Everyone has one, at least everyone thatÂ lives outside the grid.Â We trade them like currency in some market of social oneupsmanship.Â We fill whole dinner parties with them, laughing, crying, shaking our heads with amazement.Â I speak, of course, of the Bel Air story.Â Â Anyone who has shopped at a Bel Air market knows that they are well-stocked, high-quality friendly markets, sure, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized almost everyoneÂ who regularly shopsÂ at Bel AirÂ has some customer service story that boggles the mind.Â (This also includes Raley’s,Â but I’m not going to write Bel Air/Raley’s/Nob Hill Foods every time so justÂ assume I’m speaking collectively when I say “Bel Air”)Â Â Â I’ve heard tall tales of stock boys chasing down trucks to get an extra box of something that a customer wanted, myths of clerks missing an item when checking someone out and rather than ringing up the item separately just giving the item to the customer for free, legends of bag boys and girls braving gale force winds or sub-Saharan temperaturesÂ to load groceries in the back of cars.Â The universal thread that ties all these stories together is a customer service attitude that seems almost masochistic in its generosity, trustworthiness, and flexibility.
My particular story is appropriate for the season, so I thought I’d share.Â It has to do with turkey.Â So I bought some turkey cold cuts (they were on sale) and didn’t break into them for a few days.Â When I did, I found the cold cuts to be slimy beyond any rational level.Â I contacted the store with my complaint and within minutes they had the deli manager on the line offering to replace the offending turkey with anything else from the deli.Â They didn’t care if I had a receipt, or even to return the offending turkey.Â The deli manager just said to drop by anytime and let anyone know my issue.Â Anyone?Â Yep.Â He basically informed the entire deli staff that if anyone comes by and says anything about bad turkey that they were to give him whatever he wanted.Â And they did.Â Mrs. Eats dropped by the local Raley’s the next day and the staff immediately gave her some replacement meat that typically sells for a higher price, at no charge.Â
It’s a tribute to Bel Air’s corporate philosophy that this attitude seems pervasive throughout every store in their chain.Â If you have a Bel Air story to share, feel free.
13 thoughts on “The Bel Air Story”
As you may have read in previous posts, I went to this year’s Perspectives event, and Raley’s/Bel Air is a major sponsor each year.
As a major sponsor, they have the privilege of introducing one of the featured speakers. Rather than having the CEO do the introduction, as most of the sponsoring companies do, the Raley’s/Bel Air CEO introduced a long-time employee of his to make the speaker introduction.
It was really cool — so cool that I wrote the CEO a note saying how cool it was. What’s even cooler? The CEO wrote ME a hand-written note (on a really cool notecard with a vintage Raley’s picture on it) thanking me for thanking him, and thanking me for being a customer.
He also gave me the scoop that “my” Bel Air will soon be undergoing a major renovation and remodel. For those of you in the greater Arden & Eastern area, you can look forward to the demolition of the old Arnold Cleaners, then Bel Air will expand by 90′ to the east.
RaleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s has good, reasonably priced wine. This is something that the CSI family has grown accustomed to, what with the quite tasty Hard Head Syrah and Hard Head Pinot Grigio coming in at the unbeatable $5.00 price point, and adding the fact that the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Six Pack CarrierÃ¢â‚¬Â discount saves us an additional 10%, we oft find ourselves in the Mahogany Gold River Wine Aisles, as well as the somewhat-less-snootified lino aisles in Rancho Cordova. This brings us to Labor Day, three uninterrupted days of R & R ahead, we made the last stop on our way out of town the aforementioned Rancho Raleys, where we forgo the usual Hard Heads and purchase 6 bottles of 50% off reduced for quick sale wine (all vintages we had previously enjoyed, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not taking any risks with no store in spitting distance of the camp ground). Fast forward to the campground; we are unpacking the car and I remove the carrier from the back seat, take 4 steps and the watch in horror as the handle of the carrier physically separates from the body …and *%^%$# CRASH &*&%&. I look down and 3 of the six bottles are completely broken. I muddle my way through the weekend drinking Mrs. CSIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Vodka and Blood Orange Italian Soda Cocktails and hoarding my small remaining stash of red wine, and upon return, promptly call the offending grocer. Grocery Store Manager asks me if I have the carrier and I tell him yes. Grocery Store Manager advises that he is happy to replace all six bottles at no charge, and if I could bring in the carrier (I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to), he would appreciate it, as he wants to research what happened so it does not happen again. A few days later, I take in the carrier, show it to Grocery Store Manager I had spoken to on the phone, and he tells me to pick six replacement bottles of similar value. I pick six replacement bottles and return to his station where he smiles and says Ã¢â‚¬Å“Alright, have a nice day!Ã¢â‚¬Â No receipt check, no bottle inspectionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦just a wave and a smile. It is so rare that one of the principal points of excellent service is remembered, Trust. We have each item counted as we go into and out of the dressing room, shopping buggies inspected as we leave Costco, a slightly too watchful attendant at the Home Depot self-check out, but just a wave and trusting smile as I leave RaleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s with my six $5.00 bottles of wine. I like to think that this type of service is what makes that nice, old sounding guy from the commercials very proud.
