Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Customers and Customer Service

So tonight I went out to dinner, since a local place was having a special on wings and I wanted to try their wings. As I waited for my food, a woman at a nearby table began to angrily berate her waitress loudly enough that I could overhear the discussion. Her complaint was that the basket of fries that she'd ordered for her family was not big enough. She pointed out angrily that the menu claimed that it was a serving for four people, and she argued loudly that there were clearly not enough fries there for four people.

Thing is, there were only three people at the table: this obese woman, her obese teen daughter, and a five-year old who was well on his way to being obese. And here mom was, arguing that a basket of deep-fried potatoes intended for four adults did not constitute enough food for her and her two children.

So then the manager was summoned over. And I'm thinking that even though this is a totally stupid complaint of the type that has forever kept me out of customer-service-oriented employment due to my inability to refrain from speaking my mind when confronted by such people, the old tenets of customer service should still apply here: Make the customer happy. I mean, I grew up with an understanding of the concept that in business, "the customer is always right". (Archaic, I know...I'm old.) But this twenty-something "manager" appeared genuinely perplexed and stumped as to how to respond. She replied that it wasn't her fault that the menu put out by the corporate office said that the basket contained enough fries for four people, and then she stood there all cow-eyed staring at this woman who was going on and on and on about being ripped off.

And I'm over in my seat thinking "Geez, she's a fat pig but you're a manager with, like, authority. Offer her something else or just ask her what would make her happy. That's just a no-brainer, one would think.

But apparently such is not taught in manager school any more, because she just stood there looking like a deer in the headlights as this woman harangued her loudly in front of the whole restaurant. The manager didn't even try to placate or mollify the woman. Finally, the woman worked herself up into such a fit that she announced to her two fat kids that they were leaving and not paying for the fries. And sure enough, all three of them waddled away while the manager and the waitress just looked at each other in befuddlement.

Now to begin with, the fat woman was wrong to act that way, but managers are paid to manage things like this, and customer satisfaction being important (at least once upon a time), I was embarrassed and ashamed for the two employees who, between them, could not de-escalate this simple situation and make this pig and her two piglets happy. I mean, how hard is it to just give them more fries or offer a substitution?

Pathetic. Pathetic all around. When did it become acceptable to act like that in a public establishment, and when did managers stop working towards keeping even the most unreasonable customers happy? More importantly, what ever happened to basic civility and courtesy? Where did these things go and when did they leave?


  1. "i'm sorry you feel that way ma'am, but thats the government approved 4person serving size, you'll need to take it up with them"

    Yah I burned out on customer service about a year ago, can you tell?

    Actually the "customer care approved response"varies from company to company, but yes new managers need trainng on how to defuse idiots.

    Personally I'm of the opinion that some idiots aren't worth trying to make happy because they simply aren't going to be happy no matter what and frankly this one sounds like one of that group.

  2. I was a domino's pizza manager in the early 90's. I can tell you stories about customer service. That obese women is a symptom of what is wrong in America, besides her health issues and poor diet, the rude and obnoxious behavior is acceptable nowadays. That manager was incorrect, first off, admitting that those flyers were printed by corporate shows no support for her employer and no customer service skills. The manager should have brought her the fries(cheap) and shut her up. Now a lot of establishments have signs stating" we have a right to refuse service" If that heifer came back, I would have told them to move along I will not serve them. I have "fired a few customers" for repeated trying to scam me. There is a transaction in reputable business based on mutual respect. The heifer violated that.

  3. My guess, should you be able to talk to the manager privately, is her supervisors won't back her up in any decision she made. Old saying, "The fish starts stinking at the head."

    That doesn't make the situation right. Just saying the blame directed to the responsible party.

    Oh, yeah. That manager needs to grow a spine.

  4. Jerks and assholes are essential because, without them, we wouldn't recognize nice people.

  5. As a lot of teens do I worked fast food all through high school. Unlike most I was driven and was a manager before I quit at 18 to become a secretary. My code was remake it until it is right or whatever else it took no matter how awful the customer. That has fallen away. My niece is 16 has no desire for a job or her license and sleeps all day. It baffles me but my nephew looks at me and says, "Aunt Lila it's just a new generation. Most kids don't really care anymore." He is a pretty wise 12. Just makes me feel old.

  6. Next time you're in a restaurant and grouching about the prices charged on the menu, remember this gluttonous woman and how you thought she should receive a Big Basket O' Fries to reward her gluttony.


  7. Absolutely the customer was off-base to begin with, but such is the state of entropy or devolution of our culture.

    Nonetheless, you're certainly correct that the manager was brain dead to not have immediately offered to bring an additional portion of fries. I mean, for Pete's sake, they're pommes frites, not pâté de fois gras - bring them a truckload if it shuts them up.

    Now I know some folks who would be sorely tempted, if in the manager's shoes, to 'one-up' the customer, say, by requesting, "Garçon, a trough of french fries for Lane Bryant and her family, s'il vous plaît!" Even though it would be kinda funny, I would fire (OK, at least scold) a manager who did that, as the art of management would be to expeditiously satisfy the customer's request.

  8. A long time ago Murph... sigh... And it goes both ways, obnoxious and loud is the way all these folks think they can 'get over' what they want.

  9. And there is one reason why I could never make it in a restaurant. The temptation to serve the basket of fries by dumping them over her head might have become too great.

  10. You've just articulated the reason(s) why I rarely go out to eat, particularly somewhere where a grossly overweight family is likely to dine.

    And, the reasons why I could never own, work in, manage or otherwise be associated with a restaurant.

    Now if you want excellent Thai food, good beer, and a quiet atmosphere instead of wings head for Shepherdstown. You may see some tie-dyed clothing from the university students (and faculty) (yes, it seem to be "in" again), but morbidly obese people seem to avoid sushi and Thai food as it doesn't come with fries.

  11. The Dinald wins the Internet today! Trough of pommes frites for Lane Bryant. Priceless!

    Yeah -- the manager messed up. She succeeded in making you and the whole restaurant uncomfortable. How likely is it that you'll go back soon, if at all?

  12. @ Moogie - I can't wholly own that - it was adapted from a John Cusack line in the tavern scene in The Sure Thing: "Barkeep! Get this man a trough of Spritzer."

  13. I'd have just told the fat lady they are going by Obama's recomendations.

    Hope and Change and all that.

    Then I'd have kicked their butts out.

    It was a regular restaurant, not a all-you-can-eat place. I have no sympathy for them.