Is the Customer Always Right?

We have been told that no matter what happens a customer is always right.  I used to believe this statement until I actually began to work in the restaurant industry.  Although 99.9% of the time the customer is always right, there is always one or two that will be wrong, but what’s important is how you treat them.

It’s Not Cooked

One day, I received a call for delivery. Sometimes when the restaurant wasn’t too busy, we would do quick runs to various retail stores within the mall for those who ordered take-out.  In this particular incident a young woman ordered a beef teriyaki bento box.  Normally, the kitchen would prepare the beef medium to medium well unless a customer specifically requested differently.  About 10 minutes after delivering the order to the store, I received a call from the woman who placed the order.  She was disgusted with the food and immediately demanded me to return to her store.  Upon arrival, I kindly asked her what was wrong with the food and she just looked at me as if I should have known.  She presented me the takeout container.  Concerned, I thought the very worst that perhaps a foreign object landed in the food.  I must have been blind because I couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

“Can’t you see?” she shouted.

“Sorry, ma’am, may I ask what was wrong with the food?”

“I can’t believe it! You can kill someone.  Look at the beef, its raw! I think I am going to be sick.”

“Actually, ma’am that is how we prepare our beef, but I do apologize if it wasn’t cooked enough for you.  Is there something else I can offer you instead?”

“No, I won’t be ordering food anymore from your restaurant.  You can’t tell me that this beef is edible.  You can be in serious trouble for this.”

“Again, sorry that the beef was not cooked to your liking, but rest assure that nothing will happen to you as the beef is cooked.”

“You know you can put someone in the hospital because of this!”

“Again, ma’am I am most certain that it will not lead to that, but I would like to invite you back to our restaurant and we can prepare it to your liking or I am sure you will find something on the menu that you will enjoy.  I will leave you my card and I have written down a 20% discount for your next purchase.”

“Well, I just haven’t seen or heard of any restaurant that serves beef like that.  However, I will reconsider and take your offer.  Thank you for coming by.”

I took her order back and discarded it. While walking back to my restaurant I thought to myself that that she must have never been to a steak house before.

Closed for the Night

It was Sunday evening and the restaurant just closed.  The mall was clearing out fast and all the stores were locking up.  I couldn’t wait to go home.  Going about my usual closing procedures I had only one cashier left to cash out when suddenly I was interrupted.

“Excuse me.  I like to speak to the person in charge.”

I looked up to see who it was.  Could they not see I was in the middle of counting the till?  .

“Yes, I’m Jay. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Well, I wanted to inform you how rude one of your cashiers is.  I just asked her if I could purchase a drink and she tells me the restaurant is closed.”

Taking a quick glance at my watch, it was 6:45PM.

“That’s correct ma’am.  We close at 6:00PM.  Did my cashier say something to bother you?”

“She said it was closed and I wouldn’t be able to purchase anything. I want to buy a drink.”

“I’m sorry but my cashier is correct.  We are closed and as you can see we have cashed out.”

“Well your systems at the front are on.”

“That is correct. We actually leave them on, but there is no actual till in them.”

“Well let me tell you something.  Your cashier is rude and you are rude.  I want to speak to the manager.”

“I am the manager.”

“What kind of manager are you?  I will be calling your head office and reporting this incident.  I want the head office number now and your card and the name of your cashier!”

“Absolutely, by all means you are welcome to call the head office.”

I gave her the number to corporate office including my business card and my cashier’s name.  She gave me a smirk and stormed off.  Strangely, there was never any reported incident to the office.

Change Please

I will never forget this one customer who expected everything to be perfect to his standards.  He was picky as to how his martini was made, where you should place the glass, how you held a conversation with him, when you should conduct quality checks and more.  Everything that we seem to do was not right for him.  If he brought company with him, the expectation became greater and for us it became more stressful to handle.

It was a Saturday night and the restaurant was full.  We were short of a busboy and a dishwasher so everyone had to help out a little more.  The only seats available were three seats at the sushi bar.

