/ Shopping

Your views on a good shopping experience

Woman window shopping

A little while ago, we asked you to tell us what makes a great shopping experience. Ex Which? Convo team member Katie Benson joins us once again to sum up your views on what separates a good shopping trip from an awful one.

As we saw last week, M&S took the decision to stop piping music into their stores, in a big victory for frustrated shoppers. Among other things, this decision was based on feedback from customers, so it really can pay to voice your concerns. If something is winding you up, tell the retailer and, if they value their customers, they might make a change.

We recently asked you to share what you think makes a good shopping experience. The changes at M&S should please William:

“For me it starts with FREE parking. Then good prices. Then very small queues at till, and preferably no piped muzac to assault my ear drums”

According to Alfa, it can be something so simple as buying the product you went out to buy:

“A good shopping experience is when you come home with whatever you intended to buy and we seem to come home empty-handed far too often. There was a time when you could go round a few shops and see a different choice of quality products in each shop. Now they all seem to have the same rubbish”

Bricks vs clicks

In the age of online shopping, making a trip to the shops needs to be worth it. VynorHill explained the importance of getting to know a product before you buy:

“Being able to pick up something and have a good look at it before deciding to purchase. Does it feel flimsy or well made; is the size right; does it feel comfortable; does it fit; do the switches and controls work smoothly? These are things one has to take on trust when buying online, relying on customer reviews and professional advice that’s unbiased”

Several of you get frustrated having to wait for help. John Ward described the frustration of waiting for assistance, especially if you don’t get much of a reward for your patience:

“We frequently have to wait far too long for a member of staff to become available and far too often they cannot answer predictable questions about the performance or characteristics of the products. We had a recent experience of that in the lighting department of a John Lewis store where the response to a question was to look up the product on the website which I had to point out contained unreliable information and was the reason for the visit to the store in the first place”

The dance of the conveyor belt

Ever been made to feel like a slow coach at the checkout? You’re not alone. TGM shares her frustrations:

“I hate to say it but the carrier bag charge has not helped. I found staff in some shops would offer to pack bags or help pack bags, now they just throw your stuff down the bottom and sit there drumming their fingers or loudly sighing if you are not packing quickly enough, especially if you are still unpacking the trolley on a large shop”

Ditch the piped music, stock decent products and make it easy to examine them, have plenty of helpful staff and don’t make people feel stressed about packing their shopping. This doesn’t sound like too much to ask, so hopefully the high-street shops are listening and will take a leaf out of M&S’s book, making changes for the better.

Have you had an amazing shopping experience recently? Do you shun the high street and stick to online purchases instead?

Which of these is the most important to you when shopping?

A good selection of products to choose from (40%, 244 Votes)

Plenty of staff who can help when you need them (33%, 204 Votes)

Peace and quiet - no annoying musak (21%, 128 Votes)

None of these - tell us what's important to you in the comments (6%, 40 Votes)

Total Voters: 616

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How about supermarkets where the products remain in the area you expect them to be. I know the owners want us to browse but often I just want to do a quick shop.

Good point, John. I would like to see category products shelved in alphabetical order – they can do it with herbs & spices so why not cereals, biscuits or tinned fruit?

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I think this topic covers department stores, furniture shops, fashion retailers, and all other outlets, Duncan. Shopping in some of these can occasionally be pleasant, surely?

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One of the big furniture sheds near us treats people to a cup of coffee and a cookie on arrival. I expect that is in an attempt to get us to lower our defences. Another wretched marketing import from the USA I expect.

For some shopping is a way to lift the spirits. But at what cost. Wikipedia explains it better than I can @

en.m.wikipedia.org – Retail Therapy.

Malcolm, I think I know myself fairly well by now so I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about me, but that has no relevance to the topic which is about shopping experience πŸ™‚

Size 44 with expander waist and 29 leg for us old folk.. stop catering Just for the youngsters please.

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There are numerous clothing retailers [some on-line or mail-order only] that specialise in fitting the fuller figure and make healthy profits doing so. I am surprised trousers at 44 waist/29 leg are hard to find – that’s not exactly off the scale, surely?

The problem with clothes shopping is the changing sizes for women’s clothes. My wife used to be size 10, but now mainly size 8, but her waist and hip measurements are just the same. Size 8 clothes are difficult to find

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A good shopping experience for me would be for everyone visiting the supermarket to leave their shopping bags open, at the ready in their car boot, return their purchases immediately back into their trolley and bag them when returning to their vehicle. This speeds up the checking out process considerably and prevents long queues and bad tempers forming at busy times.

As an anecdote, I would take great pleasure in a nice cup of free coffee, listening to one of my favourite country music singers in the background, and then take a few rides, first up and down the stores escalator and then the lift, (just for the sheer fun of it!) and then find the most handsome young male salesperson within sight to pay for my purchases, (as they don’t suffer pre-menstrual tension like some of the young lady assistants do) in the misguided belief that I was still a young and physically attractive twenty year old again πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Back to reality, like .Duncan it’s usually a quick in and out of the store with a shopping list asap.

When we do a big grocery and provisions shop we do just what you recommend, Beryl. No bags required actually; we have plastic crates in the back of the car to hold the different categories of goods and they are easily transferred into the right parts of the house for storing. It also means that the kitchen doesn’t get full of stuff that then has to go up to the bathrooms.

Loading the trolley systematically also helps to speed up the getaway.

