Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Hancock Fabrics' yellow tag / barcode update

Look familiar? Yes, more little yellow tag barcodes from Hancock Fabrics.

If you didn't have a chance to read my original post about these you can do so here. (Just don't forget to come back, okay?)

My post was picked up by a reporter and soon after that I was contacted by Hancock Fabric's VP of Operations with an invitation to call her/him to share my experiences. As I mentioned at the time, I'm impressed that the company reached out to me.

When our conversation began she/he made sure to tell me how Hancock Fabrics values their customers (us!) and how she/he read my post - and your comments - with great interest. They are interested in hearing what we have to say.

I tried to remember all of your comments and questions when I spoke to her/him and hopefully you'll find answers below.

Here's what I learned about Hancock Fabrics' yellow tag / barcode system.
  • Yes, it's new. It was rolled out nationwide 6 to 8 weeks ago.
  • The system underwent testing for 90 days in approximately 24 chains through out the nation before it went national.
  • District managers reported no issues with the barcode system. In fact the reports back were/are mostly positive.
  • Headquarters received reports from stores that the tags remained on all fabrics.
  • Initial reports from store indicate that the system seems to work okay- if I remember correctly she/he was referring to the correct pricing showing up at the cutting tables.
  • The system is intended to improve both speed and accuracy at the cutting table and the check out counter.
  • It should improve the accuracy at the cutting table, because the cutter can now see the price of the fabric. If it's not showing up on sale, it will be caught at this point, not after the customer has checked out.
  • It is a static barcode, so it shouldn't matter if multiple clerks share a roll of labels. This is the example that was given to me: Customer (you) wants 3 yards of red wool. (Okay, they said broadcloth, but I like wool better...) You tell cutter quantity desired; cutter repeats back yardage to you for verification; cutter cuts fabric; cutter inputs into the scanner; cutter scans info onto yellow barcode. At that point the information is "married" to the information in the system.
  • Supposedly if your tag falls off between the cutting table and the check out all that needs to happen is that you go back to the cutting table and have them rescan the info and create a new tag. (Now you know I see a problem with this... I'll elaborate later.)
  • They choose not to have printers at the cutting tables (ala Joann's) due to upkeep (and I imagine extra costs ... maintenance, paper, ink, etc.)
  • If an item is not showing the correct price at the cutting table, it could be for a number of reasons. The fabric was a manager's special, it was wrapped on an incorrect bolt, or it simply was missed in the programming.
  • She/he asked me to send him a copy of my receipt so the overage could be taken care of. It took some time, but hey, it was the holidays. I think most companies and people tend to slow down just a bit during that time. And they are making it right.
  • She/he also wanted to see the item that rang up incorrectly so they could share it with their IT guy/gal. I haven't heard back if this item was indeed not in the system correctly or what the cause was.
Here's what I think.

  • I think they're trying hard to improve their process and eliminate bottlenecks.
  • Do I think this is the perfect solution? No. But it's a start. I understand why the company wants to improve processes. I'm sure one reason is to keep their operating costs down. Which I want, and I assume you want too, otherwise those costs will continue to be passed on to us.
  • Right now, this feels more store-friendly than customer-friendly. It relies heavily on customer-service oriented cutters at the cutting table that are willing to repeat your fabric order back to you. It relies on customers keeping an eagle eye on those tags.
  • The tag missing from the fabric sounds like a lose-lose situation. Think about it. You're at the checkout with seven pieces of cut fabric. As the cashier is scanning your fabrics your heart sinks as you realize one yellow tag is missing. You now have to go back to the cutting table to get a replacement tag. This not only embarrasses you (or maybe it's only me that feels embarrassed when something doesn't ring up right and there's a huge line of impatient people behind me.) but it irritates the customers standing in line behind you. You either wait behind everyone at the cutting table to get your replacement tag (which irritates you) or you cut in front of the line (which irritates the other customers). In the meantime the cashier has to decide whether or not to wait for you, or cancel your order and begin ringing everyone else up.
  • True life example: My husband visited Hancock Fabrics to purchase a gift card (for me!). He was in the checkout line behind a lady whose yellow tag had fallen off of one of her fabrics. She - the customer, not the sales associate - was sent back into the store to search for the missing tag while the other customers waited (and hoped that it wouldn't happen to them). In this case, hubby reported that they did eventually open another checkout line.
In theory the new barcode system should work. Perhaps it's still so new the bugs are still being worked out. Or perhaps the sales associates are still learning to embrace it.

I know I'm playing devil's advocate here. However, I visited a Hancock Fabrics store this past weekend so I could test out the system again. (All right, I admit it. I also had that gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket.)

