Thursday, October 31, 2013

Great Moments in Customer Service

(Sorry about the delayed posting for those of you that saw: "Placeholder".)

Today we present another episode of Great Moments in Customer Service.

A few weeks ago, after getting home late on a Friday night, St. Pauli Girl and I decided to order Chinese food for delivery. We called our favorite establishment
(which also has good Chinese mustard ).  Thirty minutes later our food arrived, although we had already realized they never asked for our credit card number on the phone. So St. Pauli Girl presented the credit card to the deliveryman who, not surprisingly, told her he couldn't process credit cards.

No problem,” St. Pauli Girl said, “I'll just call the restaurant back. Wait here.

A few moments later the man on the phone told her, “We cannot process your credit card right now.

But we always use a credit card when we order. We're good, loyal customers.”

No, we cannot do that right now.”

Oka-a-ay. How about I give the driver a check?”

We don't take checks.”

But we don't have any cash,” St. Pauli Girl reasoned.

No checks. Cash only.

We handed the food back to the driver who apologized and left, all the while wondering why they didn't tell us "cash only" when we called.

In short, the driver lost out on a tip, the restaurant had to throw out perfectly good food, and they lost a loyal customer forever . . . all because they wouldn't bend a no-checks policy even under unusual circumstances. (A broken card reader? Cancelled bank account? We'll never know.)

Not to be outdone, an "upscale taco shop" we visited for the first time last weekend made us question the sanity of yet another restaurant management team. After ordering at the counter, the cashier handed us our “chips and salsa” receipt which we were instructed to take to the food window a few steps away.

We stood on the right side of the window in front of the four people working on the other side. No one even looked up. Then we saw the sign on the left side of the window which said “Pick up food here.” So we moved over to the left side of the window and waggled our receipt in the air . . . where the four workers continued to ignore us.

St. Pauli Girl held the receipt up to the window. The four workers continued to plate food and talk among themselves, still refusing to acknowledge our existence. Lucky for them I had a beer in my hand or I would have been forced to take some kind of action.

I glanced through the window and saw a huge metal container with a couple bushels of chips just waiting to be scooped into a basket. I'm sure the salsa was nearby. It would probably take about five seconds to load up a basket of chips and a cup of salsa.

Do you think we're supposed to walk back there and get it ourselves?” I asked.

St. Pauli Girl pulled on the locked door next to the window. “Guess not,” she said.

I've already decided I'm never coming back here. Even before we get our food,” I said.

Finally, one of the worker bees grabbed the receipt from St. Pauli Girl's hand, looked at it, then wordlessly set it on the counter. He continued doing other things. When we had just about reached the breaking point, he glanced up, spent about five seconds filling a basket with chips, grabbed a cup of salsa, and set them on the window counter. He still didn't say anything. Without asking, we grabbed the chips and ran.

Later, our number for our tacos were called and I went back to the window to get our food.

Both of those trays are yours,” said the guy behind the window.

What? You mean you guys actually speak?” I said, grabbing the trays.

I brought the food back to our table, and St. Pauli Girl realized she forgot to ask for sour cream. Easily remedied, you would think, and you would be wrong. She had to wait in the main line behind a crowd of people to order a side of sour cream. After paying, the cashier gave her a receipt, which then had to be presented at the food window. This all came with the now-familiar ticket-waving and getting-ignored ritual.
Meanwhile I finished my tacos and tried to imagine the business plan pitch for this establishment: “We're going to make really big tacos with interesting toppings but then we'll make it very big city, upscale by providing the kind of service you can expect in a prison cafeteria... except worse.”


  1. Only yesterday I wrote the following on my Facebook....

    "And here I sit; and sit and wait; and wait and I wait for a customer service person/robot to attend to my call and my query...see you all next week!!!"

    1. Sorry, my editor was delayed in sending back to me. Wanted to post in October but I missed that window anyway. Needless to say, operators are not standing by.

  2. I think I know where I would've put their tacos, salsa, chips and sour cream....and would've done it with great pleasure! I would've also added lots more chilli...just to make it all worthwhile!! ;)

    1. Yes, we should have done that. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Customer Service died about the same time it became standard policy for all businesses to have the most anti-consumer policies that they could think up. I am ticked off for you and I wasn't even there.

    I tend to make promises to boycott businesses that piss me off, but then at some point I break down and go back for more punishment. Plus there is the fact that the companies that make me the most nuts are big box stores and cell/cable providers which I am limited in my choices.

    Are you a letter writer...or review writer? I doubt that some of the little mom and pop business (restaurant or otherwise) care about a single customer complaint but chain businesses would be getting a complaint letter from me. Angie's list is also, on my "review" list. Businesses really hat bad reviews on Angie's List.

    Not long ago, I had a senior officer of Costco call me after a doozy of a letter came to his attention. I swore I would never go back but then I am a person of weak convictions. I am going there this afternoon to get my hubby a new pair of Maui Jim sunglasses,

    1. I haven't been much of a letter writer or online reviewer. I have in the past written glowing review on comment cards or receipts when we've had a great restaurant experience because I guess restaurants hear more complaints than raves.

      As a former restaurant owner I have mixed feelings about all the yelps, trip advisor, urban spoon, etc reviews. For one thing, I think they've been taken over by people getting paid to write good or bad things. Everytime a bad review would appear on one of those sites, we'd amazingly get a call from some business promising to make bad reviews go away for a certain amount of money.

      But I probably will write a letter to the taco shop. The worst thing about running a restaurant is not the loud complainers but the people that walk away not saying anything about their unfortunate experience only to never come back and bad mouth you to friends and family. Those are the people you really want to identify and fix whatever happened.

  4. "What? You guys do speak?" Excellent!

    I imagine you have even less patience for this bullshit having had a restaurant of your own. I am still scratching my head.

    1. Yeah, I did end up sending them a formal complaint because as an owner, it's the people that don't say anything that drive you crazy. But as I said, at least they're smart enough to give you your beer before the other nonsense. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Where have you disappeared to, Dexter??? I hope all is well with you and yours.

    And I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and may 2014 treat you kindly. Best wishes.

    1. Yep, still around. Had a rough November and I guess it took all of December to recover. Should be back in the swing of things within the next week. Thanks for the good wishes and hope you have a great 2014 as well!