Customers have voices too!

Back in the dark ages prior to the advent of social media, if you went to an eatery or business and the service or experience was lacking, you had few options to express your discontent. Sure you could ask for a manager or write a letter but by and large you the consumer (aside from telling folks in your personal circle to avoid the place like the plague) really had few options.

However social media has changed the game. Suddenly we the consumers have a voice and that voice can be quite loud. Many folks remember the story of blogger Dooce and her Maytag experience, now I admit I was on the fence with how she handled her dissatisfaction with their service but in the end by using her voice she was able to get the situation resolved. In the past few months I have had a few instances of service gone awry and thanks to social media (namely Twitter), the situations were resolved above and beyond what I expected.

In the first instance an e-coupon via Foursquare at the local Goodwill was not honored, in fact the clerks seemed clueless about the coupon and flat out refused to honor the five dollar off deal. (It was five dollars off any purchase of twenty five dollars or more) Now it wasn’t a huge deal to me but I did tweet about it and in the end Goodwill contacted me, compensated me more than the original coupon was worth and I was happy and will continue to patronize Goodwill of Northern New England. While the store clerk may have been clueless it was clear that they have social media savvy folks on staff who understands the value of social media in business.

In the second instance it’s an ongoing issue so I won’t get into all the details, but I will say a month or so back our car needed some work and we took it into our local shop which is a fairly large New England chain. Up until earlier this year we had a great relationship with the shop but the manager left and was replaced by a fellow who clearly is not as focused on keeping customers happy. Considering that the repair was just done a month ago, it took longer than we were told and it cost more, so you can imagine that I wasn’t feeling too happy when it became clear recently that the issue was obviously not resolved. So I took it to Twitter and it turns out this chain does indeed have a presence there and let’s just say they are working to make this a happy ending.

Now one might get the idea that maybe I like to be a rabble rouser, while that is true in some areas of my life I generally recognize that store clerks and restaurant servers are front line workers who basically deal with a lot of shit and make little money. So for all the times I am rubbed the wrong way and sadly I must say sometimes just my presence seems to be a factor, I generally let things roll off my back. Life is too damn short to get bent about every slight…in the end it’s just not that serious.

However I had an experience today while hanging out in Portland that well….pissed me the fuck off. Let me set the scene, the family and I went to a cool little arts festival, the type of thing I adore, and of course we didn’t eat lunch figuring we’d grab something there. But the choices were limited and the six year old is a picky eater which means by extension we are picky eaters, no allergies or sensitivities, she is just incredibly picky and will starve rather than eat what she does not want. I didn’t want to argue about food today, so I said screw it let’s find something she will eat. So off we go.

We walk over to the Old Port which is a cutesy touristy part of Portland with the types of shops that when I first moved here I went gaga over but now that my income is in line with the average Mainer and not the income we used to have, I generally avoid such cute shops. Y’all know the type…they scream “SPEND MONEY!” So we came upon a new eatery The Thirsty Pig, let me say I am married to a man that though he was raised in California he was born in Minnesota and I am convinced his Midwestern roots comes through in his eating. He is meh about sushi but loves a good sausage and beer. So when we spied The Thirsty Pig and saw it was basically sausages he was happy and hey they had hot dogs for the little one. Now I will be honest and say neither of these choices made me want to break into a song and dance but the kid was loudly letting us know she was hungry so I said cool let’s eat here.

From the moment I walked in the vibe felt off but as a mother with a hungry picky eater, I brushed it aside. Though the servers seemed frazzled and frankly the lackluster service pissed me off from the get go…hello! Of course I want to order, I have been sitting here ten minutes with a hungry kid! So we place our order, I decided on the lobster roll since it was the one item that spoke to me and I like a good roll and I figured with a price tag of $15.50, it would probably be a fantastic lobster roll!

That lobster roll was the nastiest things I have ever tasted, the rolls seemed a tad heavy, the lobster meat was very cold and had a very fishy taste and the mayo or whatever was at the bottom of the roll was just meh. To be honest the sandwich was so unpleasant and the fishy flavor so overpowering which concerned me that I left most of it on the plate. Instead eating my salt and vinegar chips and pickles….by the way I like salt and vinegar chips but many don’t including my picky eater, why not offer a plain chip too?

