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The word returns from central office...

It seems like a long time since I wrote to safeway about bread packaging. However, they did not forget me and I received a good letter the other day. I have decided that it is a good letter, because it shows a significant amount of effort in its research and preparation. Perhaps some might read the tone as patronising or condescending. Perhaps some might even be a bit peeved at the complete lack of answering the real question (she chose to answer concerns I did not have). I, however, see this as an attempt at comprehensive customer service. I hope that my reply (also below) will get a similar, and perhaps even more effective, response.

Our Ref: 219171a

Dear Mr Frieze

Thank you for writing to our manager at our Cowgate store. He has passed your letter to our customer services team here in Maidstone. I apologise for the lengthy delay in replying to your comments.

We believe our bakery deparments bake bread with the very best quality and freshnes our customers can buy. The bread is so resh from the oven that it is too warm to be wrapped when it goes on sale. It is then displayed for a maximum of three hours - and then thrown away if not sold. In fact, such is the popularity of this fresh unwrapped bread with our customers, the vast majority is sold within two hours of being baked.

As you can appreciate, with the bread selling so quickly, our shelves are constantly being refilled. This enables our staff to monitor the quality of products and remove an items that fail to meet Safeway standards. On the subject of hygiene, freshly baked bread has a dry crusty surface which does not support the growth of micro-organisms. The same applies to our other unwrapepd products which are either too dry or too sugary to encourage germs. So there is nothing to fear.

With our quick turnaround and high standards of quality and freshness, we are confident that Safeway unwrapped bread presents no risk at all to the health of our customers.

I do appreciate that you feel strongly enough about the packaging on our bread to take the time to write. All complaints and comments from customers are entered into a log and closely monitored by our head office. Your letter is entered with the reference number above.

I am very concered that you feel your comments were not understood by the staff instore. I have spoken to the Duty Manager, John Clapton today. He explained that there is a procedure in place to record all customer comments. The custmoer service staff should enter full details into the "desk communication book", located on the customer services desk. Any comments from customers which relate to head office decisions are passed to us regularly. This is so we can closely monitor our customers views and take action where necessary. John apologises that this did not happen. He has promised to speak to the cutomer service staff and reiterate the importance of having a written record of every customer communication.

I have also spoken to the bakery manager Mike Ryder. Mike tells me that the stotties are placed in "sparkle wrap", without perforations, to keep them fresh and soft. If they were placed in the "crispy wrape", as the baguettes, the perforations would allow air to enter and the stottie would dry out very quickly.

If you still have any concerns about any of our unwrapped products please feel free to discuss them with Mike in the Bakery or our Customer Service staff. We will always do our best to help you choose products you will enjoy and we still offer a comprehensive range of wrapped bread too, if you prefer it. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Hayley Martin

Customer Services Department

And I said...

Hayley Martin
Safeway Stores Ltd
Customer Services
Beddow Way
Nr Maidstone
ME20 7AT

Dear Hayley Martin

Ref: 219171a

Thank you very much for your letter of the 6th July. I am delighted with the attitude you have taken to addressing my concerns about the bakery products at Safeway. Unfortunately, it seems that the two complaints I made in my letter have been misunderstood; a problem I also faced when I first reported them to customer service staff in the store.

I fully appreciate that leaving unwrapped bread in baskets on the shelves poses no health risk. However, my concern is not the exposure of the bread to the air in the shop. With the french sticks, which are actually in their perforated sleeves on the shelf, the problem is that the wrapper is too small. As a result, the crust of the bread is able to make contact with the trolley, checkout conveyor belt and even the seat of my car. In my letter I pointed out an incident I had witnessed where a French stick was knocked over by another customer; the paucity of its wrapping guaranteeing that its crust made contact with the floor. My request is that you make the sleeve at least as long as the stick, preferably longer. I also reported the difficulty I had at the checkout, attempting to avoid the bread making contact with the conveyor. I have stopped buying the french sticks, despite the fact that I consider them to be of good quality, simply because I cannot see how I can get them home without getting them dirty.

With regard to the packaging of stotties, I appreciate that the sparkle wrap keeps the stottie from drying out. However, my main concern is the opposite problem. Since stotties are sometimes wrapped before they have cooled sufficiently, the inside of the sparkle wrap often contains much condensation, and in these circumstances the bread is often unpleasantly damp as a result. Perhaps the packaging procedures can be altered to avoid this situation.

It seems that both of my problems could be avoided by a change in your packaging procedures, something that your customer services staff seemed certain was dictated centrally.

Again I must thank you for your interest in these matters and I look forward to your comments.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Frieze.

15 July 2001
Ashley Frieze