New Client Service Direction (and a cat story)

For all you cat lovers out there, here is a picture of our middle child, J.J.

He loves hanging out on my daughter’s former doll bed. J.J. almost died this year from a partial urinary blockage and acute kidney failure. I am pleased to say he’s completely recovered and is better than ever! The vet is doing better than ever too. She finally has the money she needs for that vacation home in Charlevoix. Bottom line: Make sure your cats drink plenty of water, give them wet food occasionally, and request a prescription for cat food that promotes urinary health. This is most important in male cats, under age 10. In our case we found that the cats didn’t like drinking out of a metal bowl. Now that we’ve placed 2 ceramic bowls in different locations, they are drinking A LOT more.

Now, the New Direction in Client Service

Those of you that know me, are aware of my desire to write a book about client service. Until 2015, I was in the industry, and through my experiences I felt I had a story to tell. The problem is that I have fatigue issues, and something about sitting at a computer triggers my symptoms. That, and the text book like draft I was working on, was boring as hell.

Most of my followers, all 2 of you (kidding, it’s a little more) like me for my cats. They have quite the personality. One of them recently took a small stuffed animal from my son’s nightstand. He was wondering where it went. Well, it showed up outside my daughter’s room, undoubtedly as a gift. Meaning, those a-holes took my son’s stuffed animal and gave it to his sister. They like her better and there’s nothing he can do about it.

There, I got my cat story out of the way.

I have been keeping a diary of my client service experiences. I am wondering if this is a better format for a book. Instead of telling people how to do their job, let them discover how to through real life examples. So here, is a first peak into my diary. You won’t find sex and drugs, but you will figure out how much of a demanding bitch I am.

If you think it’s good, bad, or you rather I stick to cats feel free to leave a comment. Just don’t ignore me completely because that drives me nuts!!

Dear Diary,

It’s been a couple months now, but I have to tell you about my experience at La Pita. It’s a large, nicely decorated middle-eastern restaurant about 30 minutes from my house. Overall, I’ve had great experiences there. The food quality is great and the wait staff is attentive. I always get their lunch portion of chicken shawarma and have never had an issue substituting soup for salad or asking for double-rice instead of humus and rice. Hey, the menu didn’t say “no substitutions” and I took advantage of that.

My newly permitted sixteen-year-old daughter somehow got us there. I only screamed once, so it was a successful drive. There, we met my friend Jo-Set and her seventeen-year old daughter, Erin.  They live close to the restaurant and often order carry-out. My husband also works nearby and often takes business associates visiting the Detroit area here to dine. Our business is important to them, whether they know it or not.

I didn’t like our waitress right away. She seemed irritated by our substitutions, which I’ve never experienced there before. She didn’t say no to anything, but I got the vibe she thought we were high maintenance. My friend and I ordered with a smile and said please and thank you. It wasn’t like we were a couple of demanding bitches, so the attitude struck me as odd but I ignored it and went about our evening.

When the meal came, I noticed that my daughter’s double rice looked smaller than my son’s single side of rice. I was told it was the shape of how it was served, which I knew wasn’t right but I didn’t feel like arguing. Later, I realized my son and daughter’s meals had been switched, which is why her rice portion was smaller than his. Our waitress should have figured that out.

One of my favorite parts of the meal is the garlic sauce, called Toum by legit Lebanese people. The chicken just doesn’t taste as good without it. My friend’s daughter asked for a side of it also, since her meal (lamb) came with a different sauce. She orders carry-out all the time, and her meal always comes with garlic sauce for no additional charge.

When our meals first arrived, I noticed my sauce was missing entirely. And, when I asked for it to be brought out, the small cup was only filled half-way.  I didn’t realize I needed to point that out, because I never thought there would be an issue if I needed more. Little did I know my future request would begin what I refer to as the “garlic sauce shake-down”.

When I asked for more sauce, our waitress curtly informed me that my meal only came with one sauce. An additional sauce would be 75 cents. Now, keep in mind my meal was $13, which should be enough to allow an additional garlic sauce. I wasn’t dining in mid-town Manhattan. I was in Dearborn, just minutes from Detroit and close to Ford World Headquarters. Dearborn has the largest Muslim population outside the middle-east. Garlic sauce should not be hard to come by.

I wanted the sauce, so I said something like, “really” and figured I’d deduct it from her tip. I was sure no other waiter would have passed on that charge, and considering I would be eating what this lady brought me, arguing didn’t seem wise.

Things we’re okay until the bill arrived. Not only was there 75 cents for my additional sauce, but Erin was charged this same amount. When she asked for the sauce, there was no mention of the additional charge. And, she always has it with her lamb when ordering carry-out. Why the difference?

