Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Empty shelves and demographics

Not the Highrise shelves. They are bulging. The apparent neatness of the Highrise does not extend to the inside of the pantry.

But when we shopped on Saturday, Prahran Coles supermarket shelves were rather empty of their promised specials. As R's bathroom is also the public bathroom in the Highrise, he likes it to look smart. Shampoo and conditioner bottles must be the same brand, bottle shape and colour. His shampoo was on special for $3 off. Marvellous. But the conditioner was not there, evidently sold out, which seemed odd at 9.30 am on a Saturday morning.

At about 9.40 I noticed my soap, Cussons Imperial Leather, was on on special too and I needed some. Empty shelf again.

9.45, Schweppes soda water is on special for $1 a bottle, soda water being an essential for watering down the Highriser wine. You guessed it, none on the shelf.

Coles are so busy pushing their own in house brand, they are seriously neglecting what their customers want. The one we used to buy, Kirks, has disappeared altogether. I really don't believe that the shelves emptied of Schweppes between when the shelf stackers left overnight and 9.30 in the morning.

But with a Woolworths adjacent, we were not powerless and bought the missing products there, although settling for a lesser quality soda water and an entirely different brand of shampoo and conditioner. My soap was in plentiful supply, and cheaper, even if I did have to buy twelve cakes.

Unexpectedly, in the afternoon we popped into Coles at Caulfield for a cake to take when we were visiting a friend and there was a plentiful supply of soda water. Too late for us. (we don't normally take supermarket cakes when visiting, but time was not on our side.

Patrons of Coles in Caulfield, mostly overseas students, seem to not care for soda water, whereas the inner suburban lushes latte set seem to consume rather a lot of it.

Some of you will know the delightful checkout chick River. Perhaps she can explain why shelves are empty at such an early hour.

My guess is that it is management incompetence, perhaps under estimating the required stock or higher management still, not supplying enough stock. Regardless, it is very annoying. ABI Brother who visits the supermarket almost daily, would have taken a rain check. We did not have the time to muck around.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    If you find life somewhat tricky in your neck of the woods, try a little time in The Motherland. National Shortages as we refer to them are a daily occurrence, so much so that we only decide what we shall have to eat when we are facing the items on the butcher's slab, on the market stall or on the shelves. Life is more interesting this way we tell ourselves. After all, a change is as good as a rest!!!

  2. Maybe Coles' strategy is to advertise specials that draw you to their store but are not actually available on the assumption that shoppers will purchase other items instead that they have marked up?

  3. I've found you have to be out and about way before 9.30 am if you want to buy specials. I suspect that Victors comment could be spot on :-).

  4. "the inner suburban latte set". Oh yes, I know them well! Tree hugging, feminist, socialist, membership in the Labour Party, only one car, tram enthusiasts, exactly 2 children who go to excellent government schools and a black or golden labrador. That is me, and everyone of my friends :)

  5. I lurve Kirks, bugger the Big Two, I'm happy to hunt down the stuff we need at little independent shops, for only a few cents more (or Aldi), and buy the bare minimum at those Big monopolisers.

  6. I could not buy a single box of matches, no matter the brand, at Coles. That was on Friday. I needed them for Tomas to pack in his kit bag for his bivouac that he attended. I thought it weird, and, like you say, alot of shelves were empty in many aisles.

  7. JayLa, most interesting. Can I clarify that you are talking about Hungary rather than England where there we never noticed a shortage.

    Victor, they are drawcard specials, their favourite being Helgas bread. We know if we can't get two loaves of Helgas in Coles for $6, they will be available in Woolworths. Where their is strong competition as where we shop, these marketing ploys don't work so well. I will still go for incompetence.

    Windsmoke, is that why old people who have all day to shop, are at the supermarket at 7.30 am?

    Hels, the laugh is on us with our very comfortable lifestyles while the bitter think they are insulting us with what we take with pride.

    Jayne, I wonder who makes Kirks? There was still Kirks softdrink on the shelves, just not mixer drinks.

    Lordy Cazzie. How is a lad on a camp supposed to light his sneaky ciggies without matches?

  8. @Victor; that's an illegal practice and we don't do it.
    @Cazzie; we have the same problem with matches often being unavailable. No idea why.
    Possibly because most people buy a lighter.

    Andrew, all I can say is that Coles opens at 6am and the closer we get to Christmas, the faster things sell out early. In the case of the soda water, many companies, as well as private persons, buy up big when that's on special, to use in their upcoming Christmas festivities. The soap? Not a clue. Although it is a popular inclusion in many gift baskets.
    I could advise that you phone your store before going in and check if they have the items and maybe have them set aside the numbers you require. Again, even to me, that seems excessive and you shouldn't have to do that.
    Go back on a day when you have time and speak to the manager about your concerns. There is also a feedback form available where you can write your complaints, that gets sent to head office.

  9. P.S. Rainchecks are a good idea, but not much good if the item you want is for that very day. The promise of cheap soda water next Wednesday is no good when you want it last Saturday.

  10. River, limits per customers might an idea that should be brought back.

    I am sure management would be very soothing if I spoke them and explain, apologise and perhaps even compensate, but it really isn't the point of my whinge. I want things to just work. A friend makes it his business to complain to all and sundry, including supermarkets where he often summons the manager. He gets results and nice pay offs, but that is not me. We generally shop once a week, on Saturday morning. Yes, we need the soda water for this week, and the soap. It is not particularly about the money, but not being able to immediately get what we want because it is not there. We are fortunate to have an alternative, the nearby Woolworths, or even the bit further away Aldi. Regardless, thanks for your response. I was in another Coles today, Balaclava, and they had plenty of soda water. Maybe I should speak to the manager at Prahran. I will be in the area tomorrow.

  11. ooh Aldi do a cracking soda water @ 73 cents a bottle. I got 10 last time I was there, I'm down to 2!

  12. Cheapest ever Fen.

  13. My explanation is that the Big TWO aren't actually about customer service, despite almost certain protestations to the contrary. It's still about profit, so the trend is towards only stocking the fast moving products. And while what Victor suggests may well be illegal, a variation where there's only a few of the 'special' product so most customers who want it have to buy another brand - like the homebrand - wouldn't surprise me.

    Foodland/IGA/independents generally get my business! Often local products, meaning WAAAY lower 'food miles' if that's important to you!

  14. Red, business by definition is about profit. It's just that some do it with a bit of style. We don't actually have convenient smaller stores. Bring back SSW I reckon.