Saturday
Jul312004

« Vote With Your Dollars »

Let me be blunt: Restaurants and other service oriented companies will just about get down and suck the customer's dick so that they don't go away unhappy. Unhappy customers cause problems, like bad publicity on someone's blog, and revenue loss. In the event of a customer versus customer issue, they will err on the side of the one that is spending more.

Kelli and I had been at our favorite local burger joint, Hodad's in Ocean Beach. One night we got our onion rings AND sodas AFTER our meal had been eaten. We got the bill, and I took it up to contest it. Now, Hodad's is one of those completely down home Southern California sort of beach joints. They are so far from corporate it's stupid. They make one of a kind burgers. So I thought maybe the dude could comp me the sodas or the rings. But no, he wouldn't. The counter dude and another employee gave me a look like I must be joking. I wanted to just go back to the table, leave half the bill and get out, but Kelli talked me out of it. I don't really want to boycott Hodad's but this has certainly soured me on them. I at least feel that a letter to the owner would be useful. But fewer and fewer places are actually run by the owners anymore. So many franchises, so much distance between policy makers and customers.

Today Kelli and I went to IHOP for breakfast. Two booths away, there were these two Mexican mothers with a kid each, both looking like three or four years old. I don't know if the Mexican has anything to do with it, but there is a universal language that was being spoken at that table: that of really fucking loud and obnoxious kids. The moms did next to nothing to stop this. The restaurant was busy, and a little noisy, but these kids reigned supreme, yelling, slapping each other, banging silverware together and onto the table. I gave a few disapproving glances that way when I thought it would matter. Still nothing.

Our server came and took our order, and we asked if she could do anything to squelch it over in the romper room. She gave that sort of embarassed smile that shows she knew we were right but she was in such a place she would get a talking to if she spoke up. I guess she decided it was better to do nothing. The chorus and percussion ensemble continued almost without pause during a lot of our meal. We pulled the middle-aged manager aside and told him we were thinking of leaving but had already ordered, but were still bugged at this, and our server had been no help. He smiled and said there wasn't much he could do, as per the expectations of the upper management. He apologized that he couldn't really do much.

Or course, the implicit message was we don't want to scare people off by telling them how to live their lives. Or, more cynically, I think he said, you are only buying two meals, and they are buying four, therefore, they need priority treatment, not you. I might also extend the cynicism to include: we need to ensure that the kids don't have a bad experience here because they are our future customers. It was the typical sort of response I was told to give during my fast food years at Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Jack In The Box. Typical. Worthless. I wonder how many other people were sitting around that area who were ticked off, but didn't say anything, but might think twice about coming in. But, no, for the restaurant, they need to make sure they don't cause waves.

My bill came. It was $17.53 before tip. I thought of not tipping for bad service. But then I decided to take it up a notch. Since the manager himself was as worthless as a Bush in the White House, I decided to take a little more off. I paid $17 in cash on the table, and we left. I actually felt that I should have left $10, so we could comp ourselves one meal, since the boss did nothing of the sort, nor did he offer us a dessert or anything. Next time I will push it a little more when I get this sort of service. I just think if businesses are in the business to serve, they should serve. I mean, they would offer bad service and expect my money. What incentive is there for them to change? Maybe coming up a little short once in a while may send a message. As I am finding more and more, the only way to deal with this is to vote with your dollars.

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