Customer Disservice

I don’t post much on Facebook these days.

For several years, it was routine for me to comment on karaoke nights, sports news, interesting life occurrences, and other humorous or random thoughts I felt like sharing.  Outside of vacations, I’ve never really been one to put up a bunch of photos–most other pictures found on my page are those that were taken by somebody else with me tagged in them.  But even my normal posts are far less frequent than they used to be.

Not that I’ve stopped paying attention or using the service.  In fact, I scroll through my feed almost on a daily basis, often doing so more than once in a day.  Occasionally I’ll “like” someone’s else post, or use the newer “love,” “laughing,” or “crying” icons, and I may even post a short reply comment now and then, but for one reason or another, I just don’t post a whole lot myself anymore.

Every once in a while, though, I still find things that need to be mentioned.  Sometimes I’ll throw my two cents in on a major sports story–or at least something relevant to one of my teams, anyway–or perhaps I’ll weigh in on a current event of some sort.  On rare occasions, I may even participate in something trendy going on if it piques my interest, such as that challenge a few months ago where you list 10 musical artists you claim to have seen live and your friends try to guess which one is the lie.

Oddly enough, two such posts of mine are closely related, albeit months apart.  I assembled a pretty diverse list of musical artists that I’d seen, most of which are musicians that would certainly qualify as unexpected.  For instance, one was the Pointer Sisters, who were actually hired to perform at a company holiday party held by one of my former employers.  The “lie,” which was an artist that not one single person guessed correctly, was Linkin Park.  Sure enough, they have ranked among my favorite bands for a long time, and anyone guessing would’ve been quite defensible for assuming that I had seen them at some point.  But over a decade ago, I missed a show that featured them along with Hoobastank, and never did rectify that by seeing them on another occasion.

Now, sadly, that opportunity has passed for good, in light of last week’s tragic news about singer Chester Bennington’s suicide.  Perhaps the rest of the band will opt to carry on and seek a replacement, but even if they succeed, it will never feel quite right without Chester’s trademark golden pipes.  Upon hearing the shocking revelation, I was moved enough to post a miniature eulogy, lamenting the loss of yet another rock icon who proudly represented my generation.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we’d been informed of similar tragedies befalling both Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland and the incomparable Chris Cornell, whose legendary voice guided two separate bands to massive success.

 

But that wasn’t the only thing worth posting about.  Last Saturday, my girlfriend Mia and I went to a few different places around town, and managed to encounter a customer service breakdown at every stop.  It is, of course, quite common to run into the occasional issue within the service industry.  This particular day, though, things got a bit out of hand.

Our first stop was a relatively new French bistro on our side of town for brunch.  Its namesake is something of a Las Vegas legend, a chef with Michelin star credentials on his resumé.  Even though the management company in charge was looking to create a cozier off-the-Strip neighborhood venue, expectations would still be understandably high.  And if the consensus of Yelp reviews is to be believed, the restaurant delivers.  For dinner, anyway.  Brunch seems to be much more of a work in progress.  The available menu has a rather limited number of breakfast options, although the one I chose was quite tasty, and I ordered a yummy Creamsicle-inspired beverage to go with it.  In fact, my individual experience with the place was quite strong.  If I were to review it on Yelp, I’d have given the place 4 or 5 stars.

Mia’s experience was not nearly as pleasant.  She did, admittedly, enjoy the lobster roll that she ordered, and liked the rather quirky ambiance of the place.  But as a longtime Yelp reviewer and a true foodie, she grades restaurants much more critically than I do.  Case in point, despite the positives, she only gave the entire experience a two-star grade.  It struck her as odd that the hostess greeted us with a “good evening,” despite the fact that we were there for brunch, and that she apparently never noticed and corrected herself.  She then proceeded to drop a menu on the table as though she was in a hurry, even though the place wasn’t terribly busy.

