Sunday, August 10, 2008

Encountering a "Front End Manager"

I have a quibble with Food Front, the local cooperative grocery that will open a store here in Hillsdale soon.

First off, let me say how pleased I am that Food Front has decided to locate its second store here. The Hillsdale community and the co-op truly have embraced each other. Hundreds of us have plunked down $150 membership/ownerships as evidence of our support.

But this is no member/owner's quibble. No, this complaint makes common sense.

Or I hope it does.

It’s pretty simple. In the farmers’ market today I went to the Food Front booth to talk to the woman staffing it. I needed information for a story I’m doing. When I asked for her title so I could use it in the story, with some finality she said she was the “Front End Manager of the Hillsdale Store.”

“I can’t describe you as a ‘Front End’ manager,” I said. “My readers won’t know what that means.”

I paused. “By the way, what does it mean?”

She explained that she would be in charge of customer relations and the checkout department at the Hillsdale store. “Ohhhhh,” I said, buying time and trying to think up a way to describe her job in an understandable way, “Is it OK if I call you the Hillsdale store’s customer service manager?”

No, she said, that sounds too much like another person’s job at Food Front. “Just call me the “Hillsdale Front End Manager,” she insisted. “Everyone in the business knows what a ‘front end manager’ is.”

“But that doesn’t help my readers,” I countered. “The title sounds as though you run part of a body shop or a section of an auto assembly line. It doesn’t communicate anything meaningful to the customers, whom you are trying to serve. In fact, it suggests that you are so caught up in the internal workings of your organization that you can’t communicate with your customers in terms they understand.”

Actually, despite her weird title, she was communicating very well. She was helpful and courteous and, I hope, accepting of my concern. Besides, I’d decided to fudge the whole “front end manager’ issue and to call her generically “a manager at the store.”

Still, as a member/owner, I left her with the suggestion that she and her superiors think about changing her job title to something that would be, literally, meaningful.

Besides, the title raised another weird issue: Is there a rear end manager?

I was afraid to ask.

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Blogger Eamon said...

Rick, I think you should give your readers a little more credit. The job title "Front End Manager" has been around for quite a while. Go into any grocery or retail store with a central checkout area and you will find someone with that title on a name badge or a photo of the manager on the wall. The front end manager is more than a head cashier. He or she is responsible for the front end of the store where the shopping trip begins and ends - staffing, presentation, training and more. If you want a customer or owner-customer to have a good experience from start to finish then a front end manager is just as important as a produce manager or a deli manager. While I usually agree with Orwell with regard to the use of specialized words (or in this case, titles), I think this title is appropriate.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

For what it's worth, I just checked with my wife on "Front End Manager" and she had never heard the term, but she took a guess at what it might mean and was right.

So why should we have to guess?

I'm also thinking that fork-lift operators might be "front end managers."

The beat goes on....

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Safeway stores have Front end managers, too. they make sure the checkers get their breaks and lunches and there is adequate staffing for the customers. I ask them the same thing. is there a Rear end manager somewhere? and if there is, how would you post a want ad for such a thing?

2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a difference between the job title of Customer Service Manager and Front End Manager, even though some grocery stores use these terms interchangeably. In the general hiearchy, the job of Customer Service Manager is a superior position to that of the Front End Manager, often overseeing not just the cashiers and customer service desk, but also file maintenance operations, cash office operations, and most of the human resource operations that take place in the store (new hires, counseling, etc) If there is no designated CSM, sometimes the front end manager will perform these additional duties, but more often than not they are left under the supervision of the more senior management.

What would be considered "rear end management" would actually be the perishable and non perishable managers jobs, going down the line to the deli manager, meat manager, grocery manager, and non-foods or general merch manager, if there is one..Basically anything that doesn't involve the front end of the store.

10:12 PM  

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