is priced at either a higher price or bigger weight. This was also experienced with Pick & Pay Madeliefie – Pretoria North. (Liver that was priced at the price of Ox tail, around R40 per kilo difference between the two items)

    Or special price tags is put up yet the item behind it is R20 a kilo more, like last night when I went into P&P Wonderpark. Mutton was marked at a special price of R49-99, now who won’t go for it, yet the mutton packs was all marked for R69-99. On my question about this I was just told they have two different packs and the R49-99 is all sold out. Now knowing them for marking their products incorrect, I checked the price labels on the packs and this is how I noted the price difference. Somebody else might not do that and be paying at the end of the day more that the “special price as per tag” was advertising.

    When you approced the Managers they just lift their shoulders and take it as a human error. My question now is for how many “human errors” must we as customers pay also keeping in mind the prices for food these days.

    Johanna Jonker

  11. Wat ‘n jammerte dat daar soveel ongelukkige kliënte by P&Pay is. Ek koop daagliks by die Newton Park, PE, Pick&Pay en het niks om te sê, behalwe dat die winkel vol gawe mense is nie. Ag so nou en dan is daar te min tellers – steeds nie die ergste sonde op aarde nie. Mense soos Lorna Matroos maak dit absoluut die moeite werd om inkopies daar te doen. Niks op aarde is te veel moeite vir haar nie. Ek wens julle almal by Pick & Pay ‘n geseënde kersfees en voorspoedige 2013 toe.

  12. Hi my name is Stefan Saufet,
    my wife and I visited Pick n Pay in Plettenberg bay for the first time since in South Africa and the staff “WOW” they were so helpful.It was as if they know its
    our first time there, We met a guy packing a stock in the baby or infant section he was polite he helped us through even though he was
    not too sure about the shaving kit we were looking for but he tried by
    all means to help us.Unfortunately he had no nametag on but he had a
    PnP blue shirt on, we think he said his nam is Topani. Your cashier was very friendly too. We will surely comeback.

    Please send our compliment to the manager and his/her staff in that shop.
    They made us feel at home,away from home.

    Kindest Regards
    Stefan & Susan

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