Friday, 12 September 2008

AKO is hardly the best at rush hour

Shopping time for the commuter

In the commuter world, the station is a place where everyone should appreciate the context of time and the instant gratification required by customers to get in, grab something, catch the train and relax in a seat fiddling with whatever was acquired.

I have however come to the conclusion that many shops in Amsterdam Central Station have no idea of the setting in which they are based.

The shops may very well know they have a market but they do not understand their customers, the characteristics of shops in the high street are quite different from those in a train station and very different from those in an airport.

The psyche of a shop

In the high street, you have time to browse and flit around in perpetual indecision till you end up with something really expensive that you never really needed.

When you shop at the airports, the purchases could be impulsive or based on the need to acquire gifts for those back at home – you may not have as much time, but you would hardly be in a panicky rush to get on your plane, except where you do not arrive on time to check-in, in which case you would hardly be shopping.

Corner shops or late night shops are a different genre; they are open until just that time when ghosts have finished putting on their makeup; they are that last refuge to interact with retailers because you have missed the regular shops and just need a quick TV dinner or something that prepares you for the next body engine trouble.

Rush-hour in tardy shops

When in comes to station shops, it requires a completely different mindset and business model – those shops are in premium rent areas, the customers hardly have the time and they definitely want prompt and efficient service, at least, that is my opinion.

For three days now as I have half-rushed to catch my train to work in the rush-hour at because of the newsagents in the station, the experience has left me quite seriously annoyed.

First off all, these newsagents has three shops in the station and somehow have failed to get it right for all sorts of reasons.

A Knock Off

For the want of controversy, AKO [Source: AKO.nl - Online boeken bestellen – In Dutch, the online site of the store] which prides itself as the best bookshop in the Netherlands seems to be failing in its prime purpose at Amsterdam Central Station.

It is almost unimaginable that at 8:00AM in the thick of the rush hour the all the newspapers are yet to be stacked up, at the most accessible store at the East side of the station, half the papers are still on the trolley in cellophane wrapping and chance has it that the one I want is in the pile.

One can go to the West side but the queues are just interminably long, with much more variety, the choices are their to keep you there for longer than it healthy for your heart; further down near Platform 14, the papers are staked up but the price scanner cannot read the barcode, forget the queues, they are long too.

Poor staff management

It is absolute chaos at times, as you find staff that should be at the tills doing other things around the shop and the queues stretch out into the concourse – I would presume the customers have another hour before their train.

In my case, I only have minutes and by the time one has walked to perimeter of the station for what should have been available 10 metres from the entrance of the station, one is almost running for the train – it is utterly beyond the pale.

The other day, they put a greenhorn on the till, he spent minutes charging the wrong price and giving out excess change along with his obvious state of discomfiture, I heard enough of the Dutch in the customer’s frustration when he cursed about how they could have put an inexperienced lad on the tills in the rush-hour.

I do wonder if these stores realise that people who pick up a newspaper really have no time for food parcel queues – in fact, I have seen setups in London where on trust people are able to use a paper dispenser, saving time for them to catch their trains with dignity.

Today, it was the Platform 14 store, a queue 10 deep and just one till available whilst the other staff were stacking shelves with non-essentials, I just could not wait 10 or more minutes to pay for the paper so I put it back.

They can sort this thing out

I am incensed that I ended up having to travel an hour without my paper just because there are three shops in the station that cannot seem to be managed properly with a clear knowledge of their setting.

These shops probably have to open earlier to stack up their shelves in time, they definitely need to have staff manning all the available tills in the rush-hours, the greenhorns should only do the quiet hours, in the meantime they can be stacking shelves if necessary and the prices of all major international newspapers should appear on a price board, just in case the scanner cannot decipher the barcode.

Thankfully, I am not the regional manager of that group of stores, else a good few heads included mine might have rolled for what is just gross incompetence and the lack of attention to the possibility that customer impatience could have lost them a good deal of business.

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