The gigantic vegetable tray on display last year at Best of Sacramento? They GAVE me the whole thing (probably at least a $40 value) after the event ended–I had asked earlier in the evening if the vegetable tray was part of the food being served because I was looking for healthy options (it wasn’t, but I was told to come back later and I could have the whole thing). Awesome!
That Bel Air at Arden and Eastern will be fabulous once it’s renovated…I have to stick to Raleys at Walnut and Fair Oaks b/c the Bel Air’s aisles are just too tiny. I always have amazingly great service at their stores..it’s like Nordstrom in a way (okay, without a MAC counter and Jimmy Choos)….they just totally believe in customer satisfaction on every level.
I was at the Raley’s over near Rush River. I had a bad experience with a cashier..which shocked me. This young woman should have been stocking shelves or something..not dealing with the public. The bagger was very kind though..and carried one lone bag to my car for me saying “I want your trip to Raley’s to end on a good note”.
I ended up calling the manager to report the incident. He was not there so spoke with the asst. manager. The manager called me back later…he admitted that I was not the first to complain about this particular person. I also gave kudos to Jeff, the bagger who witnessed the incident.
I have not seen that cashier at that Raley’s since then.
I don’t think Raley’s could ever be praised highly enough. In addition to area’s best produce and meats (especially at reasonable prices), the service simply cannot be beat. Whether it’s special orders or handling complaints, the customer always comes first.
I sent in a complaint via e-mail about a pre-made salad I bought in the deli (the bottom layer had turned bad before the expiration date). I received a return e-mail promptly and was told to bring the e-mail to my local Raley’s and they would replace it free, no questions asked. I forgot to bring the e-mail and they replaced it! Add that to me forgetting to pick up the large bag of ice I paid for but walked away without; they just handed it to me directly — no questions asked, no receipt needed. Finally, the Madison-Hazel store somehow managed to track down my mother when she had accidentally dropped her ATM card while reaching for a bag of groceries and personally called her to let her know that they had it and would keep it safe until she was able to come in and get it.
You know, if all stores had this same type of customer service, I wouldn’t feel like shopping online was my only option.
Okay wait, has anyone ever come across that one checker at the Carmichael store (Fair Oaks & Walnut) who looks like he’s been on a 9 day bender..totally scruffed out, reeks of smoke and talks really loud and obnoxiously? He bugs me to no end but he’s hilarious. He’ll always say something inappropriate and yells over the aisles instead of using the microphone. I love it!!!
Tom Raley and the WongÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s both had separate backgrounds but the same story of struggle and perseverance. Having the only market left in the country that is truly run by independent grocers gives these stories credence and hope to all small to mid-size business owners. To think this privately held food empire is now run by Tom’s oldest daughter should also be mentioned since food, like so many other businesses, has traditional been controlled by men.
I really appreciate how I can count on the cashiers at the Bel Air (Cirby & Sunrise)to brighten up my day. One of the cashier’s, Whitney, always knows me by name and always has a smile on her face! In addition, having my groceries taken to my car is a plus! Keep up the great work Bel Air!
Being a long time midtown resident, I don’t think I’ve ever been inside one before – until last week, when I visited a friend in Natomas and stopped at the Bel Air just over the river on the way back via the Del Paso / Northgate route.
Holy macaroni! That place is nice. The deli was closed, but the lady behind the counter saw me eyeing the merchandise and offered to make me a sandwich. Good stuff. Great produce. Good specials. A better value than Safeway, I think. And the butcher! Great selection, great prices. I wish there was one downtown.
RBANHF make good sammiches and bread. I don’t let them follow me to the car though because it feels weird, like someone pumping gas while i sit and pretend to do something more important – that and i’m shit with small talk.
We live close to the Raleys at Walnut/Fair oaks and not very far from the Arden/Eastern Bel Air. I once had the very brief pleasure of meeting Tom Raley–about 3 yrs before he died. Am also very slightly acquanited with George Wong. IMHO, both are/were great guys and we Sacramentans should appreciate the fact that their stores are here to serve us.
One time, my wife badly needed a prescription, but it wasn’t due to come in until later that day. Unfortunately, we had a commitment in the Bay Area and wouldn’t return to Sacto until late that nite. When we got home, there was the prescription in our mail box–courtesy of a pharmacy clerk at Raleys (Walnut/Fair Oaks). She had taken the time and effort to deliver the medication to our home after she got off work! How’s that for service!
the Bay Area th
Raley’s is awesome – the clerk at the meat counter always remembers my name and my particular likes and dislikes. He always makes a point of telling me specifically what was just brought in, what is fresh , and from US or Canada, so I don’t have to search. They have ordered me products that they did not stock. The wine selection is fabulous too. Produce questionable though. However, they are the only market I am aware of that has childcare while you shop. But… seriously – Taylor’s on Freeport is still far superior in customer appreciation, fresh produce and meats. Of course, that’s a local entity.
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