I know I am getting long here but hang with me kids, so the server came and asked was everything fine. I had that split second mental debate where I think do I say something or not, while my brain was debating my mouth said “No, it really wasn’t good”. Oops it seems my mouth got ahead of my brain. The server responds “Well let me get your check.” No offer of can I get you something else, I am so sorry just let me get your check. Look I didn’t expect her to take lobster roll off the bill thought it would have been nice but damn, what about asking if I would like something else? Shit at that point I would have taken a lettuce leaf or something but nope she brings me my check and that’s that.

I admit I was stunned and if it had not been for the presence of the wee one I might have asked for a manager but the kidlet is her explain everything to me stage and I just was not in the mood. So I say to The Thirsty Pig: a less than pleasant meal I can live with but a questionable meal combined with lackluster servers who clearly did not give a damn is just too much.

(Oh, and my husband’s BBQ banger sandwich wasn’t all that and a box of cracker jacks, either. It tasted OK but really, for $6.50 it could have been a little bigger and maybe had a casing on the sausage that wasn’t somehow both tough and slippery)

3 thoughts on “Customers have voices too!

  1. This is the kind of customer service complaint I can get behind. If you’re going to bother to ask if everything’s okay, it kind of goes without saying that the response to that question matters one way or the other. It would be less offensive not to ask then to ask and not response.

    I supervise a customer service operation and I know that there are definitely times when hearing the same ridiculous question or taking abuse for policies that come from higher up are wearing, but I’m careful to keep my ear open for that kind of “don’t give a shit” answer because it drives me bonkers. Lets me know it’s time to make sure people take a little break. Of course, we’re tourism not food service, which makes it easier.

    It’s funny how perspective works. In a non-customer example, I try to be the most rule-abiding driver, pedestrian and bicyclist possible because I take turns being all three, and I firmly believe that if the three modes were always law-abiding and respectful, there’d be a lot less strife and finger-pointing. Likewise, with customer service, there ought to be an equilibrium.

    Whether a consumer or vendor, I always find that being positive and responsive is the best way to assure a good outcome for everyone, but it’s astounding how often and quickly people forget what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence. I’m sure your waiter/waitress has found themself in a position not unlike your own…and probably tipped accordingly. Stressful day on the job notwithstanding, seems like it’s in their best interest to make some effort to respond to your dissatisfaction.

    I’ll admit that there are some complaints that I don’t have patience for: “They put the change on the counter instead of my hand.” (Nine times out of ten they drop it, plus, would you really want to touch literally hundreds of people a day?), “These prices are ridiculous!” (Chances are the employee has zero control and works more than one job to make their bills as it is), etc. But again, regardless of the circumstances, mutual respect and faith in social niceties (which it sounds like you demonstrated, even in the face of a hungry picky eater, which is really saying something!) should be a given.

    My vegan self wasn’t planning to visit the Thirsty Pig anyway, but I’ll keep your experience in mind when I’m using my good service attitude to recommend a restaurant to visitors!

  2. I think that’s what annoyed me most, she asked how was it and when I told her not good, her reply was to offer the check. That’s not even logical, hell had she offered a hot dog or something I would have understood but to offer me my check felt dismissive.

    In the end I left her the appropriate 20% check but admit my irritation at having spent money on a meal that I could not eat…it’s seafood and there was no way in hell I was going to risk learning the hard way if that lobster was fresh or not.

  3. That is horrible service. I understand that everyone has an off day but when a table is clearly unhappy with their meal, I thought the standard was to try to fairly appease the customer.

    To contrast, the other day the hubby, toddler and I went to eat at a place we’ve eaten at several times before. I was happy with my chicken quesadilla until toward the end when I noticed one of a few pieces of chicken looked a little pink. I politely asked the server if if it looked a bit pink to her and let her know that I was alerting her so she could let the cook know in case he needed to leave the chicken on the grill a little longer in the future. After all, I had eaten 90-95% of the meal and enjoyed it up till that point. The server mentioned that the pink color might be because they smoke their chicken first but she did alert the cook and to my surprise took my meal off the bill. I thought that was excellent service and I tipped her as though my meal was still included. Because of that I feel confident that this place cares about its customers and we shall continue to eat there in the future.

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