Monday, September 01, 2014

Loblaws Logistics Issues Continue

O'Tasty dumplings advertisement from Loblaws Flyer.
In their weekly flyer starting starting Friday August 22nd, Loblaws advertised for sale O'Tasty Dumplings.  The advertised price of $2.98 on page 8 of their flyer seemed like decent deal.  My wife and I even planned to visit Alirang Restaurant on Nelson Street in Ottawa which happens to be just up from a Loblaws store at 363 Rideau Street (at Nelson Street).

Seemed pretty simple enough, enjoy Korean food at Alirang and then venture the nearby Loblaws for grocery shopping.  Everything went off without a hitch until we tried looking for O'Tasty Dumplings.  There was sign on the back bunker freezer showing the sale price but nothing below.   We even inquired with one of the frozen food workers who double checked.  Nothing, but the truck may have something come Monday if it was ordered, perhaps. No worries, we had other stores to visit over the weekend and we could perhaps pick them up.  Add in the fact that Loblaws' sister banner, Your Independent Grocer, had the same dumplings for $2.99 and all would be in order.

Saturday we were headed to Costco, but were able to stop off at Gloucester Shopping Centre to visit the Loblaws there (1980 Ogilvie Road).  Nothing, just a sign with no product just like the Rideau Street location.  We asked one of the ladies who worked in the frozen food section.  She said they had nothing and weren't expecting any in for the rest of the week.

Sunday rolls around and I make 3 more attempts.  The first is McDonah's Independent Grocer at Billings Bridge Mall (2277 Riverside Drive).  No space for the dumplings on the floor.  So I ask one of the guys working the floor.  He double checks with the head stockperson who double checks the back.  Just as they both thought, the store doesn't carry the product normally and doesn't order any.    I continue south on Bank Street to the Loblaws at South Keys Shopping Centre where things really get interesting.

First I start off in the frozen foods section checking all the bunkers as I had previously found the spots for the dumplings at the Loblaws Rideau and Gloucester Centre locations with nothing to show for it.  I asked one of he workers standing nearby inventorying batteries figuring she could help locating and possibly telling me if they have any in stock.  No way, she said I should consult with the deli area as they have tofu and other items.  I ventured over to the deli area and perused that area.  I ended up inquiring with one of the employees in that area who looked at me strangely and said it should be in the frozen food area.  I replied I had been there and was told to come here.  She suggested I try the meat department.  The three butchers working the meat department have no idea and start laughing when I told them my travails from frozen food to deli and back to them.  I head to customer service for one last attempt.

The Customer Service counter is understandably busy with customers doing returns and lottery tickets. I patiently wait until it's my turn and explain the gentleman of my issue.  He looks puzzled as he reviews the flyer. I politely ask if the store manager is available,  Mr. Hatoum is paged and arrives. I go through my story of trying to get the dumplings advertised at his and the other stores overseen by Loblaws Company's Limited. Mr. Hatoum explained he's always running into this issue with Loblaws advertising these products which his store doesn't carry.  He pointed out the Toronto area doesn't have an issue with this as there is a large enough population to go through the inventory.  He agrees to order a few boxes of the product and that I should ask customer service for a rain check.   Mr. Hatoum returns in the direction of his office and I receive a rain check.

Loblaws Rain Check
On the way out of the South Keys Loblaws store, I try calling Loblaws Customer Service using the number on the back of the flyer.  Not surprisingly, Loblaws Customer Service is only open Monday to Friday 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Later that evening, I make one last effort.  I visit Loblaws at 100 McArthur Road (Vanier Parkway & McArthur Road).  I do the usual walk around of the frozen food bunker with nothing to be found.  I find lady who works there and explain my situation.  She smiles and explains that this happens quite often at this store.  There is a promotion on dumplings or some other item the store doesn't carry.  A shipment comes in pretty well at the end of the flyer period.  The store is left with a bunch of product that they don't normally carry and have nothing to do with it as they can no longer sell it at the normal price.  I leave the store laughing at Loblaws continue issues with logistics. It was at least 5 years ago Loblaws Head Office was forced to cancel store conversions and expansions due to troubles with their logistical issues.  Apparently, the problems continued now with items on promotion in a major Canadian city over 5 locations and maybe more.

