Shoppers complain of “absolutely disgusting” customer service at Masters fire sale: How to maintain staff morale in a closing business

Masters – A failure of corporate governance?

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.

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James
James
4 years ago

For once I’m in agreement with the social media masses – the computer pricing system was completely stuffed and none of the tags matched computer pricing, most of the items I bought still didn’t even come with the discount applied and none of the staff knew how to override prices, the store had only put on the normal number of checkout operators for the hundreds of customers, etc. It was a shemozzle!

K
K
4 years ago
Reply to  James

I have no comment on the pricing, but with regards to staffing. We are running on skeleton crew as that is all we have left. Most staff have moved on to new jobs and we are all working o wartime to try and keep up. Also, we have new restrictions on who can override prices and by what percentage, it is now more difficult to do so. We have lost quite a bit of control but are trying our best.

Food for thought
Food for thought
4 years ago
Reply to  James

The discount is in the computer.
It automatically comes off.
The staff do know how to override prices, but they just did not want to argue for the upteenth time that the discount automatically comes off.

But as per the norm consumer, it’s all me myself and I.

And the management probably had no idea what kind of figures they would make in the liquidation sale, as some people that have been in store have never been in a Masters store before. They only want to save money.

James
James
4 years ago

Gee imagine that concept – the computer automatically applies the discount. Have a look at my receipt and tell me that again…
For example i bought some decking – ticket price (without discount) is $4.70/m. Discounted price should be $4.25/m. Computer price is coming up as some random combination of digits

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago
Reply to  James

Exactly – “*Computer price*” is coming up as some random combination of digits.” I very much doubt that they are random, in reality. However, the point is that the computer is producing these figures, NOT the retail assistant.

If you’ve had anything much to do with computers at all you will be aware that they are not invulnerable to flaws. At a time such as this when massive numbers of individual items will be having prices and other data changed, it is hardly surprising that some errors will occur.

How about, instead of complaining, you consider the circumstances and difficulties experienced by ALL at a time such as this and offer a little more patience and positivity to get over the issue.

22,000 children die every day in the world of preventable causes. 1 Palestinian child is killed by the Israeli “Defense” Force each day. More than 1 women each day is killed by her partner in Australia. At least 3 billion people are starving – not just hungry, but starving – in our world today.

Try putting your experience in perspective, mate.

rexel99
rexel99
4 years ago

The volume of customers that Masters are experiencing is huge compared to normal and the stock is no longer owned by the store so discounts can not be altered and discussed by the staff – this is now in the hands of the liquidators. This is causing some issues with the customers, many of whom think they can abuse the staff with their petty requests for further discounts and expectations of personal help even during the busiest of times during the day. The staff are doing their best in a difficult situation and should not be the target of accusations by the vultures there now to get a bargain – if you like Bunnings then shop there and speak to them when their price increases next year.

Soph
Soph
4 years ago

Consumers must understand that they forgo service, fancy packaging, gift wrapping and other special treatment when purchasing at a discounted price. That is Retail 101.

Useless golf
Useless golf
4 years ago

A “close friend” of mine works at a masters store. Last Friday a member of the public entered a employees only area of the store to complain about the fact that staff were standing in the rain. This person threatened violence to the staff member by trying to head but my friend. He then stormed out of the store using the most abusive language. Should masters staff have to put up with this sort of behaviour. As to service, the stock is owned and priced by the liquidator. The staff are there to ensure that stock is on the floor for sale. Most of the complaints are from the public who have never set foot in a masters store till now. If the public want service then go somewhere else. The stores are closing and there will be in excess of 7000 staff looking and hoping for work around Xmas. Have some thought for them and stop your bloody complaining. Your world hasn’t fallen apart.

Kit
Kit
4 years ago

Here is a commonly forgotten thought.
If you have over the last 4 years, been treated like shit, being called every name under the sun, but had to bite your tongue because you would lose your job otherwise. It takes a toll mentally.
And now you can actually give the customer back exactly what they are giving you, and they don’t like it?
Here is food for thought!!
Don’t treat the customer service team like shit and you won’t get treated the same!
Odds are you will become a joke the minute you walk out of the store.