But the venue was still performing pretty well overall anyway…that is, until Mia ordered a drink from the bar.  She ordered an “old-fashioned,” a classic whiskey or bourbon-based cocktail that isn’t exactly the easiest drink to make.  As such, it is a cocktail that she won’t even try to order at, say, a sports bar.  A place like this, though, would seem to be a fine location to order one.  It wasn’t.  The daytime bartender, who clearly isn’t on the staff’s A-team, had to print out a drink recipe.  Mia immediately took that to be a bad sign, which was confirmed when she eventually took a sip and found the drink to be gaggingly sweet.  It’s not supposed to be a sweet drink.  She couldn’t finish half the glass, and declared it the worst old-fashioned she’d ever had.  Unacceptable, given the venue’s pedigree.  And thus, two stars out of five.

 

Later that evening, we chose a decidedly simpler, quicker option for dinner–the El Pollo Loco drive-thru.  Obviously, the expectations are much different here than the French bistro, but it’s more than fair to think that the place will be able to take and make an order correctly.  When all was said and done, the food wound up being well above the norm for this particular location, which is easily the nearest to home but has long had a tendency to overcook and char its chicken.  Not this time–once again, the food was quite enjoyable.

Ordering it was not.  Neither was the excessively long phone survey that we chose to participate in after our meal.  Anyone who’s seen the movie Wayne’s World may recall a scene in the drive-thru which parodies how badly the speakers would often cut in and out.  Wayne, in response to the drive-thru’s sign stating that an incorrect order is free, cuts his voice in and out, mimicking the speakers, only to find that the drive-thru employee has somehow managed to get his order exactly right.  Meanwhile, at our El Pollo Loco, trying to complete an order was like going back in time to the 1980s.  The drive-thru operator, who I would like to think was at least a new employee struggling to learn his position, at one point apparently heard “fruit punch” when we were ordering iced tea.  I’m not even sure how that’s possible.  We did eventually, and somewhat miraculously, get the order right by the time we left, but it certainly wasn’t easy.

 

It gets better.  That night, we headed to a nearby karaoke bar where a friend of ours usually hosts, but he was celebrating his birthday there that night, so one of the other employees of the company subbed in for the evening.  It didn’t go well.  There were a number of delays in between songs throughout the night, mostly because the hostess was too busy arguing with people to run the queue.  At some point, she had gotten into it with the manager of the bar, even going so far as to call the manager a very nasty word that I won’t repeat here.  She then proceeded to spend the rest of night trying to absolve herself of any blame, insisting of course that everything was all the manager’s fault.  Meanwhile, the owner of the karaoke company, who was there that night, tried desperately to smooth things over so as to avoid losing the bar as a client.

During the commotion, Mia and I tried to patiently wait for our turns to sing.  We were able to get up and perform a duet within a reasonable amount of time after our arrival, but we each had individual songs requested as well, submitting three slips of paper in total.  Normally, such requests will be separated, so as to avoid drawing the ire of fellow singers by performing back-to-back songs.  But the wait in between was uncharacteristically long before Mia finally got called up to sing her individual song.  I should’ve been next, or at least within another song or two, but that didn’t happen either.  Mia asked the hostess when (or if) my turn was coming up on more than one occasion, and even called on the birthday boy to intervene, but still my name was not to be heard.  As it turned out, my slip had somehow been thrown away, and the song never actually made it to the queue.  I did eventually get to sing, but not before the night was just about over and the bar was nearly cleared out.

 

For the record, I began writing this post a few days ago, but have been slow to finish.  And in the meantime, we’ve added a fourth item to this list.  At another restaurant the other night, Mia and were somehow referred to as “you boys” on more than occasion, by what we can assume was either the hostess or manager.  Mia was not pleased.  The offender may have noticed her mistake, as she then avoided making eye contact with us the rest of the time we were there, but that only made it worse.  A better solution would have been to acknowledge the mistake, apologize for it, and maybe try to crack a joke about it.  Had she done that, we all would’ve likely laughed it off and moved on with our night.  But that didn’t happen.  And thus a potentially perfect Yelp review lost a star.

 

I don’t work in the service industry anymore, but I certainly have in the past, as both a bank teller and a call center agent.  It’s not an easy thing to do on a daily basis.  Irate customers, unreasonable requests, and communication barriers, among other issues, are all part of the job.  And through it all, one must try to keep a smile going and at least act like everything is going just fine.  But sometimes those who work in the industry just make things harder than they need to be.  What should be simple suddenly becomes complicated, and the stories must be told on Facebook.  Or Yelp.  Or blog posts.

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