Martha McAnespie has been in the supermarket business for 26 years. Big deal? You bet: She’s also 94 years old and knows a thing or two about customer service. Her advice to retailers is as refreshing as it is old-fashioned.
“People like to be noticed. We want to feel like we mean something to somebody.”
McAnespie puts her knowledge to work every day that she staffs her demo table, located next to the deli at the Schnucks supermarket at Quince and Ridgeway in East Memphis, Tenn.
“I think Schnucks lives up to its slogan, ‘The Friendliest Store in Town.’ Of course, I’m going to brag and say my store on Quince is the friendliest Schnucks in the company.”
Even when she is on a break, she still works.
“I make sure to walk up different aisles on the way to the break room so that I can help people find what they’re looking for.”
McAnespie has regular fans. Many make sure they shop on the days she works. She’s been recognized all over town, and beyond: A shopper called out her name when she was vacationing with her family in Paris — on an escalator at the Louvre.
“I never imagined I’d be doing something like this, for this long, because I don’t like working Saturdays.”
Like any supermarket veteran, McAnespie has seen retailers come and go. Starting with Seesels, she can recite a list of employers as each company was acquired in turn: Bruno’s, then Albertsons, and finally, Schnucks.
Through them all, she has experienced good and bad management. McAnespie recalls one manager from her Seesels years that actually commended her for bringing complaint after complaint to his attention.
“I told him that I always felt like I was causing him trouble. And he said, ‘Martha, these people like you, and they know you better than they know me. They trust you will help them and solve their problem, so don’t ever apologize for bringing their problems to me.’”
Every retailer wants a Martha McAnespie on their team. She enjoys her job, she shows up, on time, and actively seeks out shoppers to assist. Luckily for Schnucks — and every other retailer she’s worked for over the years — her insights are timeless and apply to any supermarket scenario.
“I could write a book about customers. They’re looking to be comfortable in the places they shop, knowing where things are and knowing that things are properly priced.”