“Hey Jay, are you able to take the guy at sushi bar?”

I looked over to see where the guy was seated. Oh crap, why me? I also mumbled a lot of other creative words under my breath.

“Hello Sir, how are you tonight?”

“Ok, I will take a coke, a Green Dragon Roll and a Spicy Tuna Roll”

“Great choices, I will be right back with your coke.”

He was always straightforward and showed little emotion.  Most times you couldn’t tell whether he was laughing or mad.  He spoke with a stern voice and in short sentences.  Unless he felt you did something wrong, he made sure you understood.

“How is everything so far? Would you like anything else?”

“No, I will take my check.”

“Here you go Sir, your check.  There is no rush. ”

“I need change.”

The bill was $24 and he gave me $30.  I scrimmaged through my pockets looking for some change.  I only had $5 and three Quarters. The rest were bills and smaller change.  I went to the host in charge of the till that night seeing if I could break my $5 into Toonies and a Loonie.  I was out luck. My boss forgot to go the bank to get change.  I quickly asked my co-workers if they had change, but neither of them had any.  So the only thing to do was present the bill fold with a $5 bill, three Quarters, two Dimes and a Nickel.

“Here you go Sir, I do apologize that I have left you some loose change.  I did not have any other change.”

I left him briefly giving him some time to look at the bill fold.

“Excuse me, you come back right now and explain this too me! You think I will leave you a $5 tip? If you think so, think again.”

“No Sir, I did not expect any particular tip amount.  As I mentioned before, unfortunately I do not have any other change and I understand there is absolutely no excuse for the restaurant not to have smaller change.”

“You just thought you were so good, that you expected me to give you $5.”

“Actually to be honest, I really did not have any change and I understand that you may not have change either.  It is totally up to you what you like to give me.”

Using his stern voice, he mutters the words, “the service is terrible here and you are something thinking I would leave you $5.”

He leaves the restaurant and I retrieve the bill fold to find $0.50 in change.  He continued to visit our restaurant twice a week.

Staff Discount

Because we are located in the mall, a number of retail mall employees request information on behalf of their kids of job opportunities at our restaurant.  Sometimes we will give special consideration to their children if we know the parent well.  There was one particular mother who worked at one the banks and requested a job for her son Josh.  Normally we do not like any requests from parents as we feel the person wanting the job should be capable of applying on their own.  In this case after interviewing her son, we hired him.

During staff orientation, new employees are informed of our policies, procedures and what we expect of them.  One of the policies states employees receive a 20% discount on takeout or dine-in on the days that they do not work.  This policy only applies to staff.  Families who wish to dine pay full price.  If you are accompanied by your family and you wish to treat them, we are more than happy to apply the same discount.

Sometimes we have found mall employees will try and take advantage by demanding discounts and free food.  One day, unaware of whom Josh’s mother looked like, she comes to the restaurant and orders takeout for lunch.  Often, parents of our employees will introduce themselves, but in this case none of the staff knew who she was.  She receives her food and is ready to pay.

With no hello or introduction of herself, she blurts out to the cashier,

“You need to apply a 20% discount on my food, my son works here.”

“Oh ok, who is your son?”

“Why do you need to know, I deserve a 20% discount. You are so rude; I am going to speak to the manager.”

Speaking to one of the managers, the woman says, “You know who I am.  I come here all the time and your cashier was so rude to me.”

“Oh did she say something rude to you?”

“Yes, she asked me who my son was.  You know Josh works here, I get a 20% discount.”

“Oh maybe she did not know who you were, but to be honest our discount policy only applies to the staff.  However, you do still receive the standard 10% mall employee discount.”

“No, I deserve 20%. I work here in the mall and Josh works here at your restaurant.  You need to speak to your cashier.”

“I apologize if the cashier had replied in a rude way.  More than likely she did not know who you were.  But part of our policy is we only offer the discount to families if their son or daughter is on shift or if they come off duty with their family.”

