A Lost Customer for Life over a Piece of Toast

My cross-stitching group had their annual Christmas party at the local Bob Evans last Friday night.  We love it there.  It is close, affordable, always has a nice big table for the seven of us and the menu is filled with wonderful comfort food.

Six of us gathered, giggling, hugging and causing quite a raucous.  One father and son stopped by our table upon leaving and said that he’d wished he’d ordered what ever we were drinking because they’d enjoyed listening to our laughter. 

It was a good night.  We ordered, knowing the seventh in our party was to be late and just before she arrived, the waitress – a young, lovely, NEW employee, brought a bread basket over for the four of us who’d ordered banana bread.

The last in our party finally arrived and ordered an egg breakfast. It arrived after our food and didn’t have any bread.

“Don’t a get toast with my egg?”  she’d asked? 

“There’s bread on the table already,” the waitress said.

Now we had been rather loud and each needed a little individual attention; one member can’t have food touching so she’d asked for extra bowls for her beans and one needed lots of diet coke (okay, that would be me) and so perhaps she became confused.  She asked what kind of toast and went to retrieve it however, the eggs and bacon were consumed by the time the sad little toast arrived.

“It’s dessert,” I said cheerfully.

As the bills came to the table, for of course we needed separate checks, the seventh in our party found she had been charged double for her sad little toast.

When she questioned the bill the waitress said – “There was already bread on the table and so I had to put it on the check as an extra order.”

My friend questioned this and so of course did several others in the party.  A rousing toast debate began.

The flustered, NEW, waitress sought counsel from her manager however, the end results was that the toast would remain on the bill.

My friend said “Not to worry, I’ll pay the bill but I’ll never be back.”

A lost customer over toast. $1.49.

The rest of the group was up in arms – you can’t boycott the place we have dinner!  Something must be done.

So just how many people does it take to dispute $1.49 serving of toast?  Five to share the story with the manager at the cash register, the person in question standing by embarrassed and me – taking notes for this blog post!

Well – the price was removed. Whew.  What a lot of effort.

How could this have been avoided?


Had the employee understood the fact that the customer comes first and been trained to have a little financial lea-way when a customer kicks up a fuss – she could have been the hero instead of the shamed. 

Whether the customer was right or not (and in fact, this time the customer was right) an employee needs to be trained to see the big picture.  My friend was clearly upset.  The reason for her upset?  Toast that was late and on her bill in correctly.  A double injustice.

I can’t really fault the waitress.  At one point she said that if she took it off the billed, when her tickets were AUDITED she would be in trouble.  So clearly she had been trained that the financial accountability was more important than the customer experience.

Too often managers are short-sighted – eyes on the bottom line and possible bonus instead of the fact that it is through the graciousness of our customer and their business that we even have a bottom line to view.

Are your employees empowered to FIX THE PROBLEM right then and there?

It is times like this when I’m reminded of the Ritz Carlton credo of GOLD STAR SERVICE.  As employees they can say:  (Check out Number Six!)

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

1.       I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.

2.       I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

3.       I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.

4.       I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.

5.       I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.

6.       I own and immediately resolve guest problems.

7.       I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.

8.       I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.

9.       I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.

10.    I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.

11.    I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.

12.    I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

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