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Nonfoods Talk: Looking for Loyalty

Can grocers speed up the checkout process for their most valuable customers?


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Over my many years of travel, I have become a big fan of airline and hotel loyalty programs. The more I fly or stay, being a loyal customer, the better they treat me.

My airline of choice gives me more room in the front section of coach class and—if I catch a break—a first-class upgrade that puts me solidly in the midst of the movers and shakers of the business world in big cushy seats and a hot meal that is usually pretty good—for airplane food, at least. I also get access to its lounges scattered throughout airports around the country, so when my flight is delayed, which happens a lot, I do not have to sit in uncomfortable plastic chairs with the masses at the gate. Instead, I relax in their lounge, chomping on cheese cubes and pretzel sticks, drinking gin and tonics as I watch the tote board, waiting for the latest update on when my flight is going to leave.

My favorite hotel goes even further. Besides room upgrades (I do wonder if every room in the hotel is upgraded), they give me free access to their lounge and free breakfast, not to mention free drinks and the ability to quickly earn enough points to pay for a nice vacation in a warm location during the dark days of winter. 

But what about my favorite supermarket? 

As the main shopper in my family it has always gnawed at me that the fewer products I purchase on a particular trip to the grocery store, the faster I can checkout. Those consumers that come into the store to pick up a few things get the opportunity to checkout through the 10-to-15 items or less express lanes. In a blink of an eye, they are out the door and headed to their cars, hopefully not breaking any sideview mirrors in their rush.

Meanwhile, my friends and I at the supermarket with wagons full of product have to stand and wait on long lines to have the honor of paying $200 to $300 at a clip for groceries. It is often at least a 15 minute wait, and on weekends it can get up to 30 minutes or more. 

Where is the justice? Why can’t supermarket executives come up with a way to get their best customers—people like me with full carts and money to burn—through the dreaded checkout in a timely fashion?

The simple answer is to make sure as many checkout lines are open as needed. Of course that is often not enough. Since we all shop at around the same time usually every lane is manned and still the lines exist. 

So it is time for a retailer’s marketing and logistics people to come together and fix this problem. In the meantime, I will be flying the world gaining valuable airline points and pigging out on chocolate chip cookies and carrot sticks at my hotel’s lounge. Let me know when supermarkets get with these programs.     

 

Seth Mendelson is publisher and editorial director of Grocery Headquarters magazine.

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