Having worked in retail though high school, university, and after…I’m big on customer service. Yes, I’ve heard the adage that bad customer service results in that person telling 10 people, while good customer service only results in the story being shared 1 out of 10 times. I try to break the norm and share stories of good customer service, as you may have read about previously in this post, or in this one. Today, I have to share a story of something that happened last week.
My girlfriend and I went out for lunch last Sunday to a local restaurant that we both enjoy. I won’t mention the name, but it’s a popular Greek restaurant in the city where we grew up. When we walked in, the place wasn’t that busy, and there were two servers working, a tall young man in his early twenties, and another man, who was probably about 30 years old. We were seated in a nice booth in the upper section of the restaurant, and everything seemed just fine.
That’s where the good times ended.
Our server came by to take our drink order, and as we’re ordering, he wasn’t even looking at us. He was just kind of dazed, looking around as he was talking to us. My girlfriend asked for a Diet Coke, and I ordered a Coke. Right after I said the word “Coke”, me mumbled under his breath, “Ok…cola”, and wandered off. Now, as many of you will already know, I’m big on the difference between Coke and Pepsi, or any other cola for that matter. I tend to not drink Pepsi, if at all possible…but if I’m in a restaurant and I order a Coke, and they don’t serve it, the obvious standard procedure is to ask if Pepsi is ok. Depending on my mood, I may just go with the Pepsi, but quite often I’ll just order something else. Whatever the situation, it’s a courtesy to ask…and to be fair, that’s generally what happens.
But this guy wanders off mumbling “cola” and I know that he’s just too lazy to even ask. I was in a good mood, and I wasn’t going to make a deal out of it, or even ask…but when he dropped our drinks off at the table, my girlfriend asked if it was Coke or Pepsi, and he responded condescendingly, ‘It’s Pepsi…a cola”, as if to say “That’s what you ordered, stupid”, and then just walked away. We were in a good mood, and having a good day so far, so we just kind of laughed it off, even though we were pretty shocked with his demeanor.
Then it came time to order, and I asked him if I could replace the Greek salad that came with my meal to a soup instead. He said, “Yes, but there will be a small surcharge.” I said that it was no problem, and while I was finishing my order, my girlfriend opened her menu to check something and he actually reached over and closed her menu, then snatched it out of her hand. Now I was annoyed.
The food came, and it was great (as always), but no soup came with mine. I didn’t think it was a big deal because we had both underestimated the size of our meals and appetizers, and were filling up pretty quickly. I just figured that the “surcharge” would be left off the bill. We were almost finished our meal, when he brought out the soup. I just laughed and said to my girlfriend that I would ask for it to be packed up with the rest of our meal, since we were going to have significant leftovers. So he comes back and sees our leftover food and appetizer and soup, and points at the food and appetizer and says “Do you want these wrapped up to go?” I said, “We’d like it all wrapped up to go, please”, indicating the soup as well.
“Maybe”, he said dismissively.
“Maybe?”, I asked, and he said “Well, I don’t know if we have a container or not. We’ll see”, and left with the food before I could even respond. I had decided by this point that he wasn’t getting a tip at all, and depending on whether the soup came out in a take-out container or not, it was going to be a lot more verbally aggressive than not just leaving a tip.
When he brought the leftovers out, he brought the soup in a take-out container, and although it was about 1/3 the size of the bowl of soup itself, I wasn’t going to be petty enough to complain about that with all the other things this guy had done. He brought the bill, and when I looked it over, I saw that the “small surcharge” to replace the salad with soup was $3.00. I found that pretty comical since a bowl of soup on it’s own cost $2.95. So essentially, I didn’t “replace” my salad with soup…I just ordered the soup, lost the salad, and still got overcharged.
Now I was furious. So I got up to go and grab a menu to make sure I had remembered the price of the soup correctly. As I was walking over to get the menu, he comes out of the kitchen and cuts me off on the way. “What do you need?”, he asked me. I responded (sickeningly politely) that I just wanted to take a look at the menu. He said he would bring it over.
