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The Kroger Chronicles, No. 6: Satisfaction
Hey, how ya doing?

Written on every Kroger paystub are these words to ponder: “Highly Satisfied Customers Made This Check Possible.” A grocery can’t survive on one-time visitors. The store must satisfy people so highly that they call the place my Kroger – they come back not just for the weekly food dragnet but for their morning coffee runs, their kids’ birthdays, their Super Bowl parties.

I’m holding my paycheck and thinking about Donald Lambert, a warhorse of the Ohio University j-school, who would begin the 101 class with this head-scratcher: What is the purpose of a newspaper? Shiny-eyed cub reporters bubbled with all the answers. To inform! To educate! To entertain! Lambert just smiled and kept shaking his head, no, no, no. The purpose of a newspaper is to make money, he said, and don’t forget it.

Of course, I promptly did. I never heard anyone in a newsroom say “customer service” without air quotes. Journalism has a complicated relationship with “customers” – some pay the real freight by buying ad space, and some chip in with subscriptions. In the fat times, newspapers merrily gnawed on the feeding hands. Amid this killing famine, newspapers are trying to figure out how to make money again. 

Kroger, the biggest traditional grocer in the nation, never forgets about making money. Since grocery is a mind exercise on meeting needs and creating wants, the company owns a sweeping corporate psychology about customer service. Managers distribute daily worksheets on how the departments achieved overall customer satisfaction. Even my freaking paycheck reminds me.

This Sunday will be bigger that usual, and not just because of the inevitable Super Bowl guacamole crises. Kroger is detonating an amped-up customer-service campaign with fresh in-store signage and splashy cross-platform ads. Plus, all clerks now must to wear a new uniform top — a Kroger blue T-shirt that says on the front, in huge letters, SO GLAD YOU'RE HERE.



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Double Duty / Crossed Purposes

Sometimes I go to Kroger just to stand around near the racks just inside the doors, reading the newspapers for free.  Now if I could only get them to bring me a large, free-of-charge coffee, I'd be hitting the Trifecta, eh?