“No, I want the 20%.”

“I’m sorry, to be fair to all of our other staff, I cannot give you the 20%.”

My manager makes the call and decides to give her the 20% for that time only.

She conducts a staff meeting to remind staff of the discount policy again.

The Customer is Not Always Right but…

A customer may not always be right, but they should leave feeling that they are right.  A customer should still feel welcomed to return.

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Exposed on Camera

An article published by Restaurantowner.com states, “25 percent of restaurant employees are honest all the time, 50 percent are honest most of the time and the remaining 25 percent are dishonest to the core and will steal from the house anytime they have the opportunity.”

Watch Post

It was a Thursday night and I was the closing manager on duty.  The dinner rush just finished and the cash line had cleared.  Over eight hours had passed since I last had something to eat.  This was my chance to head to the back and grab a quick bite.  The back hallway was a perfect spot to stand since it was far enough from the crowd of customers but close enough to have a clear view of the surroundings.  Because we were an open concept restaurant located in one of the city’s busiest shopping malls, stealing was a common problem.  Therefore, the back acted like a watch post.

Trying to enjoy a break was always difficult, but that was part of restaurant life. I was nearly finished downing my pasta when I noticed a group of high school teens lingering near the cash station.  For groups, it was normal procedure to keep an extra eye on them to ensure anything taken would be fully paid.  Continuing to stand at my post, it appeared the teens were friends of Tina, one of the cashiers.  Staring down towards the cash station, Tina could sense I was losing patience.  Part of the restaurant’s policy was to discourage chatting with friends or co-workers during work unless it was a designated break period.  Soon after realizing my annoyed reaction, her friends left.

Food for Five

Five minutes later, Tina’s friends were back but waiting at the pizza station for an order they had previously made.  I noticed a tray in one of their hands carrying pasta, salad and dinner rolls.  Unless her friends had large appetites, there was too much food. For some odd reason, I had a gut feeling; trouble was brewing.  Inching slowly to the front to get a better angle of the cash station, I found Jason, an off duty employee standing by Tina’s side. Clutching his hand near his mouth, he whispered in her ear.  A couple seconds later, Tina’s friends approached the cash.  There was something not adding up and I was ready to find it.

You’re on Camera

I quickly motioned to the back of the restaurant to check the security cameras.  To deter theft, the restaurant installed a number of digital security cameras including a security feature at each POS station.  Any items that were entered into the system by a cashier could be monitored from our backend server.  Luckily, I had noted the time of when Tina’s friends had arrived.  I play backed the recording to 7:15PM carefully analyzing it for any suspicious activity.

7:15PM: Tina’s friends arrive.

7:16PM: Two of Tina’s friends pre-order two whole pizzas.

7:17PM: Jason, the off duty employee secretly whispers into Tina’s ear.

7:20PM: Pizzas are picked up and friends approach cash.  Additional items on the tray include one large pasta, one small salad, one dinner roll and a glass of juice.  Tina is seen exchanging words to Station#3 cashier, Jessica.

7:21PM: One friend takes tray of food to sit down while other two pay.  Station#3 cashier Jessica inputs one pepperoni pizza, but does not include   extra toppings. Station #6, Tina enters one dinner roll and excludes all other items (one pizza, pasta, salad and a drink).

Bingo! I got it.  I was right all along. Over $20 worth of food was not entered.  How foolish could they be?  In that heat of the moment, I was about to fire both cashiers until a thought came across my mind that I would only have one cashier for the rest of the night. Holding my patience, I see Tina coming towards me.  With a snappy attitude she declared her innocence that whatever I had suspected, I was wrong. Strangely, I had not even accused her of stealing nor did I question her.  Thinking they had me fooled, they were both in for a surprise.