Just take a minute to think how these people with families feel.
Not sure of their future and just before Christmas too.
It is NOT THEIR fault management screwed up the business. It is NOT THEIR fault that your greedy selves can only get 10% off.
It is NOT THEIR fault they are in a bad place because they are losing their jobs.

All I can say is, you wanted Bunnings, have fun when prices go back up exorbitantly when Masters shuts down.
Some products have already gone up by $5+!

Masters employee
Masters employee
4 years ago

First things first. If you want good customer service you have to be a good customer.

Secondly, please read the signs. Everything is very clearly marked, if you can’t deduct a percentage then perhaps you shouldn’t be out and about with real money. You have no idea how stupid you sound arguing over your inability to do basic math.

Lastly, if it’s your first time in a masters store and you’re only there for the discounts then you can leave. Because you’re just a tight arsed vulture that doesn’t deserve to be there.

I saw someone walk out with 4 bins thinking they were hot shit because they were 10% off. If you’d been in a month ago you could have bought them for 40% off in a catalogue sale for fuck sake.
Where are the good bargins you ask? You missed them by not coming in over the past 4 years.

We have a regular and loyal shoppers that we will always have time for, but rude, self entitled and arrogant customers will no longer be tolerated.

Masters Employee
Masters Employee
4 years ago

Just like some of the comments so far, mostly its the first time a customer has come into Masters. If they had supported Masters from the 1st place, then Masters wouldn’t be closing. The customers complain about “Customer Service being disgusting” well the only thing that they are thinking of is how cheap they can get something, and not care about what is happening to the staff.

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago

I shopped at Masters from its opening, after being a regular at Bunnings and Mitre 10. I was surprised by how pleasant and helpful I found ALL staff – a great conrast to Bunnins & Mitre 20 – and the particularly thoughtful layout and brightness of the store.

I also, invariably found that Masters prices for precisely the same items as sold at Bunnings and Mitre 10 were substantially better. Mitre 10 seems completely out of touch with what is available elsewhere and I wonder that they get any business at all.

Bunnings, despite having moved to a completely clean site, where they could have provided anything they wished, chose a car-park designer who ought to be in a mental-hospital. Not many car parks are well designed but, given the blank canvas that Bunnings had, theirs is abysmal. Some of the staff are knowledgeable and helpful but it is clear that most have no trade knowledge or skills whatsoever – I don’t need someone else to read the label for me, I can do that myself.

I am not materialistic and hate consumerism so I was surprised when, walking around Bunnings in recent weeks, I have felt extremely saddened and distressed. I KNOW that our community (Toowoomba) will loss an important supplier when Masters shuts its doors.

I have worked in the retail trade and know how hard it must be for many of the Masters staff. It is not easy to retain your enthusiasm when the walls are falling down around you. However, I have only ever received polite and helpful repsonses from the staff at the Toowoomba Masters store and I am in there several times a week.

I am extremely saddened that the Masters stores are closing and fully expect that it will lead to an escalation of prices and poorer service in Toowoomba.

Masters Employee
Masters Employee
4 years ago

Absolutely disgusting service…what a generalisation! I work for Master’s and right now it is tough! The sheer volume of people coming through our doors is incredible. Our service at our store hasn’t slipped, in fact we are doing everything we can to try and keep everyone happy knowing full well that come December our jobs are gone. Since the announcement I have had some absolute shocking rude customers, and on the other hand I have also had terrific customers, who are patient, polite and feel for us.
People need to understand staff don’t set the prices, whinging about 10% off is not going to get you anywhere. Constantly being told ‘it’s no wonder your closing down’ is extremely hard to hear. Constantly being told ‘Bunnings is better’!! Hello why are you here then. I’ve seen some of my fellow workmates cop a barrage of abuse, and I mean shocking abuse. I wonder if some of these people have wives or daughters who work in retail, and how they would react to them being spoken to like that.
Maybe you should change your heading to Absolutely disgusting customer! Please don’t blame the employees, we are all here trying to get through this as best we can with no light at the end of tunnel.

