On Wednesday I wanted to buy a new pair of jeans. I knew which jeans I wanted and where to buy them but I only had half an hour. How hard could it be? I just had to call into Gap in Belfast, go to the correct section in the shop, find my size, take them to the counter and pay for them. The answer is very hard. The shop was a mess. This often happens when sales are on. The clothes are no longer in any sensible order and everything looks discarded but after about five minutes of looking I did find them. I took them to the counter. Fifteen minutes later I was still standing at the counter. It was lunchtime and there were lots of people in the shop. They weren’t buying anything though. They couldn’t. There were only two tills open and nothing was happening. When I joined the queue there was one person in front of me. Standing in the queue highlighted one reason why the shop was a mess. As no-one was able to pay for anything they started to leave the queue, drop the clothes on a table and walk out.
The problem was caused by their new chip and pin system. It was taking around seven minutes for each step in the process. I could probably have coped with this but the staff were not friendly nor were they apologetic. At one point another member of staff had wandered over to ask what on earth was going on. She was told that the system was running slowly. She suggested overriding the system so that the customers could get served. But the two girls working on the tills refused to do this claiming that they weren’t supposed to do it that way. It didn’t matter to them that customers were walking out of the shop after dropping the clothes they were going to buy. After waiting twenty five minutes I realised that they had rang up the order for the one person in front of me incorrectly and that they were going to have to go through the whole process again. I asked if there was any chance that I would get served in the next ten minutes but didn’t get any sort of satisfactory response. I had lunch to eat and a plane to catch so I left the jeans on a table and walked out without buying them.
This experience made me never want to go into Gap again. Not because I had to stand in a queue but because the people working there didn’t care that their system wasn’t working well. I would have felt sorry for the girls serving if they had looked as if they cared or if there had been nothing at all that they could do about it. But once I heard that they could have served me but weren’t willing to change their process I just felt angry.
On Wednesday evening whilst standing outside New Street Station in Birmingham my niece pointed out that we were facing a Gap. She wanted me to go and buy the jeans. I really didn’t want to do this as I was planning on meeting friends and wanted to be in good form. But Rachel went on about how the jeans I was wearing were too big and didn’t look good. She suggested again that if I didn’t buy new jeans maybe I could wear her skirt. The prospect of wearing a short flouncey white skirt filled me with more dread than shopping in Gap so I agreed to give it a go.
You wouldn’t have believed it was the same chain. They had the same clothes and the same sale but the similarities ended there. I still spent more than five minutes finding the jeans I wanted. But that was because a member of staff had come over to help me and was discussing the various options available for me in my size. When I went to the counter to pay there wasn’t anyone around but within seconds someone had rushed over to the desk and apologised to me for my wait! They took my card and the whole transaction was completed in a matter of minutes. The person who served me was polite and friendly.
When I go shopping I don’t want to be bothered by the problems that are facing staff working in the store. Gap isn’t just selling jeans it’s selling a lifestyle. Their web site tells me that wearing their clothes will set the tone for success. Maybe instead of the expensive ad campaigns they should spend some time explaining to their employees just what that means.