Later that day, I visit Loblaws on Facebook.  I notice lots of promotions celebrating their 95 birthday.  I leave a message about visiting 4 Loblaws Company Limited (LCL) stores and leave a message there explaining what I ran into.

Tuesday rolls around and Loblaws replies asking which store I normally shop at.  I reply the Rideau Street location.

August the 29th happens and Loblaws replies again stating the Rideau Street Store has successfully received three cases.  I inquire if Loblaws was willing to honour the pricing in the flyer.  Loblaws declined the price as the flyer dates had expired but if I "PM" them, they would take care of it.

In the Personal Message (PM), Loblaws offered a $5 gift card if I provided my address.  I replied that I would prefer a phone call on Tuesday from a Loblaws Head Office Manager to discuss the situation of the obvious false advertising for a product they never had adequate supply in the Ottawa area.  I, of course, posted my results to the Facebook page conversation to keep others notified of Loblaw's advertising practices.

On Saturday. I inquired about the supply at the Loblaws South Keys store in a message on Facebook.  Loblaws never replied.  So Saturday August 30th I called the Loblaws South Keys to check in on the status of the dumpling supply. I ended up in phone hell going around and round through the choice of options.  Firts and second times trying to go to Customer Service counter that only looped me back.  Third tried Management and that looped me back again.  Somehow, somewhere, someone took pity on my and the   the lady at customer service picked up and offered immediately to transfer me to the freezer section.  I protested not wanting to repeat my visit by being passed around incessantly by employees who thought it was someone else's department.  I eventually spoke to the Store's Assistant Manager as the Store Manager, Mr. Hatoum, was on a conference call.  The Assistant Store Manager put me on hold and, 2 minutes later, a "Dave" picked up.  I asked if they had found the dumplings, put on hold again.  The Assistant Store Manager picked up again and said they had some.  I inquired how many, they said about 4 cases and they would be in the main freezer and I should ask for the Grocery Manager named Riley.

That afternoon, I visited the store and went straight to Customer Service.  The lady behind the counter took my Rain Check and proceeded to ask if I had checked the back bunker before coming to customer service.  I replied that the Assistant Store Manager had asked me to come to straight to customer service and ask for Grocery Manager named Riley.  She paged the Grocery Manager and we waited.  Her cohort behind the counter did the same a 2nd and third time.  Eventually Riley returned the call and brought forth 4 cases of dumplings.  Finally, after a Loblaws head office and store runaround I had my dumplings.  I, of course, updated that Loblaws South Keys finally resolved the dumpling need. But an explanation was needed as to why this occurred.

Of amusement is the written promise on the Loblaws South Keys Rain Check:

Loblaws policy has always been to provide sufficient merchandise to cover advertised specials. This item was subject to a greater demand than we anticipated. Please accept this rain check with our apologies.

So Loblaws Head Office, as the policy would suggest, believed almost nobody at these particular stores would be looking for this advertised product?  Even worse, three out of the five stores don't even carry this product normally and yet had it in their flyer for their store.  Perhaps Loblaws Head Office management needs to review this apparently long standing policy to ensure that "sufficient merchandise| is available "to cover advertised specials" because I highly doubt there was "greater demand" than anticipated.  There was demand but it was for a product that was simply not available.

Now all there is left is a phone call from Loblaws Head Office Management on Tuesday to explain why their logistical department failed to deliver an advertised product. It will be interesting to find out how 2 grocery flyers, which are generally printed at least 6 weeks in advance, were distributed to homes with an advertised item knowingly not in stock.  I wait with amusement at what excuse I'll be told by management as to why either stores were not properly stocked before the flyer hit the door steps and why there wasn't a listing of stores that carried the product like I had witnessed before in the Toronto area.  It really should be amusing how Loblaws management stick-handles this logistical dumpling issue.

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