Dear Mr. Green:
Perhaps you have noticed the ubiquity of fast-food restaurants and online shopping in contemporary America. I attribute the ever-increasing popularity of such business to their undeniable and unbeatable convenience.
I was thinking these things while waiting in the checkout line during my most recent visit to your Hobby Lobby store here in Lafayette.
I am a former online craft shopper. For the past 5 years, I have bought all of my art supplies (ranging from epoxy resin, to frames, to watercolors, to plaster, to paper, etc.) from DickBlick.com. Recently, however, I have ventured into our local Hobby Lobby quite a few times. Although your stores are more expensive than online competitors, I have enjoyed strolling through the aisles physically, as opposed to my past web-surfing searches for supplies. There is something about being amidst all of these potentials for creativity.
However, as I mentioned above, modern America has become accustomed to fast, convenient, and quality service. I, being a Generation-X American, have also grown to expect that businesses should notice flaws in their design, and should sustain a certain level of customer satisfaction. They should monitor store regularities, and design their business strategies around them. They should foresee potential dissatisfactions. Furthermore, they should pursue solutions before these problems arise. At a recent lecture, a professor reiterated a statement he had heard from an incredibly successful Japanese businessman: “Problem solvers are easy to find. But problem finders, that’s who you need around when you’re running a business.”
From what I understand, Mr. Green, you, not unlike the aforementioned Japanese businessman, are quite sharp and successful. I am also aware of the fact that you even wrote a book about how to be successful in business. I learned this while I was waiting in the checkout aisle at your store.
I haven’t read your book, but I doubt that it mentions cutting down on cost by understaffing stores. It seems to me that if you’d bother to take up the construction space to have 12 registers, that you would have cashiers at more than two of them. Likewise, if you were going to have an entire department set aside for framing, there may be at least three or four employees working in that area (or at least more than what appears to me to be one employee). However, I must also mention here that I have always had impeccable service in the fabrics department, and have never ventured to have a fake flower arrangement. So I am not at liberty to offer complaints about those areas of service. It is also worth mentioning that the staff that I have interacted with have always, in all departments of the store, been incredibly helpful and pleasant. I have no qualms about the quality of the employees. Perhaps it makes it even worse that such nice people are having such overwhelming responsibilities due to the understaffing.
These things went through my mind as I waited in the Hobby Lobby checkout line during my latest visit.
I watched the cashier scan and wrap each of the items from a customer’s two carts full of glass products. I noticed that the registers at Hobby Lobby are far more archaic than any others I have seen in the past two decades. Perhaps if the registers were a bit more modern, they would be able to store the time and date of each transaction. Perhaps, then, the regional management could monitor these transactions. As I waited in line, I thought, “Then maybe they would have noticed that there are always back-to-back customers at these times. Maybe they would have noticed that it might be much more convenient to open up those other nine registers in this store, and maybe I wouldn’t have been standing here with all of these things in my hands, waiting for at least 45 minutes to be on my way…”
Then, another thought occurred to me. As much as I needed to be on my way, and as much of a hindrance the customers ahead of me were being with all of their vases and plates and trays, I couldn’t blame them for taking so long to check out. Indeed, every time I have ever been to Hobby Lobby, I have had to wait in line for at least 30 minutes. Certainly, this must be an integral Hobby Lobby problem. I glanced around me. There were at least seven customers behind me. In the other (now two) aisles, there were at least ten or fifteen people in each of them. And one of those lanes was for customer service and returns. Instead of getting angry or becoming increasingly frustrated, I began to recount my thoughts that I had had while waiting in the checkout line.
I then constructed this entire letter. To recount: there, in your store, I had all of these thoughts. Then, I re-thought them. Then, I composed a mental letter. Then, I waited in line another ten minutes.
When I got to the cashier, she apologized because she had needed to wrap all of the glass items. I told her that it really didn’t make any difference to me, because it is always like that when I shop at Hobby Lobby. She and the seven or so customers behind me agreed. You almost always have to wait forever to checkout at Hobby Lobby. No quick trips to pick up some Elmer’s. It may be faster to revert back to DickBlick. If I had said it loud enough, I’m sure that the long, winding line of customers at the two other aisles would have also nodded in agreement.
This brings me to my final observation that I would like to share with you. Many of your customers are elderly. Elderly people often have trouble and discomfort standing for such long periods of time. If you don’t change this policy for me or at the threat of loss of business, please do it for that little old lady who just wants to knit her granddaughter a blanket.