Myer is a sad shadow of what it used to be

MYER is one of Australia’s two biggest department stores – and by that I mean stores which belong to Australians. Over the 14 years that I have been visiting the store, it has noticeably gone downhill.

I visited the store this morning to send a gift to the daughter of a friend who is getting married shortly. Myer has a gift registry where a couple can create their own wishlist and send the number of the list to their intended guests.

The guests then either visit the store or else call up and order an item from the list; one has the option of having it delivered to the residence of the bride and groom.

The wishlist can be accessed on the Myer website but an indication of how far Australian stores are behind the rest of the world is evidenced by the fact that there is no web facility to order and pay for anything on that list using a credit card. One has to call a number and do it that way. Why has a payment option not been added? Strikes me as backward in this day and age.

Since ordering something on the phone and paying by credit card is normally a frustrating process, I went to the local Myer store this morning. The first thing that struck me was the fact that there are very few staff in what is one of its main stores, at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Doncaster.

On the ground floor, a young woman very confidently told me that I should go down to the basement and they would be able to look after me. She was wrong. The woman at the desk I went to directed me to another desk diagonally across the basement floor. That was the wrong place as well – I was then directed to go up to the second floor.

I went to the second floor and found the gift registry. It was unattended but the desk next to it was manned. A man was having a conversation with a woman there, and both, judging by their attire, appeared to be employees of the store.

The man finished his conversation and, after a glance in my direction, started walking off. I am game to this kind of tactic and rather loudly said, “Are there no staff in this store?” The man immediately turned and headed in my direction. He asked me what I needed and when I showed him, he sat down and started logging in to the terminal at the gift registry desk.

His name tag indicated that he was the manager. I asked him why several of his staff did not know where the gift registry was located and whether it was a new service. He said it had been existing for yonks and the fact that staff did not know was peculiar.

I asked him why the list on the web was not linked to a facility for credit card payment so people did not need to visit the store. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “that’s the system, sir.” Myer uses some kind of ancient application software and he could not show me the couple’s wishlist on the screen to check if the gift I wanted to buy was still on the list. He had to print out the entire list – and the output, all four pages, looked like it had been produced on the type of printer that was manufactured soon after dot-matrix printers went out of style.

The manager then took me a to a desk where he handed me over to a young employee who took care of me. While I was waiting for this youngster to check whether the item I wanted was in the warehouse, I asked another woman who was working there why there were such a few staff in the store. She made a face and said, “I guess it’s the budgets.”

After the young man got the gift organised, he had to send me back to the gift registry where a senior employee completed the process. She knew her way around, the only person I met in the store who did not need to ask anyone about procedures. I told her that it must be difficult to work at Myer, given the paucity of staff. She laughed ruefully. It’s a sad commentary on what was once a grand store and the last word in customer service.


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