Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Grocery Store Experience

“Could you swing by the store and grab milk on your way home?” is a phrase that you will never hear in Colombia. Not because Colombians don’t go to the store or because they don’t drink milk but because it is a near impossibility to “swing by” the store. That phrase implies a quick in and out, grab the one thing you need, make a beeline to the “under 10 items” register, and you’re out of there. Five minutes max. In Colombia, or in Medellin at least, or in my neighborhood at the very least, going to the store is a full event of a proportion that requires it be penciled into your day planner.

It’s the checkout lines that get you. There is absolutely no sense of urgency among the workers, regardless of how long the line snaking away from their register is. If you’re unlucky the shift change will happen while you’re waiting and could take up to ten minutes. Alternatively, every single person in front of you could be paying their bills as well as buying groceries, doubling the number of transactions required. And heaven help you if a manager is needed. I saw a couple the other day who had the right idea for relieving the annoyance of waiting - they were casually drinking a yet-to-be-purchased beer while in line!

There is, however, a marked difference between the service at Carrefour, Makro, and Exito. Carrefour is a French chain, I think Makro is Dutch, and Exito is Colombian. Colombia seems to have a whole different spin on CSR that is much more involved and effective than what I have observed in India and the US. They go to great lengths to improve the lives of their employees, including helping everyone to buy their own houses. It’s understandable that benefits like this would make employees much more invested in their work.

Another local chain that takes an active role in improving the lives of its employees is Crepes & Waffles. This chain of restaurants only employs single mothers and assists them with schooling, housing, and other investments that help them to support themselves and lead stable lives. The types of CSR practiced by Exito and Crepes & Waffles seem much more admirable to me than large US corporations who might organize a day volunteering at the local food bank or planting trees once every few months.

1 comment:

  1. your writings enable me to explore worlds without leaving home...and that is a very good thing from my perspective....thank you! Mary