Tuesday, June 27, 2006


You Call This Service?

About ten or so years ago I went out for dinner and a drink with my friend "Lou". We often went to this establishment because it was convenient, comfortable, reasonably priced and they offered some pretty good food for a roadhouse type restaurant.

We arrived around 9:00pm or so and were seated by the hostess who took our drink orders. A Sleeman Ale for Lou, Rickard's Red for me. The place was pretty much empty except for 3 guys sitting around the bar. After about ten minutes, our waitress, "Candi" (with an 'i') appeared with our drinks.

"Who ordered the Semen?" she said with a hiccup-like giggle.
We both shot her that "are you a total idiot?" stare.
"The Rickard's is mine", I said.

She put the drinks on the table and asked if we were ready to order. We were ready when we walked into the place. We both ordered the standard chicken pita and Greek salad dinner we always got there.

"Oh....", Candi exhaled.
"Is there a problem with that?", I asked.
"Well, it's just that it's getting late and the cook wants to go home so he might not cook it all the way through."
"Pardon me? You're saying that we just might get some raw chicken because the cook doesn't feel like sticking around long enough to cook it?", I asked.
"Ya", she said back as if this was a ridiculous question to ask.

Lou and I just looked at each other and I couldn't help but look around to see if I could see the hidden cameras and Peter Funt giggling to himself behind a potted plant.

"OK then, what would you suggest that won't give us Salmonella?"

She offered some alternative which I can't recall, that we decided to go for. Candi placed the order and returned to the bar where she was chatting up the barflies who were probably hoping to get into her pants after her shift ended. Quite frankly, she acted and looked like the type.

Meanwhile, Lou and I had finished our drinks and waited for Candi to come back to see if we wanted another round, which we sorely did. No such luck. We continued to wait. Finally, around 20 minutes or so past our initial dealings with Candi, we saw our meals placed on the counter for pickup. They sat there for nearly ten more minutes while I sat in my seat and glared at Candi. Finally, there must have been some synaptic response because she finally caught my eye, looked a bit startled, looked up to the counter where our food was cooling and came running over with it.

"Your food just came up", she bubbled.
"Actually," I said, "it has been sitting there for about ten minutes while you've been socializing."
She offered an apology by way of saying "Ohhhh......"
"Is it possible to get another couple of drinks here?"
"Sure, no problem"
Right...we'll see about that. And we did.
Drinks never did arrive. We had finished our meals and sat waiting for several minutes after that.

Candi arrived with our bill and I asked her to confirm that the drinks that we never received which were ordered when the food was finally delivered weren't on the bill.
"Ohhhh.....", she said again.

After Candi walked away, Lou and I looked at the bill in utter dismay. Clearly her math skills could rival that of any short-bus riding, helmet-wearing seven year old. Lou, always the banker, even after hours, calculated the bill and wrote down the correct charges, taxes and total. We left exactly that amount.

We returned to my apartment where I composed a letter to the owner of the restaurant explaining our horrible experience. About two weeks later, I received a reply from the manager offering his sincere apology, a generous gift certificate, and the assurance that Candi was no longer with the restaurant.

I went back with The Squeeze shortly thereafter and had a completely enjoyable lunch. As the manager stated, and I whole-heartedly agree with, it is always appreciated to receive comments about dissatisfaction so the problem can be dealt with.

What made me go on this rant ten years after the fact? Well, I had another experience in bad customer service a couple of days ago.

I stopped in at the local hardware store to pick up some stuff for work. The middle-aged sales clerk was walking down the aisle I was in and I said 'hello' to her. She didn't even grunt. She just walked past me. I took my item up to the counter and waited for her to come up to the till to ring me through. She arrived, didn't say a word and scanned the item.

"$7.44", she grunted.

I handed her the debit card, she swiped it, handed me the keypad without a word, stapled the receipts and that was the extent of our interaction. Not a "hi", "bye" or "kiss my ass".

Right after that I went into the drug store a few doors down and was greeted by a clerk right when I walked in the door. I found the item I was looking for and walked to the till.

"How are you today? Did you find everything you need? Thank you, see you again, have a great day."

The places are a few doors away, but their customer service is worlds apart.

I'm going to write a letter to the manager of the hardware store about that clerk. It's not as if they are the only hardware store in the area, and considering that fact and the fact that a Home Depot is just a short drive away, their strength needs to be in their people. If I had an employee who treated customers that way s/he would be gone. I am in customer service. I know that customers are not an interruption of your work, they are the reason for your work.

Let's see what happens.

See, that's what I get for assuming. Of course, the problem with middle-aged women working in minimum wage job is that they more than likely resent the fact that they have to work - probably divorced, husband cheated on them, etc. And they think the job is beneath them. Some people don't understand the concept of making the best of something.
If she keeps that attitude up it's quite likely that the drop in customers may eliminate the need for her position.
The customers should be so lucky.
I'd have gotten that slag fired. Service is everthing in a food establishment. I have greasy spoons I frequent, not 'cause the food is great, but the service is.
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