About the Steve O Zone


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is The Customer Always Right?

I need your help... I need you to tell me if I was in the wrong.

This past weekend my wife, our two kids (ages 6 & 11) and my mother-in-law went out to eat at a local pizza parlor, Bella Pizza in Bensalem, PA. It was around 4:30PM and there exactly 3 people in the place which holds probably upwards of 40-50. 

So to say it was a tad slow would be an understatement... 

Upon entering the establishment my wife inquired if we could partake of a larger booth located toward the back. She was initially told yes by one employee then no by another. I was lagging a few seconds behind the others and came in to see my wife, kids and mother-in-law seated at a table/booth which was a bit cramped shall I say? It was then my wife told me of the yes/no larger booth discussion.

I then went to inquire of the owner (at least I think he was the owner) as to why we could not sit in the larger booth. Truth be told, I am 6'3", 250 lbs and my wife is 5'11"...so we are not small people by any means. 

I was told by the man in charge that the larger booth was for parties of 6 or more people and he couldn't let us use it because "it's going to get crowded soon," a reference I assume to the dinner rush which was about to ensue at any moment. 

Keep in mind there were 5 in my party and there were 3 people in the entire place not counting the employees.

I responded to the owner: "That doesn't make any sense... we're here now. And no one else is here. Why would you not take care of the customers you already have as opposed to those who might come in later?

"That's our policy... has been for the past 10 years," came the very belligerent reply. 

It immediately reminded me of a story my brother Michael once told me. He wanted to buy his employees digital cameras as holiday gifts. He went to the nearest Best Buy, found one he liked and told the salesperson he wanted to buy 10 digital cameras.

"No, you can't buy 10," said the salesperson. 

"Why not?"

"Because then I won't have any left for customers who may come in later."

True story...

***

So, was I right or wrong in thinking we should have been able to sit wherever we wanted? Or should I have appreciated and respected the policy of the pizza parlor?

Just so you know... we left without eating a thing; went to an Applebee's, (also in Bensalem) were seated in a large booth, no questions asked, and were treated to excellent customer service in addition to a pretty darn good meal.

'Til next time...



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12 comments:

Beth said...

You were right. He was wrong. Policies are fine, but they shouldn't be so rigid.

I'm glad you left and demonstrated to him that being inflexible meant a loss of revenue in addition to the bad PR.

I don't believe that the customer is always right. Sometimes, the customer is a pain in the ass. But in this instance, you win.

Steve Olenski... said...

Very well put, Beth.

I too don't always believe the customer is always right but I do believe I was right in this case...

Thank you!

smitten said...

No I agree with Beth they cannot be so rigid each customer you treat as they come in....use some common sense. And this is not our first run in with this place...Bella Pizza....we gave them another chance. Oh well 2 strikes your out no way we going for a 3rd. Sometimes the customer is a pain but I do feel the customer should get what they want within reason. They keep your business going and will talk, spread the word if not a good experience.

Steve Olenski... said...

Smitten,

You are dead on re: "the customer should get what they want within reason"...

And that's what I meant, I should have been more specific, in that the customer is NOT always right when they cross that line from "within reason" to "unreasonable" ...

You & I have had numerous experiences where customers were quite unreasonable in their requests and demands...

So, is the customer always right?

I think it depends on the context of each individual situation.

Steven Tingle said...

You were right - I watched the same thing happen not long ago. http://satingle.com/tingle/blog/restaurants/party-of-five

Steve Olenski... said...

Wow, that is EXACTLY like the story I posted... great, great points about not using the words "have to" and "policy"... they are precisely what you say they are, mask lines... when in doubt, tell them you "have to" and it's "store policy"... it's like they are the default/defacto answers when you cant think for yourself...

The Nice Guy said...

Steve, in this economy, the customer must be treated like a king or queen. It doesn't matter if they are spending $.05 or $500K. AND you never know who the customer knows either.

My one example was a customer when I worked for AT&T. To say they were a pain would be an understatement. But I took my time and kept my calm. They wanted free blackberry's when they came out as the Pearl. at the time, the price was $249! I did the math and figured the store would still make a profit. It took me 3 hours to do the sale. I think I made $.25 as a commission. I then had to spend another half day teaching them how to use their phones. Yeah, it was a MAJOR pain in the butt. The store still made a profit and the customer was happy. The kicker to it all. This customer owned a trucking company and because I gave such great service, he came back 2 weeks later, paid full price for 15 new phones. I made almost a $1,000 commission off of it. AND THEN, not two months later, his sister in law came in and set up a corporate account for her business with another 18 lines.

Customer service isn't just in the sale. It's also the follow up. It's cheaper to keep a happy customer than find a new one.

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