Auchan, Decathlon and others could do a social audit.. A before-morning-coffee thought on foreign retail chains in Russia

Yesterday, in my search for bikes, ventured into one of these huge mega-malls that surround Moscow, and finally lost my innocence by stumbling into the famous Auchan superhypermagamarket. And even succumbed to the lure of low prices and bough a few bottles of won’t admit what in order not to damage further my business and personal reputation. But the brightest impression was an overheard conversation between a cashier and a customer where the cashier confessed that if the discrepancy between what should be in the cash register and what is actually there exceeds 10 roubles (33 cents!!!!) by the end of the day they are fined heavily. Then it was my turn. Being a techno-peasant, I was overcome by the checkout and packaging gadgetry, and as a chronic whiner I aired my complaints, to which the clerk responded saying she herself and her colleagues too are baffled and annoyed by all this machinery. But as I proceeded to feel sorry for her, a fragment of her other conversation with a fellow Auchan employee reached me where the complaining cashier said that her life is good nevertheless because her son-on-law is a FSB (ex KGB) officer. This bit helped me not to feel guilty. But the whole episode plus a few other observations made it very clear that Auchan could use what I think is called “social audit”. Changing a few little things would probably improve the atmosphere. …That reminds me of a talk with a young but quite knowledgeable consultant at Decathlon, also a French company. It was very easy to provoke her into sharing just how difficult it is to work under a French boss. Then, after the checkout, a security guard came up, announced that his bosses forced yet another silly duty on him, this new duty being to check what we had in the basket against our receipt. Another area where a few very simple and inexpensive improvements (eg. a small present or a discount coupon, and of course an altogether different approach although for me personally “my stupid boss makes me do that” is perfect) would make a difference. THIS IS MOSTLY A NOTE TO MYSELF TO REMEMBER TO ADD  AUDIT/SHADOW CLIENT/SOCIAL AUDIT TO THE LIST OF SERVICES, PROBABLY AT WWW.OLDMANFRIDAY.COM WHEN I GET AROUND TO REVAMP THIS PROJECT. Many foreign companies here could certainly use it. Among those who regularly goof is Columbia. Funny, but local stores, their inefficiencies notwithstanding, don’t offend. Their errors are sort of more organic. Foreigners should work they way they do at home or go totally Russian. Neither/nor is the zone to be avoided.



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