How to Piss of and Annoy your Customers

I’ve stayed in the central part of Kuala Lumpur for almost 10 years and one thing that is sorely lacking in that area is descent super markets.  There’s a few “Giant” (OK for canned stuff but not for anything else), a “Cold Storage” (which is OK but severely overpriced and I get claustrophobic in their KLCC branch), “Mercato” (new kid on the block and probably the best one now) and then there is “Isetan” in Lot 10.

For years, Isetan has been the best option and for years it has been going steadily downhill – downhill to a point where it’s becoming a bad joke.

One example is their “Non Halal” section.  For some utterly bizarre reason they insist on wrapping all their food in some rather ungreased grease paper.  I don’t know what kind of discount product they are using, but the result is that after 12 hours in the fridge, the paper has dissolved into a rather nasty pulp that is sticking to the meat.  I have for years pointed this out to the Chinese lady that usually take care of that part of the shop but they are still using exactly the same paper, and I still avoid buying anything there that isn’t shrink wrapped.

But by far the biggest problem is their bakery.

When they do have bread it is actually one of the better bakeries in Malaysia – as in their baguettes actually last more than a few hours and they are almost acceptable the next day.  Unfortunately they don’t seem very keen on selling any and mostly their shelves look like this:

They seem to have two modes of operation.  If I go there before – say 2 in the afternoon (the above pictures were taken at 12:30), without exception they will have bread in “half an hour”.  If I decide to go later – say around 5pm, the shelves are equally empty and they have “sold out” (with no plan to restock).  I am NOT joking here – they appear to have a random window of about an hour or so, sometimes in the afternoon, where the bakery actually sell freshly baked bread. I think I see fresh bread there one out of 10 times I pass by and that is NEVER in the morning and NEVER in the evening.  And this problem have been steadily getting worse over the past few years.  4-5 years back (before the renovation) they usually had bread at all times, these days – almost never.

Typically when buying groceries one has got quite a lot to carry and it is damn annoying to have to go somewhere else.  I’ve had situations where I had shopped for a nice salad only to find that there was no bread available whatsoever.

The result of this is obvious.  I have started to go to Mercato instead.  Their bread is not nearly as good as it was in Isetan (back when they still bothered to make any) but they are always well stocked and I never had to leave the shop without what I intended to buy.

I find it difficult to get my head around this ridiculous business practice.  Sure, no shop like to throw out food that has gone bad, but flour is about RM 1.50 pr. kg and there’s probably what – 150 gram in a baguette.  If Isetan lose ONE customer on this practice (and they have mostly lost me and I have seen other people complain about it) they already lost more than if they had to throw out 10 baguettes a day (and surely they could find better use for them before they expire).  On their website, they have the nerve to write:

“Isetan’s ‘customer first’ guiding principal is embodied in all aspects of our services”

I am sorry but this is  absolutely ridiculous – surely they mean “customer last”.  As obvious from the experience I have described, Isetan couldn’t care less about their customers – all they wish is to save a few bucks and run the operation as cheap as humanly possible, no matter how badly it hurts the quality of their products and their service.

I have send the link to this blog entry to Isetan in Malaysia (through their web-site) and the holding company in Japan (also through their web-site) and any reaction or lack thereof will be added here.

Update Jul. 20, 2011

As mentioned, I did use the contact form on their web-site, but obviously this “customer first” company couldn’t be bothered to send me a reply.  Absolutely useless and non-existent customer service, which is a bit of a surprise considering Isetan is Japanese and the Japanese usually take customer interaction quite serious.

Oh – and their web-site hasn’t been updated since 2009 and it has been hacked quite badly (try to click on the Facebook logo).  Amateurs!