As this post as gotten rather lengthy I'll share my latest visit with you tomorrow. Let's just say I'm glad I knew about the new barcode system and was prepared.

So I'm curious.
  • What do you think? Do you like the new barcode system? Do you find it more accurate? Is it speeding up your check out time? Do you have burning questions about the system that didn't get answered?

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  1. I don't care for the yellow barcodes. I haven't had a problem with them yet but I've only purchased fabric twice since they implemented this. I don't trust Hancock's system for accurate pricing. Almost every time I shop there, something rings up at the wrong price. I prefer JoAnn's printed slip at the counter. I can see how many yards, item name and price BEFORE I get to the register. Now I only shop Hancock's for the 50% off notions sales or $1 pattern sales.

  2. I live in Denmark so I have no Hancocks to shop at but my local big chain fabric store used labels and they are somewhat more advanced than the ones you talk about.

    The assistant cut the fabric, scan the barcode on the roll and inputs yardage on the computer and the little printer thermal print out a label.

    Labels are rather big and that helps so that they do not fall off - and if they do they are so big that they stick to the shopping cart or your clothes or whatnot. The lavels are 2" x 4". Info on them is as follows:

    Cut by:
    Unique barcode that knows fabric, yardage and the very bolt it came from
    Fabric design ID
    Bolt ID
    Text describing fabric
    Care instructions
    Fabric Info (30% cotton/70% polyester)

    This is SO clever. I wonder why Hancock wants to implement such and old fashioned and error prone system.

  3. I don't like the new barcode system, I was there on the 16th and purchased a football fleece (you can see it on my blog) which was priced at 3.95 I used my 40% off coupon and according to excel the price should have been 1.58 but I was charged 2.37, I'm looking at my receipt as I type this because I plan on taking it back to the store, I live close enough where it's not that much of an issue. I do think they need to have the print out for the customer. I MUCH prefer my local Hancock to the JoAnn's, JoAnn's customer service is horrible. Sorry for the long response but you asked.

  4. Oophs my bad, I was never good at math and I redid my calculations and it looks like they are correct. At least I didn't go back to store, I would rather embarrass myself on a blog lol.

  5. So far I haven't had a problem, but then, I've only been back 2 times for fabric since they've started this. I'd rather have a sticker with the yardage and price when I left the cutting table also. And make it of a size that's not so easy to lose.

    I'd LOVE it if they included all the information that Anne LO gets on stickers there. Wouldn't it be lovely to just be able to snip off a bit of fabric, attach the sticker and file it for future reference? I usually forget to note the care instructions/fiber content, or lose the notes.

  6. I bought some fabric in November at Hancock's, they were already using it. I didn't notice much difference in the service. They are still so slow. But other than Hobby Lobby, that's it in Victoria, TX, unless you go to San Antonio, Corpus Christi or Houston.

  7. I don't have a Hancock's anywhere near me anymore. But, knowing my temperament, if I was at the checkout and my yellow tag was gone and there were other people waiting and I was told to go back to the cutting table, my reply would be something like, "That's okay, you can keep the fabric." It's the principle! ;)

  8. I think the tag system is improved from their past process, which involved the cutting clerk writing by hand all the code numbers, yardage, price and discount info onto a piece of paper - and then whoever was running the register had to key that all in again from someone else's maybe-not-so-legible handwriting. I've only been back to our not-so-local Hancock's once since they started the new system, but it worked fine. Their fabric and service is so much better than Joann's that I'm willing to put up with some quirky systems.

  9. sewing elle8:05 PM

    no Hancocks in Australia. Most of teh fabric shops here have a cashier on the cutting tables and another in the notions/craft sections. Last year I visited G St fabrics in Wash DC and it was kinda quaint to get everything written up on a sheet of paper that I then took to the cashier. The yellow tags sound like a pain

  10. Anonymous9:11 PM

    I like the system, and don't see the problem. If one puts their fabric in a basket or cart, the sticker shouldn't fall off. It's the same as making sure you don't lose your cutting slip at Joann's.

  11. We no longer have Hancock's in our area, but I would prefer to have information on the tag that indicates yardage and cost. Customers should not be left guessing. This is very much like Walmart's system of pinning a small piece of paper to your fabric with a barcode of information. I haven't purchased fabric from Walmart in a long time, but I don't remember seeing any information on those little pieces of paper.

    What bothers me more about your story than the little pieces of yellow sticky paper is that the sales associate did not share with you the amount of fabric you wanted and the cost of the fabric.

    As far as sending a customer back to find a tag that had fallen off while keeping the rest of the checkout line waiting... I don't even want to picture that in my head.

    Incidentally, I just discovered your blog and I really like it. Thanks for sharing.



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