Masters employee
Masters employee
4 years ago

Wow, isn’t it funny how 9/10 customers categorize all employees as ‘ Disgusting customer service’? At this time each and every individual employee at Masters is dealing with an enormous amount of customers coming in and out of the store all week, and as always we are trying our best to provide nothing but the best customer service. We have been told to ‘run business as normal’ so in saying that, customer service has not changed. Nor has anything else in the store. As a full time customer service associate, i find that we have had some very polite genuine customers who understand the process we are going through. We appreciate your patience. Unfortunately the disgusting behavior and language from some customers are starting to out weigh our beautiful regulars. We understand your frustration at times as we are customers on our days off to, but it is not necessary to be an arrogant pig to the people who serve you at your local hardware store. As of the 30th of August we are now in liquidation and have no control over discounts, pricing, override of prices, returns etc.

A lot of us are lucky to get out of bed in the mornings for work, knowing what is installed for us that day. The amounts of hard work and the amounts of hours some employees are working just to keep up the presentation of the store alone and making sure all stock is available on the shelf is amazing. Given the situation, a lot of our staff has sadly moved onto new jobs, so our staff are working all round the clock to keep everything as beautiful as possible. Our people have always given 100% to ensure Masters customers enjoy the best possible service. Despite all that has happened, they are still at it. Keep up the good work team!! 🙂

Rohan
Rohan
4 years ago

Here’s a tip on howto handle the rude, abusive and arrogant customers. Even though you may be wishing to throttle them, once they’ve ended their little tirade, simply big wide friendly smile and state:

“Im sorry that you feel that way [sir/madam], I hope you have a lovely day.”

Trust me, it will infuriate them. They’re trying to get you to react negatively. I’ve responded like this on multiple occasions. Guaranteed to p*** them off and they can’t do a thing about it.

Imagine them going and raising a complaint to management after you’ve just stated that in response to their abuse. They’ll look like the callous cretins they are.

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago
Reply to  Rohan

Well said, Rohan, it takes two to tango and if one of you isn’t dancing the other one looks fairly silly.

StopBlamingTheCustomer!
StopBlamingTheCustomer!
4 years ago

Actually this is characteristic of Masters/Woolworths culture all over – don’t blame the employees, the rot is coming from the top. Went to buy a battery at Masters, discovered “only an assistant can get those” and “they have to be delivered directly to the cashier, we don’t want shoplifting do we”? I walked out – went to Bunnings, bought a battery all my myself and didn’t even shoplift. Who can blame frustrated employees when that is the organisation culture? It’s a similar story at Big W (no staff, takes you longer to check out than to do the shopping, no customer service training) at Dan Murphys (no staff, and they mostly know nothing about the product) and at Woolies (don’t know the products, and just point to where you want to be – IF you can find a staff member). Experience?=Negative. Coles/Bunnings customer service training is good enough that you don’t WANT to be a bad customer. Get with the 21st century, Brad and your team of old rich anglo guys.

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago

@StopBlamingTheCustomer I don’t agree that this is characteristic of Masters/Woolworths culture.

As I have already indicated in an earlier comment here, the local Toowoomba Masters store has provided a much improved experience over our other two main hardware outlets.

Masters’ staff have always been polite and knowledgeable and prepared to go that cliche “extra mile”, in my experience and, because I have been renovating for the last couple of years, I tend to visit all the local hardware outlets at least once per week – or at least I did, until I realised that generally Masters was a better bet.

I think that unfounded generalisations abound in the comments on this article. I also believe that the article is skewed unnecessarily. As someone who has spent most of his working life in customer service roles, including those in the retail trade, as well as having taught frontline service, I have to say that my experience of Masters staff has been of the highest order.

It is also of note that, prior to the handover, there were excellent discounts on all manner of items at Masters. Unfortunately, after the handover, all stock movement and pricing has come from a central location and has been beyond the control of local managers. That has meant, in some cases, that some items had greater discounts before the handover than after the “official” start of the closing down sale.

