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Sometimes I really hate leaving my house, especially if it means I have to go shopping. In the past few years, I've jumped ship and done most of my major shopping online. That means any gifts, gizmos and gadgets usually show up at our doorstep after I've found a great free shipping or online coupon deal. That's because I can't stand being caught in the middle of what James Surowiecki of the New Yorker refers to as the "crisis in customer service."
In his article Are You Being Served?, Surowiecki argues that companies don't take good enough care of the customers they have because they're too busy looking for new customers. He posits that companies aren't doing nearly half as well as they think they are taking care of customer's needs because so few customers actually make complaints.
I think he's right. I know I don't complain nearly as often as I should. I don't want to be the person making a scene and I'm not nearly as clever as Dave Carroll, the disgruntled United Airlines customer whose song "United Breaks Guitars" not only went viral but actually did enough damage to get the attention of the head honchos at United. A few times, though, I've given it a try.
We Were Not Being Served
A few years back we used to go regularly to a to-remain-unnamed chain restaurant because the kiddos eat free on Tuesdays, a little factoid that I stored away and we embraced for many years. As hard as it is for me to believe sometimes, we actually used to have even less money than we do now and had to economize even more than we do now. Anyway, one night we went to this restaurant. Well, it was more like early-eveningish, which is really sad because I can't figure out when I became old enough to consider anything before 5:30 dinnertime.
For a variety of reasons, including the facts that our oldest is now too old to eat off the kid's menu and is thus disqualified from the eating free on Tuesdays deal, that our middle eats more food than the kid's menu provides and that the baby doesn't even eat diner food, we only go once in awhile. Plus the food makes both my husband and I sick. Literally. I think that goes along with being old enough to enjoy the thrill of an early bird special. Your stomach says: "Ha. You're over 30 now. To hell with good digestion."
Ordering Was the Easy Part
You wouldn't think it would be that difficult to put in an order. Oho, my friend, think again! The waitress looked like she was writing stuff down. Maybe not. Here's how we ordered. I really don't think we were all that picky.
The Girl: I want a classic cheeseburger with American cheese, seasoned fries, none of the veggies on the burger and a side of BBQ sauce.
Me: I'll have the bacon cheeseburger with seasoned fries and only pickles on the burger.
Waitress: None of the lettuce, tomato or stuff?
Me: No, just pickles.
The Boy: I want chicken and regular fries with no monsterella sticks. (He finds himself hilarious, by the way.)
Husband: I'd like the Chef's salad. Does that have onions on it?
Waitress: (taps her pad with her pencil, kind of glares and glazes over at the same time) I don't know.
Husband: Well, if so, I don't want them please.
Here's What We Got- The FIRST Time
The Girl: A cheeseburger without cheese, with all the veggies and no BBQ sauce
Me: A bacon cheeseburger and regular fries
The Boy: 3 chicken nuggets, fries and 3 monsterella sticks
Husband: A salad tasting like onions, about which we heard the waitress yell before coming to the table: "He said he didn't want onions!"
Here's What We Got- The SECOND Time
A horribly dirty look from the waitress when we asked for the orders to be straightened out. A sigh and a glare like we were annoying her by being there. Two slices of cheese on a plate to put on the non-cheeseburger, a plate with the monsterella sticks picked off and another chicken nugget plopped down on it, a promise of seasoned fries and NO BBQ sauce!
Wait, It Gets Better
My husband bit into a cherry tomato. It was rotten. Not going-soft-questionable-but-I-can-it-eat-anyway rotten. Rotten! With brown and black spots on it. So, he summoned the waitress and pointed it out to her.
Again, the glare and the "you're being really difficult attitude." She came back with two cherry tomatoes in a bowl and told him she brought a couple more. Didn't offer to take the salad back and didn't apologize.The whole time we were eating the waitress was standing behind the counter, one hip cocked to the side and staring at us. Like she was daring us to say anything else.
Time to Pay
By this time I was so uncomfortable that I escaped to the bathroom when the check came. My husband and I decided we really didn't want to have to pay full price for this horrible dining experience. When I came back, my husband told me the waitress said they took $2 and The Boy's meal off the check.
My husband's response: It's Tuesday. Isn't his meal free anyway?
My response: That's unacceptable. $2? That's insulting.
So, I took the kids outside and left the hubby to deal with the whole check issue. He came out after awhile and said we didn't have to pay anything. The manager, apparently, was really apologetic and was going to take off some money. But then she turned around to see the waitress standing there, hands on hips, staring and glaring at my husband. She comped the meal. And I felt terrible. My stomach hurt and it wasn't just the food. I just didn't like being the people who made a stink, even though I know it was my right as a consumer.
What's With the 'Tude?
The real problem is I'm feeling as though everywhere I go lately is like this. What's with the attitude that we, as customers or consumers, are annoying the people who are getting paid to help us? If we weren't there, they wouldn't have a job. No job, no pay. No pay, no stuff. It's simple. Sometimes I really hate leaving my house.
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