I recently saw a post on The Matt Walsh Blog entitled “Maybe You Get Bad Customer Service Because You’re a Bad Customer.” (Check him out at http://themattwalshblog.com, the guy is hilarious).
I’ve been working for about seven years and every job I’ve had has been in customer service so I have my fair share of horror stories. My hope here is to appeal to those of you who have NEVER worked a day in customer service and hopefully change your outlook on the person whose “job” is to help you.
The customer service industry is HUGE. There aren’t many jobs out there where you don’t have customers or clients that you have to please or give service to. However, as anyone who has worked in customer service will tell you, some customers act as though they have never worked a day in customer service in their lives. And perhaps they haven’t. Maybe that’s the problem…
Once upon a time, I worked at Subway. I had recently moved away from my hometown and after months and months of searching I finally landed a job as a sandwich artist. (I was actually hired on the spot despite the fact that I was battling a killer UTI. So, go me!) Most of my experiences with customers at Subway were amazing, 95% of you were great people. BUT, there were a couple of you avid sub eaters who were absolute nightmares. Absolute. Nightmares.
Just so you all know, when you work at a chain establishment like Subway you are trained and trained and trained and trained to make things exactly the way subway expects. i.e. three tomatoes per six inches, eight black olive slices per twelve inches, three lines of sauce, etc, etc, etc.
So when you come in a demand extra ranch. I am trained to respond by giving you FOUR (three lines plus one extra line) lines of ranch. If you continue to ask for more I am allowed to give you ONE line more, every time you ask for more. There is no reason to get an attitude with me and treat me as if I can’t understand English. It doesn’t matter if you say “more, please” or if you shout toddler-tantrum style “MOOOOORRRREEEEE MORE MORE MORE!!!” (you obviously preferred the latter version) either way, I can only give one extra line of sauce at a time. It’s how I was trained. There’s no need to scream, I’m not giving you bad customer service, I’m just doing things the way my boss expects them to be done. (Heck, I put about half a bottle of ranch on this woman’s sub).
That is certainly not the worst example I can think of but we’ll get to that in a bit. This woman was all bent out of shape, arms crossed, she was practically fuming at me. And for what reason? Because I couldn’t read her mind about how much ranch she wanted? Because I was following the rules of my job? Give me a break, people!
Then there was Mayonnaise Man. This situation occurred during our dinner rush, so there were a line of people stretching nearly to the door and three employees behind the line. When it gets this busy there are usually about five subs being worked on at once behind the line. All you can hear is the orders from several customers at once, “lettuce, american, tomato, more tomato, microwave it, toast it, extra cheese, etc.” Now, typically, when you order at Subway you tell the employee what you want. If you don’t say mayonnaise, we won’t put it on your sandwich.
It was in the middle of a rush like the one I mentioned when a man said to me “no mayonnaise.” I will admit this is my fault for not hearing the “no” but in my defense I wasn’t used to someone telling me not to put something on their sandwich, as mentioned earlier normally if a person doesn’t want something they just don’t mention it. So I heard, “mayonnaise.” I literally had a dab, a DAB, of mayonnaise on this man’s sandwich when he exploded. You would have thought I had just taken his sandwich and slapped him in the face with it. “I SAID NO MAYONNAISE. NOOOOOOOOOOOO MAYONNAISE. I CAN’T EAT THAT NOW!!”
“I’m sorry, sir, I misunderstood you. I will make you another sandwich.”
“NOOOOO! I DON’T HAVE THE TIME FOR THAT! I’LL JUST TAKE THE D**N THING!”
This man was really mad, I mean furious, about the drop of mayo on his sub. So mad that he wouldn’t even allow me to fix it. He acted as if this was a life or death situation.
How dare I, a human, make a mistake. I should be banished from Subway, of course.
I now help manage the restaurant that my fiance owns, so occasionally I’m a server. Since beginning my work in the world of waiting tables I have seen some real genuine buttholes. I won’t go through all of them as that would take quite a bit of time, but I will tell you about the two that I find the most hilarious.
