Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Service rolls both ways

I think great customer service is the most effective kind of marketing imaginable.

I always get tires, brakes and alignment done at Wheel Works in Walnut Creek. Last week I went in to have a slow leak investigated on the mini-van. After the inspection, they brought me out to the shop to show me the damage and explain in detail what had happened (nail through tire) and show me the significant sidewall damage that meant the tire couldn't be repaired. I appreciated the fact that they took the time to demonstrate the issue, rather than just telling me I needed a new tire.

This week, I took the Civic in because it was pulling to the right. They had the car for 2 hours. They put it up on the rack and inspected the alignment, they road-tested it, and they rotated, balanced and topped off the air in all 4 tires. No charge. They could have charged me for the labor, but they didn't.

I think they recognize that good service breeds loyalty. Damn right. I will continue to bring both cars to Wheel Works as long as their service remains top-notch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Did she just call me cheap?

Dear Waiter:

When you come to take my payment for the bill at the end of a meal, please do not ask me if I need change. When you do that, what you're really asking is, "Can I keep all of this?" And the only conclusion to be drawn if I say that I need change is that I'm cheap.

The bill is $15.05, and I put down a $20. You ask if I need change. Now I'm thinking, "Well, I was going to leave $3 and pocket a dollar bill and a few quarters for the parking meter. But if I say "Yes, I need some change," and then my fellow guests see me scraping three quarters and a dime off the little plastic tray into my grubby little hands, they'll think I'm so cheap I'd begrudge a hard-working waiter three quarters and a dime! So I'd better just say, "No, keep it."

It's not worth a buck to be considered cheap by my friends.

But then again, your service was so-so, and you just Kobayashi Maru'd me into giving you a 25% tip! Eff that! Bring me my damn change!

I don't care if it's more convenient for you to know in advance. Too bad. Bring my change, and I'll decide how much of a tip to leave in private, in my own good time. You should enjoy the suspense. Every table is like a Christmas tree, and every customer is Santa (or Scrooge).

I bet you can't wait to see what we left you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Strictly Go Away Pizza

I'm always amazed when some business is willing to sacrifice a long-term relationship with a customer for some small, short-term perceived benefit. Like... saving a few measly bucks.

Case in point: I once ordered a pizza from Strictly To Go Pizza on North Main in Walnut Creek. This is one of those take-and-bake places. I ordered by telephone, then drove over and paid for my pizza. When I got home, I realized they had given me the wrong pie. I typically order something really stinky and good, like garlic and anchovies, or red onion and sausage. This was a "Hawaiian Style" pizza with ham and pineapples. I like those fine, but it's not what I ordered. No problem. Everybody makes mistakes.

So I drove back to Strictly To Go and explained the error. Here's where the fun starts. The woman behind the counter actually laughed and said, "We're not taking that back. You paid for it."

I admit, I was not prepared for this. How could they have any reaction other than, "Gee, I'm sorry we gave you the wrong pie. Let me whip up the pizza you ordered. It'll take 5 minutes."?

After a moment of stunned silence, I came back with, "Wait. You gave me the wrong pizza. I didn't order this."

Another self-satisfied snort. "How do I know?"

Imagine a cartoon thermometer appearing in thin air next to my head, with the red indicator slowly rising. "How do you know what? Do you think I'm lying?"

"I don't know. But we're not taking that pizza back. You paid for it."

"Are you kidding? You gave me the wrong pizza. You should replace it."

"No way. That's your pizza."

"Are you the manager?"


"Awesome. So you're not going to make this right. Do you realize that I'll never come back here, and none of my friends will ever come back here?"

"Heh, I don't care."

"Wow, OK."

And I turned and left, leaving the large, half-baked Hawaiian sitting on the counter.

Of course I wrote a letter of complaint and mailed to the business address. I never got any reply. And of course, I never went back there, and neither have any of my friends. That was about nine years ago. How much pizza is that?

Consider how much it costs that business to find a new customer. And then think about how little real money was saved by refusing to correct their mistake. I'd say about $3, maybe less.

Doesn't anybody do math anymore?

Friday, November 6, 2009

An Excellent Catalog of Don't's

Picture me leaning into my computer screen, nodding and murmuring "Yeah, baby!" about 100 times. Creepy, I know. But that's about how it went as I read Bruce Buschel's excellent 2-part list:
100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do
(Links: Part 1 | Part 2 )

Here are three items, chosen at random (sort of):
  • Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.
  • Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
  • Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.
Awesome. Well done Bruce.