Manners Matter: Qualms with Customer Service

Dear Mary Pat,

Lately, several businesses have instructed their employees to ask: “Did you find everything OK?” as you approach the cash register. Usually my answer is no because I gave up looking in the aisles for anyone to ask, but which I usually don’t say because at that point I’m leaving the store anyway and don’t want to harass the poor checkout clerk unnecessarily. On rare occasions when I have said, “No, I didn’t find everything I was looking for,” no one really knew how to respond anyway. They have to say it, perhaps in the manner of how we greet everyone by saying: “How are you?” akin to “Hello.” OK, so that’s that situation and one can either be more intent on locating someone to ask for help, or not, as they choose.

A similar situation has arisen concerning restaurants. Recently, at a popular Door County place, my friend and I chose to try a side of green vegetable being offered in lieu of a potato. We both quite like this vegetable and are familiar with its deliciousness. It sure looked good when it arrived but it had an odd flavor: sort of like plastic and sort of like what might be described as “barn.” The waitress, who was extremely pleasant and hard working, asked us how everything tasted and we told her about the odd taste. She apologized but didn’t want to replace it as any new plateful would come from the same pan from which we had already been served. She offered a potato to replace the dish. We declined. We advised that the chef really ought to taste the green vegetable. Our waitress brought a new plateful that tasted worse than the first plateful. We told her so. She apologized. Since two of us thought it was definitely off, we were pretty sure it wasn’t imagined. The vegetable continued to be served to others. Some people ate it, some didn’t. We mentioned it again when paying the bill, that it really ought to be tasted and investigated. Apologies were given, but nothing was taken off the bill.

A few days later, we picked up a carryout order, which we had specifically asked not to be doused with hot sauce – to put it on the side instead. At payment, we asked again if this had been done. We were assured it had. We found out later that some hot sauce had been applied to the food and none was put on the side. A phone call to the establishment got us an apology and the statement that hopefully next time it would be offered correctly as we ordered! It seems to me that restaurants may now be joining in with retail shops in giving only face-value to the queries of “Is everything tasting OK?” We don’t want to waste food. We don’t want to make waves. We are extremely grateful for goodies we have enjoyed. But, if someone asks, “Is everything tasting OK?,” it would be nice to know that you are being asked in all seriousness and not simply as a pleasantry and that the establishment will make it right or offer a refund. From: “Once in a great while, we feel we need to be a bit fussy about an issue!” Thanks for your opinion.



Everything Not O.K.



Dear Everything Not O.K.,

It sounds like you haven’t been experiencing the best customer service lately.

Let’s look at these situations separately:

  1. If you are wandering around aisles, that suggests to me that you are in a big box store. Big box retail store employees are trained to greet you and ask you questions, usually in a specific way. Some might say it sounds scripted, others might argue that it is consistent. Either way, since they see hundreds of people a day, it might not always be as sincere or as enthusiastic as their corporate offices would like. That being said, if you are on the hunt for something and can’t find anyone in an aisle, head up to the registers before checking out and ask for help. That is what they are there for. If you are experiencing this same issue in smaller locally owned stores, I would be surprised. Most local shops are more customer service driven and they want to be able to help you find what you are looking for. As someone who has a lot of retail experience, it is equally frustrating when a customer says that they don’t need help (they don’t want “bother” you perhaps?) and then proceeds to wander off in the wrong direction. So ask away, no matter what kind of store you are in. And if you don’t get an answer from one employee, ask another.
  2. The waitress did offer you an alternate choice (the potato), which you declined. She hopefully did let the kitchen know that something was off with the vegetables for food safety concerns especially. Since it was a side dish I don’t know that they would necessarily take something off the bill, but a free desert would have been appropriate. Or in this case, I would want to know that the message did get back to the kitchen and that they truly heard that there was an issue.
  3. Since you ordered your meal with the hot sauce on the side and you took the time to double check, they should have offered to remake your meal or given you a gift certificate toward your next visit. If you decide to give this restaurant another chance, next time check while you are still there.

Mistakes will be made and that’s to be expected, but how a business corrects them speaks volumes about how they value their customers and patrons.


Good luck,

Mary Pat


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