Friday, 11 October 2013

Meidi-ya Supermarket Disappointment (Spoiled Meat & Fish & Bad Information Counter Service)

Meidi-ya Supermarket  シンガポール明治屋  @ Liang Court.

It gives me no pleasure to post this, since I have been buying from this supermarket so often for so long.

I would have kept quiet about the matter if the Information Counter service staff today had not made me angry.

Usually, I go there at least two or three times a week to buy meat, fish and other items. Quite a lot of money spent there, plus taxi fare to and fro.

As everyone knows, it's expensive to shop at that supermarket.  Their cuts of meat and fish appear the best, so the prices seem justified.

However, buyers beware:  Their meat and fish are not always reliable. You must smell the meat/fish before you cook even on the same day you buy.  If a sour smell is detected, it means the meat/fish has spoiled.  Just looking at the meat/fish, you can't tell the difference.

When shopping at the supermarket, I always bring along my own fridge bag to keep the cold items cold/frozen until I reach home in about 20 minutes or less.  When I buy raw prawns in their frozen state and put them in my fridge bag, they are still frozen when I get back.

Previously, I bought a big slice of salmon from their fish section beside the back doors. As usual, I put it in my fridge right after I got home.

The same evening when I wanted to cook it for dinner,  I detected a sour smell from the salmon. I had no choice but to throw it away.

Assuming it was just a one-off incident, I didn't inform the supermarket or ask for a refund, especially since the supermarket is quite far away and I didn't want the hassle of taking it back. 

Soon after, on 4 Oct, I bought a packet of Empress chicken breast at about 4pm. Returned home and put it in the fridge. When I wanted to cook it for dinner, a sour smell was again detected from the meat. Again, I threw it away.

Not just these dinners were ruined but my trust in the quality of the meat and fish was ruined as well.

One time may be a random incident. But twice?  Can I still buy a third time then? And what if buying again, I have to throw away again? It shouldn't even have happened at all.

This time, I e-mailed the supermarket through their online feedback form. Their store manager Mr. Kagoshima replied.

I explained to him and we communicated politely over a few e-mails. He said he personally told the staff to be careful in future and would like to refund and apologize.

He offered to come to my place or I could drop by the supermarket again so he could apologize "directly".  If I dropped by, I was to go to the Information Counter and ask for him (Kagoshima) or Ishikawa (the customer service/information counter staff).

I was thinking he might get someone to visit my place rather than himself. Since I didn't prefer anyone visiting my place and wasn't keen on returning soon to the supermarket, I wanted to request that the refund be transferred to my bank a/c which would be rude since it would deprive him of a direct apology.

I thought it mattered very much to the Japanese to be able to apologize personally in such a matter  (Bro joked that if he didn't get the chance to apologize directly, he would go crazy. To me, just getting a refund and that such a matter never happens again, are good enough).

So,  I agreed to visit the supermarket again.

A few days later, today Fri 11 Oct,  I reluctantly went back to the supermarket for the refund and perhaps buy some meat and prawns for dinner.  It wasn't about the refund amount, but the inconvenience of having to meet up over the matter etc... (I didn't have a good feeling about it and the feeling is always accurate.).

At about 4.30pm, I stood at the Information Counter.  Two staff were standing in there: Ishikawa (who turned out to be a woman) and a dark-complexioned woman.

Ishikawa was on the phone. Both ignored me, even though the dark-complexioned woman was free.

Shouldn't one of them at least ask, if they might be of service/help? A customer is standing there right in front of them.

When I asked politely if Mr. Kagoshima was here, the dark-complexioned woman said he was at a meeting. I said "Ok, I'll wait for Ishikawa then.".  (There should be a "san" behind the name for politeness, but these 2 aren't even being polite by ignoring the customer.).

When Ishikawa put down the phone, I said "Hi" and informed her of my name,  mentioned Mr. Kagoshima and the e-mail.

She and the dark complexioned woman immediately knew what I meant, but instead of greeting me or attending to me, they proceeded to look down and talk about another matter for another extended amount of time.

I felt that was very surprising and strange.  So, it means the customer standing there regarding the refund is not important? Apologizing for their mistake is not important? The fact that they sold spoiled meat and fish is not important?