Then, as a child who had just been caught doing something wrong, he grabbed the menu, started to walk towards our table, then stopped behind a small wall to look inside the menu. I laughed to myself because I know he knew why I was asking, and that he was now caught trying to screw us on the bill. He closes the menu, then walks over to our table…DROPS it in front of me, and walks back to the till where he prints off the bill, and started punching things in. He was obviously printing off a new bill, even though at this point, I hadn’t said anything to him other than asking for the menu.
So I look in the menu, and sure enough the soup is $2.95, and then he storms over to our table and actually slams down the new bill in front of me, and says “Here!” I looked at him, and said “Excuse me?”, and he started mumbling some incoherent babbling “He told me to charge you $3.00…whatever.” I looked at the bill, and see that this classy piece of work has simply reduced the $3.00 to $2.00. I said “After all of this, you’re still going to charge me $2.00 for this fiasco?”, to which he responded “What do you want me to do?!” throwing his arms out, and then walking away.
Well, to make a long story only slightly shorter, I ended up calling the manager and speaking to him later that day. He was not impressed, to say the least, and invited us back to attempt to treat us a little better next time. The food is always good, and this jackass isn’t going to ruin that for us, so we will definitely go back.
But here’s the beautiful irony of this story. Less than a week later, this past Friday, we were in Toronto for the Raptors game, and we went for dinner before the game at the Lone Star Café on Front Street. At the Lone Star Café, the wait staff always has some sort of nickname like Diablo, or Longhorn, or something…and our server was a guy who was called T-Rex. He seemed like a personable guy when he came to take our drink order, but with the sun reflecting off of a building and into my girlfriend’s eyes, she was squinting at the brightness when she ordered. He noted that he was sorry he couldn’t do anything about it since there were no blinds on the windows, but on the upper ledge of the booth behind me, he propped up a menu to block the sun. It looked silly, but it worked.
So, over the course of the meal, T-Rex sat down in our booth, learned our names, asked what we were doing that night, and was generally a very friendly server…and person in general. We asked for some extra chips and salsa while we were waiting, and he brought us some fresh chips and a huge bowl of salsa. We enjoyed our meal, and every time he walked by, he would stop to chat. We talked about the Raptors game that we were going to, and how it was Italian Night at the Air Canada Centre. He mentioned he was Italian, and we showed him that we were bringing an Italian flag to the game, since we were both Italian as well.
So, at the end of the night, we had finished our meal, no leftovers…but there were still some chips and salsa left. Since they drop them off with every meal like a bread bowl at a regular restaurant, you normally don’t take the chips and salsa home. But the chips and salsa are so good there that I have on occasion just purchased a large container of salsa to take home, and you get a small bag of chips with it. When T-Rex was clearing our table, I half-jokingly/half-seriously asked him, “How would you feel about packaging up that salsa for us?”, indicating the large bowl he had brought us earlier, that still had most left in it. He said “I feel just fine about that”, and came back with a large plastic container with even MORE salsa in it, and a plastic bag filled with fresh chips. He put them both in a larger gift bag-sized bag for us, and we were pretty happy.
And then, to top it all off, just before we left, he brought us a couple of shots from the bar that he had made. "This is the best I could do to make an Italian flag", he said. We looked, and he had layered a green liqueur on the bottom, a raspberry liqueur at the top, and a small white ice cube floating in the middle. It was pretty impressive.
Needless, to say, T-Rex got a pretty nice tip, and we’ve already told a number of people about the great service we got there. It’s just an interesting juxtaposition to go from such a ridiculous experience a week earlier, to a meal where you can talk once again about great customer service.
So, that leads me to ask…have you ever had an experience as good or bad as the ones above? Or if you work in a job that involves customer service, and dealing directly with customers…do you have horror stories of your own? Let’s hear from you in the Comments Section.
And next time you’re at the Lone Star Café on Front Street in Toronto, make sure you ask for T-Rex.