How to lose a customer over 10 cents

I think I’m going to begin to ‘Slap it forward’ when I get bad customer service. Something simple – like telling the customer service rep – “Are you aware that after being serviced by you, people lament the death of customer service?” Or “You inspire people — to question what happened to customer service.” I know I sound like a jerk, but think of it like having something stuck in your teeth all day and no one telling you. Maybe these people don’t know that they lack the skills to be in a service position. I know servers that are horrible at their job, but walking home every night without any tips leads them to believe that people are cheap and not that they are incompetent.

My wife and I pull into a Sonic drive through this weekend for dessert and order a hot fudge sunday for my wife and a cone for my son (nothing for me). I ask while ordering “can we get the cone in a cup for my son?” “Sure” was the reply from the drive-through speaker. When we pulled up to the window, we could see our order was sitting on the counter already. After waiting for two full minutes, someone came to the window and asked for payment. I paid in cash and she handed me the order, however the cone for my son was in a cup – with no cone. My son loves the cone – I wasn’t asking for ice cream in a cup, I ordered a cone and asked that it be put in a cup. I understand how that might have confused the order taker, so I simply asked for the cone:

“Excuse me – I ordered a cone. I only asked for a cup to my son wouldn’t make a mess of it – he’s three.”

I believe I was being very civil. The young woman said “OK” and closed the window, walked over to the cones and began a conversation with what looked like a manager. It took her another two full minutes to come back to the window. At this point I am getting a little frustrated. She opens the window, holding the cone (with her bare hands) and tells me that what she charged me for was an ice cream in a cup order and a cone is an additional 10 cents!

Now 10 cents isn’t a big deal, but watching my order melt on the counter for a couple of minutes while I waited to be served, having my order made wrong, having to wait for the girl to correct to order, just to be told that there is an additional charge to get my order right — proverbial straw… I pulled away without the cone.

4 replies on “How to lose a customer over 10 cents”

OK, so I have been experiencing the same frustration with the lack of good customer service as well. I do feel qualified to comment as I was a waitress in the start of my working years. I have found that many service industry staff here are down right rude and act as if they are somehow superior. Not only that but they don’t pay attention, walk off as you are still making requests and don’t even try to act as if they care. I took one of my church youth out to dinner for her birthday and she ate everything on her plate. The waiter made a comment as he took the plates AND walked off, “Why don’t you just lick the plate.” It was snide and rude, the waiter was gone before we could comment. That is just one of many incidents, I really feel that I could write a book on the subject! I think that there are a lot of people in the service industry that simply put, just don’t want to wait on others, not only that but they don’t seem to enjoy working with people either. They should do us all a favor and find something else to do; regardless of that, no matter what, I think kindness and basic respect is something we all owe to each other.

Let me suggest a radical notion here.

Nature has found a way to draw your attention to one of the failures of capitalism.

Clearly most of us who use computers and the internet to share information and keep in touch have tasted the sweetness of capitalism more than its bitter byproducts. Such things as eating in restaurants, buying products that need customer support, enjoying the luxury of a drive-thru have been given us. We can generally be happy in what we do largely because we are pleasantly paid for what we do. Even if we work in the service industry, as Karline did at one time, we see it as a temporary stop on the way to a better situation.

Probably in previous decades, almost certainly when I was a kid back in the 50’s, most of the people in the service sector – especially the young workers with direct customer contact – were likely to see it as a way station on the road to the good life that our post-WW II optimism assured us was just over the horizon. Any family that didn’t have a car could be pretty certain that soon they’d have one. Same for televisions, bedroom suites, and enough clothes to actually fill a closet. We Americans made the televisions and bedroom suites and clothes and we knew that each year we made more than we wore out in that year so more and more of us had a chance for the good life.

But over the ensuing years the capitalists, those who decide where money goes and where things will be made and where jobs will go, hit upon an appealing idea: tell people in other countries to make things and get the people here to stop making things. An appealing idea since the cost to them would be less.

Sam Walton’s gang has managed to take this to its logical conclusion. Those folks never made a darned thing but they insist that we Americans should rejoice in the short-term low prices that we pay for foreign-made goods that have replaced goods we used to make very well right here.

The money used to stay here: people who made the televisions gave money to the people who made the clothes who gave money to people crafting furniture who spent their pay on televisions.

Now, of course, everything is so much better.

When I buy a new shirt a worker in Indonesia gets paid, or a slave worker in China doesn’t get paid, but either way, the multinational corporation that takes my money pretends that all is well. For the people who tell us what’s what in the TV and magazine ads it doesn’t matter. They are going to skim off their profit even if the goods are made across an ocean.

That smilely little face in the Wal*Mart ads silently slashes prices. Ever notice that he doesn’t talk? My guess is that Wal*Mart is afraid of what he might say: “As these numbers go lower, so goes the standard of living in America.”

Sure, we have more gadgets and gizmos, but at what ultimate cost? Our neighbors have been losing jobs year after year. What can they do?

Well, they can get jobs in the service industry. They had manufactured something, written software, analyzed x-rays. Now their kids see them going off to work in call centers – the few that are left in the U.S. – or trying to sell whatever fad comes along next.

Those kids know there is little hope left in America. The America of tomorrow is a bleaker version of what they see now. They are doomed to a future fighting for the opportunity of serving the diminishing number of people who can afford products and services. Of course their heart isn’t in their work. Of course they resent their customers – that’s you and me, at least until I lose my job again. At that point I’ll be with them.

Yes, it’s class warfare. And we workers didn’t even notice that we were under attack. We kept voting for people who allow capitalists to throw us out like last year’s fashions. It’s class warfare, alright, and we have lost.

It’s hard to imagine that the Christ would be pleased with the way things have turned out.

OK — for those of you that don’t know — David is a bit libral. I do not agree that capitalist society has created bad customer service. I believe baby boomer generation parents that don’t want to disipline their children or teach them good work ethics may be playing a part.

I was taught to respect my elders, to work hard, to answer the phone on the first ring. I was taught to work ‘as unto the LORD’ no matter what job I had. Unlike David, I don’t believe the Walton Family is driving America into the ground.

Slaves in China are not why that girl working the drive through that night had no customer service skills — I’m quite certain she isn’t aware of the EVIL Walmart situation. I would be shocked if China’s slave labor makes this girl see a bleak American future. I think David is giving this generation way too much credit regarding current events — and I would guess that even with your views on capitalism, David, you would still work well in customer service if you found yourself there.

So crazy. I’m sure we all have examples of something like this. On a recent visit to a chain restaurant my friend and I ended waiting 15 minutes before someone took our drink order. By then we were also ready to place the food order and did so. Another 30 minutes went by and we still didn’t even have our drinks. We had a similar experience the previous time we visited this place.. we looked around for the server and she wasn’t there. We got up and left. Probably should have said something to the manager on the way out, but we’ll never be going back there anyway.

Also, reminds me of the time I pulled up to some fast food place.. placed my order and then proceeded to pul up to the window. An employee then came up to the window, leaned out and said in a nasty tone, “you can’t place your order at the window, you’ll need to go around the building and wait in line to order back there first!” To which I replied, “umm, I just ordered back there.” She turned around looked at someone else then looks back at me all red faced and embarrased, “oh I’m so sorry” and she ran off. She must have been all of 16 and after the initial shock I just laughed it off.

There should be a website where we can rate the service of places like these for everone to see. Perhaps when there business is down they’ll get a clue.

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