When I get upset over things like this, I feel my blood pressure rising and have to talk myself down. I seriously feel like I may have a heart attack when I get like this, and based on my family history it’s not far-fetched I would.  Still, I wasn’t terribly rude to the waitress when sharing my displeasure.  I kept telling myself we aren’t talking about big money here. It’s 75 cents.

Our charming waitress informed us that Erin’s meal came with tahini sauce, not garlic sauce and that mine only came with one, not two. She was unmoved that my first sauce cup was only half-filled or that we’ve never been “nickeled and dimed” at La Pita before.

Then, my friend asked the waitress if we could have a few extra pieces of pita bread to take home with our left-overs. I cringed in my seat. Although we’ve had plenty waiters offer extra bread as we were leaving before, I knew this was not one of those times.  Before I could say, “that’s okay, I don’t need it” the next shake-down occurred.

“I’ll have to charge you for that”.

WTF. This place is literally called LA Pita. We hadn’t ordered much bread during our meal. So, is this how it’s going to be? We should order copious amounts of pita bread, so we can stock pile it for our left-overs, and avoid an additional fee?

By this point, Jo-Set was besides herself, wondering if she stepped into a parallel universe. One where bread and garlic sauce was in extraordinarily short supply. She reasoned with the waitress, explaining we’ve never had to pay for bread before. Out of frustration or guilt, who knows, the waitress said she’d give us 4 pieces each (8 total for the table) but this was an exception and we normally would be charged for this. I don’t think either of us even were looking for 4 pieces. It’s like the waitress assumed we wanted the pita bread loaded into our car trunk, and she was the only thing stopping us.

I couldn’t take it anymore. Surely, the manager of this fine establishment would want to know what we’ve endured. A professionally dressed, attractive, middle-eastern lady in her 30’s approached. I instantly felt a sense of relief. Boy, was that short lived.

Now I understood where the waitress got her attitude.

I always go nuts when people apologize for my feelings or “any inconvenience” because that’s the equivalent of saying there’s nothing wrong here, you are just unreasonable. So, after a couple carefully worded half-hearted apologies, I was told how expensive garlic sauce is to produce. I’ve made it before, not well but I made it. It’s a head of garlic, lemon juice, canola oil, salt and pepper.

Here’s the best part. Because I ordered chicken and not lamb (like Erin) the fact I needed a second cup wasn’t as big of an “offense”. Therefore, she will talk to the waitress about being more forgiving in situations like this, but that garlic sauce charge for the lamb is a different story. THAT makes sense.

We then got to hear how they only use the best halal butcher and travel hundreds of miles to get the best meat. She’ll be happy to show me her receipts, so I understand the expense they incur. I explained I had no issues with the price of the meal or the quality of the meat. I simply thought they should charge a price that wouldn’t require them to “nickel and dime” me if I wanted an additional sauce. Well, she explained, she gets complaints about the price all the time.*

When I mentioned they probably throw away left-over sauce regularly, I was told they PRECISELY measure it and know exactly how much they need. They must also employ a psychic, because I don’t know any restaurants that know exactly how much sauce they are going to consume each night. If they have any extra, they use it the next morning. You can’t win with this lady! She didn’t even disagree that charging for pita bread, to accompany your left-overs, was unreasonable. Remember, our meal comes with hummus for goodness sake, last time I checked you need something to eat it with.

The most frustrating part of this whole thing is the manager didn’t believe us when we explained we’ve never been charged for extra sauce or bread. I explained that if they are going to have this policy, which I disagree with, they need to make it consistent.  In fact, Jo-Set had a carry-out receipt from this place dated just a few days prior. She didn’t have it with her then, but it clearly showed garlic sauce listed with “0.00”.

I haven’t been to La Pita since, but I’ve sure been to the middle-eastern restaurant closer to my house, and have decided that their food is just as good as La Pita’s.

This is what happens when you give your customers the feeling they are being shaken down and you aren’t committed to their experience. Although the manager sort-of apologized and removed the charge**, we both knew she thought we were a-holes. This one visit was enough to turn our positive impression of this place into a negative one. The extra 75 cents for garlic sauce cost this restaurant many times more than that in future profit.

I am confident that the manager had these policies a long time, but the wait staff knew better and didn’t want to risk their tip. They were smart. Our waitress may have done a much better job of following the rules, but she certainly cost La Pita years of future business.

* I thought of saying, “That’s it. My son won’t be having his Bar Mitzvah here!” But these clever quips, and the nerve to say them, never come at the right time.

**My friend and I received separate checks. The manager took the garlic charge off hers but never came back to get my receipt. I am sure it was unintentional, but still, I am still thinking about it aren’t I? I know it’s a little weird that I am, but it’s more the experience in total that gets me. Not so much the charge.