Love In The Time of Woolworths


Over the holidays I went to Woollies in the city to pay some bills. A sweet, romantic scene played out in front of me that made everybody in the queue smile, and then not. I’ll just copy/paste the letter I posted on their Facebook wall, to give you the details:

Dear Woolworths,

We went to the pay point next to the shoe section (closest to the St George’s Mall entrance) and stood in the queue.

As we waited, a handsome young man entered from the ‘out’ end of the queue and presented one of the lovely young ladies working at the tills with a big bunch of roses. I think her name is Andisa.

Those of us in the queue all smiled. What a joy to be witness to such a sweet, romantic gesture. Unfortunately, the smiling young lady was refusing – extremely politely and very professionally – to accept his gift.

All of us were urging her to accept the flowers, until we were told by the supervisor that the staff are not allowed to accept any gifts from customers. She was just obeying the rules, in the most gracious way.

We had, in the meantime, reached the front of the queue (all the ladies working were very efficiently continuing ringing up people’s purchases throughout) and the young gentleman – still trying to hand over the flowers – had run out of time.

Handing them to me, he smiled charmingly and asked that I make sure she get them, turning and leaving me holding the beautiful flowers.

The supervisor by this stage had called the manager and they were trying to decide what to do and going to check that the flowers had been paid for and such. We, too, had by then paid and needed to catch a train, so had to leave before the manager got back. I assumed the beepy door thing would go off if the flowers weren’t paid for and informed the (also lovely) security guard that we weren’t sure. We left without incident and tried to make our own plan to ensure that the flowers were received by their rightful owner.

While I understand the need for rules and regulations regarding staff accepting gifts, should you not allow there to be a teeny tiny loophole that allows a stranger to hand over a bunch of flowers to someone he admires, in full view of an appreciative audience? The world that we live in can be a pretty hard place, we need more giving of flowers and gestures of love!

Please note that this is not a complaint against any of the staff yesterday, all of whom acted professionally and within your rules. This is a complaint against those rules.

Please, Woollies, let the love through.

Thank you, and here’s to a 2016 filled with more loving gestures,

My mail on Facebook was met with the generic ‘Please inbox us your details so we can “escalate” this query’, showing a complete disregard for what I’d said, and making me wonder if they’d even read it. I duly sent my e-mail address and a couple of days later received this:

Thank you for your feedback regarding Andisa and the flowers.

Although it was a beautiful gesture of gratitude, Woolworths employees are however not permitted to accept any gifts from customers, monetary or otherwise. The practice of accepting gifts can lead to other activities that has a negative impact on our business, staff and customers.

We do have an instore recognition progamme, the CARE (Create A Rare Experience) awards, which celebrates our staff for going the extra mile. Be assured that Andisa’scommitment to her customers and the Woolworths brand has not gone unnoticed and she too has been nominated to receive a CARE award.

Thank you for your valued feedback, feedback from our customers are what fuels us on our good business journey.

Blergh. Jargon, jargon, corporate schmaltz.

To say my heart sank is an understatement. What’s happened to the world, that sweet gestures like these, in full view of both customers and supervisors, have to met with rejection? In their place we are offered ‘recognition programmes’ with twee acronyms. It’s just bloody sad. And extremely foolish of Woolworths, who could so easily have turned this interaction into an amazing, feel-good, free marketing exercise.

The world needs more flowers, more admiration, more love, more kindness. I’ll be spending 2016 aiming for those, and spending less and less time (and money) in the company of big corporates who have lost their hearts.

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