“I’ve been waiting 25 minutes!” a bowl cut haired middle-aged woman snaps at a nearby busboy clearing a table. “Did they forget about me?”
The now frazzled busboy rushes off towards the kitchen and delivers the lady’s food moments later.
“Has my food been sitting there the whole time?” The lady asks as she touches the burger and fries she ordered. “It’s cold now!”
The busboy doesn’t have the answers. He excuses himself and a manager approaches the customer shortly thereafter.
“I’m very sorry about the delay,” the manager says. “I’m not really sure what happened. I’d like to offer you a gift card or a refund for the inconvenience.”
“I ordered my food at 11:45 a.m. and it’s 12:15 p.m. now,” the agitated customer says. “I don’t want a gift card. Just give me a refund.”
The manager apologizes again and returns with the customer’s refund.
“Thank you,” it’s the first time the bowl cut haired lady has said something pleasant. She’s finally happy now that she has gotten a free meal and feels as if a wrong against her has been righted.
Just another sunny day in Los Angeles and an example of excellent customer service performed by the manager and busboy after an apparent mistake, right? Not really. This customer sat alone across from me at a table set for four and couldn’t have been there for more than fifteen minutes. She treated staff members she interacted with rudely and clearly didn’t understand she’s eating at an Artisan Café and not a fast food joint. Using the ideology that the customer is always right, she became a squeaky wheel and made sure she received the grease.
Rather than this being an isolated incident it has become the apparent norm. The mindset: If I’m paying for a service, it must be perfect has reached an impractical extreme. With customer service review sites only a click away, customers have more power than ever to torch businesses if they feel they had an unpleasant experience. Seemingly nice people transform into monsters when they become the almighty customer. Anyone who has ever worked a job in a service industry or spent time in a public setting can attest that the general public is the absolute worst.
I saw a man at the grocery store yell at a cashier over an expired coupon. He insisted that the coupon was valid, even though it had expired a month ago. Then he was angry with the cashier for not accepting the month old coupon.
A few days after that exchange, a lady at the movie theater yelled at an employee over the temperature of her popcorn. The employee popped a fresh batch of popcorn for that customer. After that lady was served, the next lady complained that she wanted a fresh bag that was just popped, too.
“This is fresh,” the employee said.
“I want a new bag,” the lady said. “I’m not paying for stale popcorn.”
The employee, helpless, took back the bag of popcorn and handed the customer a different bag from the same exact batch. After seeing these previous interactions, I felt bad for the employee and left a dollar on the counter as a way of thanking her and offering a token of my appreciation for her good service.
“Sir, you dropped a dollar on the counter,” she said.
“That’s for you,” I said, embarrassed I didn’t have any more singles handy.
“We’re not allowed to accept tips, but you can talk to my manager,” she said.
Some job she has. She’s not allowed to accept tips, but can take abuse from unruly customers.
She called her manager over.
“What’s wrong?” the manager asked sheepishly.
“Nothing!” I said. “What made you think something was wrong?”
“The only time people ever ask to speak to a manager is when there’s a problem,” he said.
Judging by the customers at the movie theater, I understood where he was coming from.
“I just wanted to tell you that she’s doing an excellent job!”
“Thanks,” he said.
Then the manager patted the employee on the shoulder as another customer gave her grief about the movie theater’s snack prices, as if she set the prices and received the money directly.