We always avoid the checkouts where volunteers are deployed to ‘assist’ customers. Last week it was the Army Training Corps and in an adjacent lane I could see the detergent going in a bag on top of the tomatoes. They looked very smart though in their camouflage fatigues and probably raised a tidy sum for their efforts.

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The crates are an excellent idea John, much better than bags. Where can I buy them? The online delivery drivers also use them and load them onto their trolleys before wheeling your shopping to your door. It might pay supermarkets to supply them to customers at a reduced price. Anything that can speed up the check out process and shorten the long queues would be welcome and maybe encourage more footfall through the door.

Thanks Duncan, in hindsight maybe a twenty year old would lack the temerity to carry out such idiosyncratic measures in a public place, but age does have its advantages and as you say we can still dream!

Beryl, you like certain (piped presumably) background music then and you have a sexist attitude? πŸ™‚ I may have got the wrong impression πŸ™
I agree about using the trolley if the car park is easily accessible.

Folding plastic crates are available in places like B&Q. Useful for storing all sorts of things and they stack well.

The World’s Best Marigold Hotel demonstrates that age is not important.

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ducan, I had my tongue in my cheek, but the rejection of pre-menstrual tension young lady assistants caught my attention. I’m sure young males suffer from a parallel condition.

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Our ‘crates’ are not quite as big as the totes used by the delivery drivers which have fold-over handles [the crates I mean, not the drivers] but they are rigid and strong [repeat]. I can’t remember where we got them – just the local hardware and novelties store I think that sells everything from dolls-eyes to fly-papers. They are slightly tapered so they stack inside each other when empty which is an advantage. I have seen similar clear plastic boxes on sale in many shops like the large Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, etc in the Household aisle. Several types and sizes are available at Wilko, and I expect Amazon have a vast selection. Our’s don’t have lids but they are usually available as an extra. It is also possible to get lightweight crate-type boxes that have hinged ends and sides so they can be folded flat when not in use but they don’t look strong enough for heavy shopping items in bottles and cartons.

This exercise does require a degree of planning and preparation in rearranging the car to accommodate the crates.

Hello all, as interesting as this conversation is, it is going a tad off-topic…

Beryl I like your suggestion about placing shopping straight into the trolley and leaving your shopping bags in the car, but what about those of us that aren’t travelling by car and only have a couple of bags?

There’s a cashier at my local supermarket that is super speedy, I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe supermarkets should get her to share her skills that would surely speed up the queues? In any case, after being put to shame at my slow packing abilities when served by this cashier last week, I’ve realised I need up my game. I’m heading to the supermarket tonight so we’ll see how I get on…

Many thanks John, I can now see the importance of finding the right ones for the job. I didn’t realise there were so many different types of crate!

Hi Lauren. Most of the big supermarkets have a quick ‘baskets only’ check-out, usually limited to about 6 items which tend to move fairly quickly with two or three assistants working at the same counter and would obviously only require one bag, so no problems there.

Problems arise with car owners doing a big weekly shop, or longer, with multiple buys. For example, I usually shop every two weeks at the supermarket and visit the local village store when I run short of things like milk and bread.

Bulk shopping takes much longer to move through check-out resulting in longer slow moving queues, especially during busier periods such as weekends and the run up to bank holidays.

It is the nature of families’ weekly cycle of activities that means there are more big bulk shopping expeditions at the weekends so congestion occurs particularly on a Friday evening and Saturday morning – the same times when all the other shoppers are also in a hurry. Even when all the checkouts are open queues can still build up.

When we do a big groceries and household shop we sometimes need two trollies. The first one is only half full so it becomes available quickly to take its own contents plus start on those from the second trolley. We are fortunate that we are able to do our shopping during the weekdays and usually do it off-peak so as not to experience delays or hold up other shoppers. The slight problem with that is that the stores only have two three checkouts open in the early afternoons, but at least most of the other shoppers are not in a rush. Another advantage of off-peak shopping is that there are usually more parking spaces near the exit.

As I have been writing about this today – alphabetical product merchandising, crates in the car for product categories, systematic trolley loading, time shift for shopping, double trolley operation – it has progressively dawned on me that I am probably suffering from an over-organised shopping disorder and excessive checkout efficiency syndrome. Given that whenever a group of British citizens come together anywhere in the world it only takes fifteen to twenty minutes before Tesco or Sainsbury’s are mentioned I shall have to contain my urge to join in the conversation.

I’ve never understood why some people regard shopping (or window shopping) in general as a hobby, although spending money can be addictive (particularly plastic money). Having said that i do like browsing around decent tool and hobby shops.

A good shopping experience for me is, when I need something, finding exactly what I want in the first shop I go to and at a sensible price. Hardly exciting, but I needed some paraffin last week, went to the nearest diy store, asked an assistant (sorry, Beryl, a young lady assistant without any apparent tension – although not sure whether I would be able to tell) where to find it “please”. She took me straight to the aisle and shelf, where the very last container resided. How satisfactory πŸ˜€ .Self paid, job done.

Being able to buy what I went in for. When clothes shopping, something I do infrequently, I sometimes find, after looking at the styles and colours available, that there is something I like the look of, only to discover that, because I am a middling, common size they haven’t got it in my in my size but only in S or XXL. A more frequent frustration is when my local Tesco (my nearest large supermarket by a significant number of miles) has run out of something ordinary – understandable where fresh, highly perishable, food is concerned but not for things which have only a best before date and then normally several months ahead.