“You’re making it very hard for me to be nice to you!”

Trust me folks, I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up.  Two horrible and astonishing stories of customer service gone wacky were relayed to me within days of each other. On each occasion I was aghast that an individual in a management position could think or behave in this manner.  What were they thinking?

Scene of the Crime: Brooklyn, NY

Title: “Oh No You Didn’t!”

A neighborhood restaurant makes good burgers, but even better, in fact outstanding sweet potato french fries. A very kind and polite individual whom I know very well is in the mood for her favorite sweet potato fries and decides to order a burger too.  One tiny problem; the order arrives with curly seasoned fries.

Not a big deal – right?  “Of course not” you say. You simply explain the error to the counter personnel and walk away with your intended order.  Hmmm , not so fast, or easy. You see, the counter person’s reply is “You asked for curly fries.” to which the customer replied that she had not requested curly fries.  In fact she did not know they served curly fries.

The counter person raised her voice, insisting that she was correct and the customer was wrong. I don’t think it is necessary for me to delve into and explore the old adage of the customer always being right.  After all, I am simply relaying a little story about curly fries.

As the burger sat on the counter, cooling-off next to a pile of curly fries, the kind and polite customer found herself a bit flummoxed at the attitude of the service person.  It was clearly a error and she knew what she wanted. She nicely asked that they replace the order with sweet potato fries and give the curly fries to another customer in the bustling restaurant.  The response was “Okay, but you’re going to have to pay for them.” Oh, no she didn’t!

Sensing that she had come in contact with a rogue and errant employee, the customer asked to speak with the manager. Before you read the next sentence, guess what the counter person’s response was. Okay, here’s the reveal, the response was “I am the manager.”

I had the great pleasure of reading the customer’s masterfully composed post on Yelp. It wasn’t long, drawn-out or nasty. It was a concise, beautifully written account of a very poor and sad customer service experience.  Removing myself from this situation, if I came across the post as a customer searching for a good dining experience I would consider another option.

Regardless of your industry, when you are in a position of providing Service to Customers it behooves you to look at the cost of tossing curly fries in the trash versus  poor online reviews that may never be removed.

Scene of the Crime: Boston, MA

Title: “You’re making it very hard for me to be nice to you!”

Yes, those words were spoken to another kind and polite friend (I tend to travel in courteous circles) after dining at a newly opened restaurant in Boston’s South End. Coincidentally the restaurant is located veryclose to Mistral, which provides the best restaurant experience and service in the city.

I mentioned the establishment is new, however the manager is very experienced and the restaurant has been open enough time to work out the kinks. Let’s get back to the kind and polite friend who joined a group of five for a birthday celebration dinner.

Their server was horrible in every way.  The woman was unfamiliar with the menu and retreated to the kitchen twice to ask for descriptions of certain menu items.  On the third try the group asked her to remain at the table, take the entire order and menu selection questions and just return one more time with a complete response. A member of the group stepped away from the table and requested the intervention of the manager, explained the situation and a second server was sent to assist at the table.

After the order placement debacle, multiple incorrect dishes were delivered to the table. I am being kind as I re-tell this story, as four out of six appetizers were incorrect. Can we agree that that is a little problem?  Rather than a fun evening focused on the celebrant, the table conversation was more about the planned great dinner – that wasn’t happening. Thank goodness it’s time for the check and for the group to move on to more pleasant surroundings.

The check arrived and included the incorrect dishes, at this point both appetizers and entrees that had been sent back to the kitchen.  Rather than deal directly with the server whom at this point was clearly challenged in this line of work, they requested the GM to make the corrections on the check.  The GM returned with the check and four members of the party placed credit cards in the folder and one paid cash.  Upon seeing the multiple forms of payment, the GM informed the party that the restaurant does not divide checks on more than three credit cards or one form of payment. Huh? What? Are you kidding me? Then he dropped the bombshell by stating “You’re making it very hard for me to be nice to you!”

Yes, an experienced GM from a good sized restaurant group informed a party of diners who voiced their concerns early in the evening that they were giving him a hard time.  Pretty unbelievable, huh? I was pleased to hear that they recognized that they were being treated like fools and stuck to their guns, refusing to settle the check until it was divided as they requested.

Manners are our way of showing people they matter. Customer Service is providing a well-rounded pleasant experience which satisfies all parties in the end.  It is the most basic tenet of business, regardless of the industry. I would love to say that the two scenarios I mentioned in this post are rare occurrences, but unfortunately we know this happens everyday and everywhere to good people who choose to patronize a particular business but unfortunately end up outraged, insulted, fuming and telling many more people about the negative experience they encountered than they would have bothered to mention if the exchange of goods and services had simply been pleasant and memorable.

Do you have any stories of very bad customer service experiences? I would love to hear them.

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