In a working life of over 50 years, predominantly in face to face with client roles, it is my experience that there will always be times of conflict or disaffection. In the main, I have found that, with the right approach, those can be turned around. On occasion, one side or the other will refuse to compromise or step back and the situation either escalates, is passed on, or ends with one or other or both retreating. That, sadly, is human nature.

In sale conditions relating to the closing of the store and the loss of work for many employees, the atmosphere is inevitably going to be more tense than otherwise. It behoves both clients and staff to make an extra effort in times such as that. My experience is that where each has done so, there have been no problems.

My experience of Masters has always been a pleasant one and I thank the staff for that. I am someone who has no shares, little money and no affiliation or association, to my knowledge, with anyone working for Masters. I am opposed to consumerism and our materialistic society and would prefer that we didn’t have to shop at all. However, I live in a society where materialism is the order of the day. The best I can hope is that, when I must engage in financial transactions, there is politeness, courtesy and consideration on all sides. I have always found that to be the case with Masters.

Because I feel as I do about consumerism, I never thought that I would see myself writing such words or feel what I have felt, but when I walk through the store now, I feel sad. I feel the death of something good and I regret that I will no longer be able to shop in a place that made me feel welcome and not just a source of more profit.

Thank you to all at Masters. I wish you well and hope that you all find suitable and rewarding work.

Rohan
Rohan
4 years ago
Reply to  Roger Hawcroft

I agree. I’ve nothing but good experience with the staff at Masters in the past. I also felt that the stores offered better quality products on the whole than Bunnings. Very little in the way of the junk you see at Bunnings POS displays.

Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for better service.

Employee
Employee
4 years ago

I would like to personally thank those that are supporting us Masters staff. It truly is a hard time at the moment. Most days I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s so hard to get my head around it all myself and how this is going to impact me, my young children, my finances ect. To then put on a smile, walk through the door and be reminded again and again that the place I truly love working at is closing. I LOVE Masters but all the slander is so depressing. I am the first to greet you with a smile and help you but I have had sooo many customers that are rude to you the moment they open their mouth. I have been threatened and disrespected by customers some that were on illegal substances and told by others that;
“they are glad we are losing our jobs”
You wouldn’t say that if I was your best friend or sister so I don’t see why people say it at all. It’s bullying, and IT HURTS. I know its frustrating for customers and we honestly understand, everything is out of our control now, but please don’t blame or take it out on us. We aren’t doing this on purpose to upset anyone. We don’t always know what’s changing day to day. I do know we are doing our best. And most of us aren’t rude to those that aren’t rude to us!

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago
Reply to  Employee

Well said, though In my experience, most of you are not rude even to those who are rude to you.

You deserve respect, not abuse.

dianne caldwell
dianne caldwell
4 years ago

working in a Woolworth supermarket I remember when masters arrived so many of our employees opted to leave and go work at masters…..it was an easy transfer…..now look what happened the grass is not always greener on the other side……I experienced all of the below complaints wanting to buy a washing machine…….no service……cranky staff….and asked for a washing machine none in stock and NO I cant have the one on the floor and no further discounts……which didn’t worry me as I had an additional 5 per cent off…….so I left never to return went to Bing Lee and got the same ….same price…and free delivery……..having spent a lot of time in America this is not the way Lowes operate……so farewell Masters at Majura lane…in Canberra…….

cipi
cipi
4 years ago

Don’t buy anything from Masters, as if it something faulty or wrong with the product it will not be refunded you will be sent to deal directly to the manufacturer as it happened to me spending 80 dollars on a torch it was not working as described (bad luck) no refund will be give and I just wasted $80 for nothing, never at masters for their 10% off.

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago
Reply to  cipi

I have two refunds and three exchanges from Masters without any problem. I also had an expensive item on which a part not covered by warranty was damaged and Masters negotiated with the manufacturer and got a replacement for me at no cost. Given that I’m an ugly looking so and so, I don’t think it was my looks that did it – perhaps just being reasonable, not blaming, and respecting the person behind the counter was what did it?

