Every time I walk into a Fred Meyer store I am reminded of the power of the consumer.
Now, I’m not a huge consumer advocate type of guy. I don’t go out of my way to complain. I think I’ve sent a total of one meal back at a restaurant in my entire life. Hey, if I order it and I don’t like it, whose fault is that? Anyway, back to Fred Meyer.
In the late 90’s the Fred Meyer location at Northwest 20th and Burnside went through a major renovation. Everything was replaced and redesigned.
This is where Bruce had to go to work.
Y’see, they replaced the shopping baskets. The traditional rectangular baskets with the two fold out handles. The ones that work really, really well. The ones that many of the people that live in the neighborhood and walk to and from the store use to buy a day or two worth of groceries.
Well, FM tried to fix them.
They replaced every shopping basket in the store with an ergonomic, stacking basket. Shaped like a kidney bean it had a plastic handle that was attached right in the middle of the basket. They sure looked fancy and they were easy to carry. Hugged right to your hip.
But you couldn’t fit anything of any size in them. At it's widest, the floor of the basket had maybe 3.5 inches of space and it flared out to a wider opening at the top. What’s the use for a basket that can’t hold a half-gallon of milk standing upright? Or a head of lettuce? It was absurd.
I immediately used the power of the internet and got a note in to the Manager of the store. I explained the problem and asked him to resupply the traditional baskets.
I received a pretty quick reply from him (within one day) and he let me know that he had checked out my concerns and that they were bringing in a stock of traditional baskets that afternoon.
I went to the store and, lo and behold, rectangular baskets. They kept the kidney bean ergo-baskets around for a few months, but nobody ended up using them.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So that’s my one standout consumer action story. One that actually had an impact on people doing their daily business. Small scale? I suppose. But it had to be done.
Do you have an advocate story? I’d love to hear it.