Picture this, it’s seafood festival weekend on the island. This happens once a year and thousands of people from all over the world flock to the island for seafood related festivities. It’s a lot of people squeeeeezed onto a tiny island. It’s crowded. It’s noisy. It’s busy. And our restaurant sits in the middle of one of the busiest streets of all.
Last festival weekend, which was just two weeks ago, we had a women come into the restaurant for lunch. She sat outside and ordered a salad and began sipping her beverage. All was well with her world. Moments after her lunch arrives she comes inside, carrying her plate of untouched food. Red flag.
This is exactly what she said to us:
“It’s noisy out there. I can hear the air conditioning unit running on the restaurant next door. It’s very annoying. I came here for a peaceful quiet weekend and I’m not getting it.”
I suppose she wanted me to go next door and ask them to shut off their AC, who cares if it was 95 degrees out!
So we offered to move her to a table inside, no big deal.
“No that won’t do. I want to be outside. I’m just going to leave. Do I have to pay for this?”
I told her I had no control over the AC next door and that she wasn’t going to be able to find a restaurant with quiet outdoor seating seeing as how it was festival weekend. It didn’t help, she was still upset. So instead of arguing with her I just let her go on her angry little way without paying (the restaurant was packed with a line so I didn’t have the time or patience to debate).
Because of the AC next door running I guess I’m supposed to just eat the cost of the food that we now have to throw out because you wanted it to be dead silent outside.
On a festival weekend.
Does that even make any sense? I didn’t think so either.
Here’s another example of a restaurant nightmare. This woman didn’t just leave her anger at the restaurant, she took it home with her and posted it on TripAdivsor. (Which I can and one day will do a whole blog post just on how I feel about that website).
Here’s the review she left on TripAdvisor:
Title: Big Disappointment Rating: 1 out of 5
“The waitress had to check with the manager on where people could sit. If he was busy, you had to wait for him to appear. Many beers on the list, yet they were out of 2 that I picked. Several wines, but only 1 by the glass.”
Let me tell you the whole truth. First of all, this woman was with a party of at least eight people. So we had to put some tables together to accommodate her party and her waitress was new, like second day on the job new. So yes, the waitress did have to ask my fiance how we go about putting tables together for large parties (i.e. which tables do we typically put together, where, etc.). Nothing bad happened here. No one was in any way neglected. The server was just still learning.
Next, we do have quiet an extensive beer list (about 53 beer choices). There are two on the list that are seasonal. Meaning, they are only carried by our suppliers at a certain time of year, so we can only get them at that certain time. Not our fault. If you are mad about that you will need to call the beer distribution company and speak with them.
Third, we have several wines for sale by the bottle and a House Wine which we sale by the glass. This isn’t something unusual. A lot of restaurants do this, and if you could see how much alcohol cooler storage room we don’t have, you would understand why we do it. Again, this isn’t a horrible thing that is worthy of an online review bashing us.
I’m not writing this to rant and get defensive, even though it may appear that way. Its more to show you that there are two sides to every story. Usually, however, bad customers don’t give us the time of day to give our reasoning behind choices we make or explain why things happen.
Not that it would make a difference if we could explain ourselves. The people who get so mad over simple things aren’t likely to be very understanding.
Why, heaven forbid they try to be rational adults!
I just want to crush this link that some customers have created between the term “server” and “servant.”
The person waiting on your table or standing behind the counter at Subway is a human, just like you.
We are not government programmed robots.
And if any of you can say that you’ve never ever made one mistake. You’re lying.
That’s just what humans do. Messing up is, well, part of being a human.
If you’re a “Mayonnaise Man” or maybe even a “Complaint-Filled Woman” (men, quit thinking what you’re thinking) please, do all of us in the customer service industry a favor and realize that we’re only humans doing our best and trying to make a living just like you.