Sunday, July 05, 2009

What ever happened to the customer always being right?

John and I have gone out to eat 2x in the past week. Both times almost an identical situation has happened that has made me wonder "What happened to the customer always being right-especially in this troubled economy where you want to retain every customer you have?" Here's the situation, both times. Both times we have ordered an item that we believed would have (should have) been included in the price on the menu. (Once it was a Cesar salad instead of a house salad and once it was using a coupon for a free shake during "happy hour" where shakes were half off.) Both times the waitresses knew that we expected the items to be included in the price (or should have known). Both times we've gotten our bill and have seen the unexpected charges. Both times we have brought up to the waitress (or manager) that we didn't expect the charge, we expected it to be included in the price. And both times, we have literally had to fight to have the charge removed. (Ok, not fight, but really, argue through it with the waitress.) We started out nicely, saying "We didn't expect this charge. We thought it was included in the price." The waitress says something like "Oh, sorry, no it isn't included in the price." So we repeat ourselves (this should be the first clue to the staff that they need to take if off the bill to retain us as customers). The waitress then repeats herself. We then say something like "If we knew it was an extra charge we wouldn't have gotten it." They repeat themselves again. So do we. So do they. Finally after going back and forth like this for several exchanges, we practically have to ask them to remove the item before they "volunteer" to do so. There are several things about these experiences that bother me:
-First of all, the waitresses knew we expected the items to be included in the price. There is really no way around it. Without actually verbalizing word for word, we made it clear we thought X was included.
-Second of all, even if they didn't know we expected it to be in the price, the waitresses never volunteered to tell us differently, instead leading us to expect the charge to not be there.
-Third of all, when we complained about the charge, instead of immediately saying they would take the items off they stood their ground after several long interactions back and forth, even after I went as far as to tell one manager their practice was being deceitful (essentially it was a bait and switch tactic. The manager actually agreed with me and said that the item should be free but it wasn't). And after all of that, I had to do everything except say "I need you to take this off and give it to me for free" before they offered to do that themselves.

I am not that old. I worked in fast food and retail most of my teenage years and through college. I was taught-at no less than half a dozen different places-that as soon as a customer complains about something you do what you can do make them happy, even if it means giving it to them for free. John agrees-he works with multi-million dollar accounts and if a customer calls up and isn't happy, he doesn't even have to ask his boss to be able to give them up to thousands of dollars in free products to make them happy. I am shocked that this happened to John and I not once, but twice in a single week. And not at the same restaurant either! Two very different places. One place was more upscale, the other very close to fast food. At the second place, I was so frustrated that I would probably never go back there again. So for literally the difference of one single dollar, they are possibly risking losing me as a life time customer. The first place, I am more forgiving, mainly because the food was very very good and we enjoyed ourselves. I just find it shocking that for $8 at the first place and $1 at the second, both establishments are willing to risk hundreds of my dollars over a lifetime of visiting for a measly couple of bucks and the bragging rights of being...well...right.

So whatever happened to the customer always being right?

1 comment:

John Atwood said...

You forgot to add that at the first place, we even expressed BEFORE getting the bill that the salad was the only part of the meal that we didn't like. So while we thought it was included as the "soup or salad" dinner selection, we were not satisfied with it. How much less once we learned that it was not and expensive at that.