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Reaction – One Year Anniversary of Customers FIRST!

It has been one year since we put “Customers FIRST!” in a Pop Culture Retrorama article. This is my story on how this article has impacted my approach to training videos.

You’re a real pro at Jewel…one year and counting!

I was scrolling through my Facebook memories on Monday morning, February 8th, and came across my original posting for the Customers FIRST article, one of my earliest forays into exploring the nostalgia niche known as the corporate training video.

Considering that in prior weeks during early 2020, I’d looked at three Wendy’s videos about the preparation and service of hot drinks and cold drinks, as well as mastering the four-corner press of an ole-fayshioned Wendy’s hamburger, one would assume I should have quit while I was ahead, as I’d found the trifecta of “perfect” 1980s-1990s training videos.  One would say that there was nowhere to go but down in the never-ending hunt for great corporate training videos, worthy of the article treatment.

“One” was wrong, and I’d like to see “One” in my office to question their methods.

While the Wendy’s videos were what set the tone for consumption of corporate training videos as internet fodder, it was Customers FIRST (yes, the “first” is all caps, it is one of those acronym training methods) that set the standard for my personal consumption of training videos, coupled with the tone by which I approach writing my training video articles. And since that time, I’ve done this over twenty times.  And as long as I continue to find training videos (there’s plenty out there – I don’t anticipate retiring this any time soon), I will continue to use that set standard to approach all future training videos.

So, what was Customers FIRST, and why was it super special?

You’re A Real Pro!

You’re looking good at all you do, making new friends the whole day through!

That jingle is forever stuck in the part of my brain reserved for all the useless stuff I come across in my daily life, alongside the montage of happy employees from the training video!

Customers FIRST is a corporate video produced in 1988 for Jewel, a supermarket chain in the greater Chicago area, currently owned by Albertsons, as of 1999.  In my neck of the woods (considered the Greater Philadelphia Area), ACME Markets is our Jewel equivalent.  I’ve shopped at the latter most of my life, as there has always been a location close to my house, including one that is literally two miles down the road from my current location. This video filmed at a Jewel location in Elmhurst, Illinois, on York Road.  That location is still there, and still looks like your standard Albertsons store (at the time, it was under American Stores, and had been since 1984).

Because I’d always shopped at ACME, the name Jewel has been familiar to me, mostly due to the time I found a box of pasta with the “Jewel” logo on it, rather than ACME.  Shipper error?  You bet!  And knowing that, I still couldn’t convince my mom we needed to buy that specific box of pasta.  And I wasn’t the type to whip out my phone (which had a camera on it – this was in the late 2000s) and take a picture “just because.”  These days, I would be taking multiple closeup photos of the box and posting it on Facebook, proclaiming “LOOK WHAT I FOUND!” to the one or two people that pay attention.

I was so different in the late 2000s.  Probably less weird.  I mean, I was always a bit left of center, but probably less so.  These days, I’m as far off the charts as they get with silly details.

Anyway, Jewel.

The Origins of Inspiration

But, what does “FIRST” mean?

This was actually the first time I’d worked with a video that taught its methods through an acronym, and it wasn’t the last.  The acronyms have seemingly been a grocery store customer service method, since fast food and retail have different methods.  I could be wrong, but this has been my experience so far.

But anyway, the inspiration, and its origins.

I first came across this training video in early 2020, scrolling around on YouTube after completing my first training video article on Wendy’s Hot Drinks.  The actual video (an upload courtesy of former Jewel employee/new hire trainer nickycheese), a trimmed down version on a reaction from Chadtronic and Brutal Moose (which I’ve watched no less than ten times since last year), and several parodies using clips, are all on YouTube.

Every single video, be it the original, or the reactions/parodies, really drive home the Bad Employee Examples, courtesy of the wonderful – and often referenced in my articles – Jewel’s Own Joan, referred to as “Jewel’s Target Lady” and Jewel’s Roseanne Barr in the original article.  She’s often accompanied by her college-age Designated Grocery Bagger, Steve, who utters one of my favorite lines to demonstrate bad customer service.

There is so much going on in this video – acronyms (the “FIRST” training method), big hair, big glasses, ignoring the customers, dissing the customers, Joan, Steve, throwing people out of line, “that’s not my job!”, Joan, complaining, Joan complaining, Steve thinking he’s funny, and bean sprouts.  So much mention of bean sprouts.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard bean sprouts mentioned in a grocery store before I saw this, and I know I haven’t since.

Setting the Tone

Customers FIRST did something that the first three training videos did not – it gave me a different look at corporate training, as it covered a different type of employment (grocery store vs. fast food).  It helped set the standard for not only how I watch training videos, but how I write the articles I share these videos within.  While most would watch these and not think much of the content, watching Customers FIRST gave me the opportunity to see what Bad Employee Examples look like in practice, whereas the Wendy’s videos only showed the right way to do things.

Seeing how customer service is depicted in this video has me seeking out the same type of examples in other training videos I’ve watched.  Sure, it is less painful to watch correct practice, but it is soooo much more fun to watch an employee just do their job badly, and provide a Good Example that…really didn’t seem like the perfect approach.  I go back to Joan with this, but her “good” just doesn’t seem that great.  It almost seems like “this was the best she could do.”  It is definitely the acting (I hope!), but there are just some actions that are considered the correct approach that just don’t seem like they would fly in a customer-oriented setting.

Nevertheless, this is good training video cheese, with 1980s graphics and elements that go above and beyond videos from the same time period. I love it, and I love the fact that knowing it exists has helped me put together a higher standard of articles, while sharpening my video-watching senses.

I also love that Joan is a real person, and was actually employed by Jewel.  And that she had to do this to teach a lesson.

The customer is so shocked by this.  The cart getting pulled out of the lane is the icing on this cake of astounding customer service.

The Future Is Full of Teachable Moments!

I have found a few videos that I’m going to look at in the coming weeks and months of 2021, and I’m sure there are plenty out there that are waiting to be discovered.  Heck, I have one saved in drafts right now.

But for now, let’s revisit the greatest “don’t do this!” moments in quite frankly the most perfect training video.

Upload via nickycheese

I’d like to personally thank the circa 1988 employees of…

…as well as nickycheese for stealing this video on his last day of work, but not before making employees watch it over and over again (according to the video description).  And of course, I’d like to thank Joan.

She is all of us who’ve ever worked customer service.

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