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The simplest form of corporate responsibility

There is so much to think about when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Often what comes to mind first is philanthropy and contribution to community. Next up in line is environmental sustainability and financial integrity. Dig a little deeper and there’s employee relations, business processes and management decision-making. But recently, we had an experience that illustrated that it doesn’t matter what kind of goodwill, strategy and processes you put in place to try to align with CSR, CSR is a way of being that touches even the simplest of tasks.

My mother bought a jar of Japanese mayonnaise this last week. The delicious, creamy cousin of the tangier regular mayonnaise most of us are familiar with. Upon getting home, she realized that the jar had expired… 10 months ago. The logical decision was to take the jar back to the local Save-On-Foods grocery store she had bought it from for either a new jar or a refund. Regrettably, she had misplaced her receipt, but since the purchase had only taken place in the last day or so, perhaps there was some flexibility there.

She couldn’t have been more wrong. The customer representative my mother dealt with declined acknowledgement or action for the product expiry. Upon going back to see the rest of the stock, my mother found that all jars were 10-12 months expired, with one special jar carrying an expiry date from 2008. The suprising part is that even in light of this glaring evidence, no comment or apology was provided. Only an insistence that she would have to buy more groceries to utilize a store credit for the jar – within the same visit.

There are a few interesting things happening in this scenario. The most obvious of course, being the lack of customer service and accountability for a long-expired product. Why punish the customer by forcing them to buy more to compensate for a bad product? But it also begs to question – how did a shelf-full of those products manage to stay on the shelf, ready for customer consumption?

And yet, Save-On-Foods normally tries to stand for a grocer that cares for their customers, community and environment. But when the simplest behavior doesn’t reflect that mantra, the rest unravels. It doesn’t matter what other programs are in place if the basics aren’t taken care of.

Save On Foods Community mandate


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fabian Pattberg #

    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing Vivian. I especially like this quote from your text: ‘CSR is a way of being that touches even the simplest of tasks.’ How true this is.

    March 10, 2010
  2. Andrea Learned #

    It is exciting to see how blogging, “tweeting” and the other social media tools can be so powerful in taking to task the corporations/brands that demonstrate such disconnects. Add this tale to the warnings for companies that post “community and charitable support” style pages! They’ve got to be ready for intense scrutiny at the “basic” level of customer experience and support.

    March 10, 2010

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