Saturday, August 25, 2007

How NOT to Provide Customer Service, Lessons 1-100

TH and I were eating at a casual restaurant today for lunch, enjoying ourselves, when suddenly, a child begins a tantrum, to the accompaniment of a loud banging sound. Ten minutes later (I'm not kidding), the kid is still screaming and banging around, the parents have done NOTHING, and my food is curdling in my stomach. So I go to see what the restaurant is going to do. I figure, restaurants are hospitality industries, right? So the comfort and enjoyment of their guests is important to them, right? I wouldn't go so far as to say the customer is always right, but apparently they are if their kid is tantruming, because no one was willing to do anything. Check it out.

The first employee I approach (must have been 15 years old), I ask very politely, "Is there anything that can be done about the child who's throwing a fit? It's affecting our enjoyment of our meal." She says "I don't think we can do anything." Silence. Ohh--kayy. I ask to speak to the manager. She gets her supervisor, who was about 18 years old. He says "We can't really ask them to leave." Oh really? I ask, "Don't you have the right to refuse service to anyone?" He shrugs. I say, "So what you're telling me is that even though one person is ruining the restaurant environment for everyone else, there's nothing you can do about it?!" He says, "Yeah." I'm like, ooooooh - UH-UH. Meanwhile the tantrum has still been going on - so it's not like they couldn't hear what I was talking about - for a total of 15 minutes of straight meltdown (I gotta hand it to the kid for sheer endurance - wow). So I ask him if I can speak to his boss. He says, OK. He comes back with a business card, "He must have stepped out for a minute, but you can call him." You betcha.

A few minutes later, after the kid mercifully shuts up (still at no direction from his parents, who we had been observing), the manager starts walking around the restaurant. He's dressed in denim shorts and a T-shirt that says STUD and doesn't even identify the restaurant. He's asking everyone, "how you doin?" Well, fine, I love screaming with my onion rings, thanks...So when he gets to our table, I speak up. (Oh crap - I'm turning into my mother.) I very calmly mention that our lunch was disrupted by the tantrum, and how when I discussed this with his staff, I was told there was nothing to be done. I explained that this whole scenario bothered me on two levels: 1), what if the child were in danger, and making a ruckus? Would the restaurant say "nope, sorry, nothing we can do." And, 2) as a patron, it did not make me feel respected when the staff told me they couldn't help out. I then suggested that the manager (who turns out to be the owner) train the staff on different responses, so they can respond to complaints and disturbances appropriately. He totally blew me off.

He says, "Well ma'am, this is a kid-friendly restaurant, and so we expect there to be a certain amount of noise. If a child is in danger, we're limited by laws but would probably call the police. Otherwise, we can't do anything." I pointed out that the child was quite obviously not having good clean kid-friendly fun. He said, "I only just stepped out for five minutes, and I don't hear anything now. I'm a parent, and my kids have had tantrums in restaurants, you just do the best you can. In the thirty years I've worked in restaurants, I've never asked anyone to leave, and I never will." Wow. This guy's a winner. I reiterated that our meal was ruined, as were many other diners'. I asked him the same question as I asked his lackey - "so, you're going to sacrifice the comfort and experience of the whole restaurant because you don't want to step in to correct one person?" He said that's the way it was, and said he was sorry but there was nothing else he could tell me. No offer to pay for lunch, no apology for the negative experience. No placating, no nuthin'. I was so angry at this point I was shaking, but I managed to say, "I completely disagree with how you've handled this." We got up and left.

Now, I don't need someone to kiss my tushie, but in my opinion, this is how NOT to provide customer service. TH, after having worked in restaurant management himself, was also appalled - and he is tough to ruffle. When did kids' tantrums become normal behavior? When did people stop enforcing appropriate restaurant behavior for the common comfort of their patrons? My god, I feel like I stepped into bizarro world.

ps. Don't go to Fuddrucker's on Sunrise Ave in Citrus Heights. Ever. I'm telling everyone. And I'm toying with calling HQ on his ass.
pps. It occurs to me that I've been ranting a lot on my blog lately, so I will try to bring back some love tomorrow. I've got a great book I want to share with you.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Wow. Good for you for saying something to everyone on the ladder. I think you should write a letter to HQ too. Did you get everyone's names at the Sac establishment? And here I thought customer service in the US was AMAZING compared to what I've experienced in far.