Customers hoping to pick up a bargain at Masters Home Improvement stores are using to complain about poor customer service and disgruntled staff as the hardware chain’s fire sale gets underway.
The retailer is looking to sell of $700 million worth of stock after owner Woolworths announced last month it plans all stores to close before December 11 this year.
Woolworths’ decision to exit the home improvement space has been marked with controversy, including an ongoing dispute with its partner Lowe’s, but now bargain-hunting customers are taking to social media to vent about unhelpful staff members and chaos on the floor of Masters stores.
The complaints included staff members being unable to clarify available stock and final prices, ignoring customers and snapping when shoppers asked for assistance.
“It’s no wonder you are closing down when your staff are to busy holding their own conversations and really can’t be bothered actually doing their job,” complained one shopper on Facebook.
“I guess that’s why Bunnings isn’t closing down!”
Others were upset that when they asked for clarification on sales tickets and final prices, staff were abrupt or slow to clarify information where the ticketed price of an item didn’t match up with the price at the checkout.
“Was actually told that “the customer is not always right,’” said another customer, who said they got into an argument with a staff member after the item they wanted to purchase scanned through as several hundred dollars more than the ticket price when they got to the register.
What happens to staff morale when a business is closing?
At the end of August Woolworths signalled its exit from the hardware sector with a promise to “work hard to find Masters employees jobs within the Group, or [paying] full redundancy where suitable roles are not available”.
Keeping staff morale up when an operation closes is one of the toughest tasks in running a business, says Ben Watts, director at wattsnext HR.
“When people know there is an end date, we find there needs to be a reason for employees to get through to the end,” Watts says.
“The best case scenario is to get on the front foot. There’s an ethical reason to make sure employees are part of it all.”
For smaller operations, communication about end dates, redundancy packages and any bonuses that are tied to final performance is key to keeping employees calm and seeing the end in sight, says Watts.
“There might even be the option to get overtime while they’re selling or during the transition. Often it’s actually in the best interests of the employee to stay through to the redundancy payment.”
Intercept Consulting HR specialist Louise Jensen says employers should help their workers focus on the next steps to keep them motivated on their careers after the end date of the business.
“If [employees] know that you’re willing for them to take the next step, they know you’re not saying ‘you’re going to work really hard through this period with no next steps’,” she told SmartCompany.
“If you allow those next steps and perhaps have an end bonus in place, that will help.”
Giving staff members time off to look for their next role may discourage them from delivering sub-standard service while they serve out a notice period.
“By giving them time off for interviews, you’re still enabling them the opportunity to look ahead,” says Jensen.
Shoppers at Masters also expressed their sympathy for employees over the weekend, acknowledging the stress on remaining staff members, particularly those charged to meet and greet customers and hold sale signs outside Masters stores.
“Hope they don’t catch pneumonia, but as long as it helps you clear your excess stock, that’s the main thing!” said one shopper who saw staff members cowering in the rain while holding a ‘closing down’ sale sign.
Masters responded to this complaint with assurances they would follow up. “We will certainly pass this on for you to management so that this is investigated,” a representative replied.
SmartCompany contacted Woolworths for comment on sale’s progress and was told there was nothing more to share on the movement of stock at this time.