You may or may not have worked in face-to-face frontline position in retail or something else. I have done it all my life. First in retail and later in education, health and libraries. It can be very difficult. Probably 5 to 10% of clients walk in already obnoxious in character, another 10 to 20% will turn so should anything not go exactly the way they want. Put simply, our society encourages ignorance, lack of respect for others, selfishness and rudeness.

I dislike materialism and consumerism. I advocate for a different economic and social system whenever I can. However, I work within the rules of this one for it is where I am. One of those rules – perhaps unwritten, is that we should respect all others. Therefore, I have no time for name-calling. I’m old enough and mature enough to know that mistakes happen and that when things go wrong, the person who has to pick up the pieces is rarely the one that did the breaking. I also know that very few disputes have only one, indubitably “right” side.

The discussion prompted by the article disparaging Masters says one main thing to me – that is just how quickly people will hit someone who is down. Doesn’t give me much confidence in our society.

Carol
Carol
4 years ago
Reply to  Roger Hawcroft

Masters will give you a “returns card” for use from the date of purchase of the item for the full value for a six month period that can be used at Masters, Woolworths or Big W provided you have the receipt. I recently returned an item and they were more than happy to accommodate
.

Ryan G
Ryan G
4 years ago

It makes sense that customers who think the saying “the customer is always right” interpret it literally, but in reality, it just means you should never actually “tell” a customer they’re wrong.

From working in wholesale trade supplies (not geared up for retail customers like Masters), I can tell you that our customers can be ROUGH, but if anyone is going to complain or be rude or abusive it’s ALWAYS a retail customer.

Think about how the employees of Masters feel instead of complaining because a price came up wrong or because they’re not standing there smiling every second for your shopping pleasure. If it’s such a big deal, go somewhere else – threatening to go to Bunnings isn’t gonna make a dime of difference now.

Roger Hawcroft
4 years ago
Reply to  Ryan G

Well said, Ryan. I find it interesting how many of the comments made against Masters are from people who are now going to “return to Bunnings” – makes one wonder why they left it in the first place …

Daren Williams
Daren Williams
4 years ago

the general public are savages feeding off the carcasses off people with an uncertain future.

Dean Panzarin
Dean Panzarin
3 years ago
Reply to  Daren Williams

Everyone has an uncertain future, mate. Nothing justifies a rude attitude. We are aware you are having more than usual customers, or you are losing your job, but the responsibility for that does not lie with us. Just asked a simple question in a polite and respectable way to be snapped at and employee returned to laughing at jokes on his smart phone.

Mitu Agrawal
Mitu Agrawal
3 years ago

My today’s experience with Masters explains why this store had to close down. With the customer service experience I have had with the customer service manager Tammy at Masters at Northmead explains why this was not the preferred store for many. When they have such rude people as Tammy as their employees, to give not just Masters but Woolworths such a bad name it was bound to shut down. I had gone yesterday looking for a garden hose and asked one of the helpers their to find a hose for my garden. I had no idea that hoses come in bigger sizes too. So when I went home and tried to fit it , it did not fit any of the taps and sprinklers. I went back to them to request them to replace it as it is not change of mind but it is not the correct product that I was guided to. This lady Tammy was the rudest person ever from the word go. Her first reply was :You wanted a hose you got one. It is your problem that you did not read the size. I told her I am only expecting some consideration based on the fact that it was given to me by one of your people and he did not mention there are 2 sizes. But she said I cant help you that is your problem that you did not read it. She said I have had enough discussion , you may leave the store now. I told her I am in customer service too and this is not the way to treat a customer. She said I am telling you to leave now and I can ask you to leave and told the security to show me the door. It was apalling at the way she was talking and treating me as if I am at fault. I have never had such a bad customer service experience with any store ever. I would be filing an official complaint regarding this. But I am sure Woolworths is not a brand that represents such a customer service. I would appreciate if this complaint is looked into not just for Masters but for Woolworths as a company.