I stood there until I walked away to where bro was standing. I told him that I would e-mail the manager about it and began walking away.

Bro said one of the staff was calling me, so I turned back. Ishikawa had come out of her counter to ask me back.

She wanted my full name. I only gave her my English name and surname. She asked me to sign.

She said next time, if it happens again, come to the Information Counter with the receipt.  (I was thinking, there's going to be a next time?  If it happens again, I won't ever come here again).

After taking the money out, she put it on the counter top. Because there were coins, I had to pick them up.  Shouldn't she put the refund in the customer's hand? In Japan, they always present money on a plastic plate to the customer.

As I picked my refund, she tried catching my eye and said, "We are very sorry.".

Yeah, right. You are so sorry that you ignore the customer standing there without so much as a polite greeting or acknowledgement. If you are so busy, you should politely inform the customer to wait a while. This is basic courtesy.

I am surprised a Japanese woman would behave like this.  (Somehow, I feel that if it had been the store manager,  it would have turned out better/well since we had communicated well via e-mail. Maybe.).

2 mistakes + 1.  Instead of appeasing the customer with the refund, Meidi-ya made the customer more displeased.

After the refund, I was really unhappy. I chose a packet of pork ribs but put it back after deciding to go to Isetan instead (which was nearby at Orchard).

(I avoid pork whenever possible, but I really need the nutrients. We do love pigs, cows and chickens...)

Bro already had a few things in the shopping basket.   I told him I want to pay as little as possible to Meidi-ya. Don't let them earn so much of our money.

He said "Ok, then let's put everything back.". I agreed to put some back.

While paying for the few items that were needed (since we were there), I told the cashier what happened.  Most of the cashiers know us since we are such regulars there. She was surprised it even happened twice. I said, "Yeah, once was salmon. Another time was chicken.".

She said I should have called up and scolded them for a refund. I said they contacted me to refund but when I came down, they totally ignored me and made me wait.

I told her we were going to Isetan right then.

At Isetan supermarket, I got the meat and prawns and other ingredients needed for dinner tonight. Cheaper than Meidi-ya.  Even the organic eggs are cheaper.

We just finished our dinner and the meat was excellent, softer than Meidi-ya's. The prawns were very fresh and large compared to Meidi-ya's.

Since it's the start of the weekend, Isetan supermarket always has these interesting stalls selling Japanese food items by Japanese people who are friendly.

I sampled the dried ginger pieces from Japan, sold by a nice Singaporean lady. It tasted pretty good and I called bro over to try it. He usually buys those sugar ginger cubes from the UK at Meidi-ya. This time, he was tempted enough to actually buy this small $15 per packet of ginger pieces.

The Ginger powder drink was pretty good too! 

I reached for the Yuzu rind samples, and it was so good, I said he had to try it. After sampling the Yuzu, he was also grabbed by it!

The lady was so nice. Even though it's buy 2 get 1 free, she said she would give us the Yuzu for $10 (instead of $15).  Bro refused to buy 3 packets even though she said he could mix and match. ($15x2 would be $30. No no.).

We bought the 2 packets for $25.  (Ginger pieces and Yuzu rind)

The dried blueberries are nice too....  (bro wouldn't hear of it. While walking to the cashier with our basket, he said the 2 packets already $25).

The dried blueberries taste very different from western types. Very natural taste and flavor as though real fresh blueberries.

As Bro said about the Yuzu rind, the Japanese managed to preserve the original flavor and taste. 

Quite amazing. If you don't mind to part with your cash, you can buy everything from that lady at that stall. She said she'll be there until the 17th.

After the supermarket, we only had to get a taxi from across the road. Previously, I didn't know there was a taxi stand there, so we avoided buying cold items from the supermarket (since it would be a hassle getting back quickly whereas Meidi-ya's taxi stand is just outside.). 

But some time back, when I collected a computer screen from a woman at Far East Shopping Center, she told me about that taxi stand beside it. Pretty convenient.

The wait was 15 mins. Within 30 minutes, we were home.

It's unlikely we would be buying from Meidi-ya again.