Termination Day

If both of them thought they had won at their game, they were wrong and it was my turn to play.  It was Friday morning at 11:00AM, the start of Tina’s shift. As she was about to sign in, I told her that it wasn’t necessary.  Accompanied by my co-managers, we played the recordings and displayed our anger towards her actions.  She remained straight faced and displayed no emotion only continuing to deny that she was the person on the security camera. There was only one simple thing to do and that was to let her go.  Shortly after, Jessica arrived in tears knowing something had just happened to Tina. Unlike Tina, she admitted to everything and offered to pay for all the food.  After reviewing the recording, the puzzle was pieced together.  Jessica was not only the restaurant’s newest employee but she was used by her so called peers.  As for Jason, he was not only an employee but he was part of the group of friends who obviously knew wrong from right.  They were all good workers who decided to make dishonest choices.  Unfortunately, with two prior warnings, Tina was terminated.  Either way, she had lost the game and would have still been fired.

Dishonesty is like a disease that will hurt you.  At the end, no one wins.

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Hot Water Please – Part 2

In the last article, I talked about how a certain family restaurant charged us for hot water. This is a continuation on how we resolved the issue.

Contacting customer service

With such a busy schedule, I only had an opportunity a few days ago to contact customer service about the hot water fiasco. I decided to use the company’s toll free number hoping that I would quickly find the answer to my concerns. Sure enough, within a minute of dialing the number, a woman’s voice appeared. First she asked me some routine questions such as where I was calling from, what location did I visit, what day and at what time.

Afterwards, I explained to her what happened that night and about the hot water charge. She couldn’t believe it and never heard of the policy. According to her, there was no such policy in the US however it may have been something newly implemented in Canada. She informed me she had sent my complaint to corporate office and someone there would contact me by phone.

Surprisingly I received a call within 10 minutes.

The GM’s call

“Hello, this is John. I received an email from corporate office outlining your service problem you had experienced. I like to find out more about the situation and I do apologize that you had to go through this.”

I briefly explained what took place that evening especially my conversation with the restaurant manager. My conversation with the GM was, unfortunately, not much better.

“Well sir you must have heard or been misinformed about our policy. We do have a hot water policy but it is not because of what you have been told me. The only reason why we charge for hot water is because hotel customers in the past brought in their own tea bags.”

“I see, well why would your manager say differently?”

“According to the date and time you came to our restaurant, there was no manager. My manager called in sick and there was no other manager for the night. You must have spoken to the host.”

“No manager on duty?” I said with a chuckle. “Well going back to the charge, how frequent do hotel guests come in to your restaurant to take hot water?”

“That problem was in the past and it doesn’t happen anymore. I understand you are upset and sorry that my waiter never told you upfront as he was supposed to.”

“So that’s it. It was a problem in the past that may have occurred a few times and it doesn’t happen anymore like you said, but you continue to charge customers. You rather have negative word of mouth because of some ridiculous policy that you decide to leave implemented? In fact I am so disappointed at how your staff handled the situation that I don’t think I will return to your restaurant. “

“Sir, he said with laughter. I don’t believe you mean that just of because of some silly hot water incident.”

“Oh I mean it. You obviously are missing the point. I am not asking you to comp our entire meal, but I expected a lot more from you. If you truly wanted to please a customer and make sure they would return I don’t think $4.40 would hurt your business. Plus, this isn’t any $10 or $20 bill, it was $65.”

“Ok, how about next time you decide to come to our restaurant give me a call ahead of time and I will let my staff know not to charge you for hot water. If you are not satisfied, maybe I can give you a complimentary dessert.”

“You have to be kidding! If you have to think about it that much and to offer me hot water next time I visit is a joke. I think that’s about all, I got my answer.”

In conclusion

I couldn’t take anymore of the GM’s illogical ramblings. I heard enough and was determined to still confirm with the corporate office of this policy. The GM never once referred the policy as a corporate policy. Just recently I filled out the online form asking about the hot water policy and I am hoping to hear back this week. It’s truly an unfortunate situation. Indeed it was a silly and humorous incident that had a quick fix but it was handled in such a way that resulted in the restaurant losing customers over a measly $4.40.

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