I was working late on Wednesday and just about to go home when a small knock came to my office door. Ricci told me that she had an angry customer and proceeded to tell me that he had found a splenda packet in his water.
I came out to the floor and walked over to the couple sitting in a booth. I greeted them and the man began to explain that their was a paper in his water. I saw that he had a fresh full glass of water in front of him so I said, "It looks like your waitress has gotten you a fresh glass. I am sorry for the problem and it looks like she solved it."
"No, she didn't", he stated and they both stated that they had now lost all appetite. I looked down and noticed that both of them had finished off a goodly amount of their food so I restated that I was sorry. The man then quickly stated that he felt that he should not have to pay for it.
I quickly began to process this in my head and since they had eaten most, I said that I would credit some but they will have to pay for their meal. He got angry with me and told me that he would not pay a dime. I countered that, yes, I expected them to pay something.
They both got angry and began to prepare to leave. I remember trying to decide what I was going to to if they just walked out. Then, he made the statement: "This is the first time that I have ever been in this place and it will be my last.".
Now, I remember a time when something similar happened to me. The man was angry in this same way and said something similar. I took his ticket, asked him to leave, and please not come back. I recall how after he obliged, a regular that was sitting close by told me that I had not handled the problem well. "You did exactly as he wanted.", I was told. "He just got himself a free meal. If he is not coming back, at least get your money from him.".
I tried to remain calm as I shook inside. "Sir, if that is the case, then you can pay for the whole thing.".
He then erupted at me, grabbing his cane which made my crew began to go on standby thinking they were going to have to come to my rescue. He jumped to his feet, yelling something about if a scene was what I wanted then by golly, I was going to get one. He began to speak loudly so that all could hear how our food and service were crap and how he was going to tell every one about it.
I took a quick look around the floor and realized that most of the people there were friends and car enthusiasts. "On your way out, please feel free to tell any of my customers here how you feel.". I stated. I noticed Terry and Zeb sitting at the counter and knew that if he said anything to them they would probably jokingly agree. Both of them like a good dig and would probably say something like they don't know why they keep coming back other than they feel sorry for me or something.
I followed them to the cash register as the man continued to yell how he felt about our food and service. I handed the ticket to the cashier and said, "Please ring them up.". I then walked back over to the counter and sat down. I sat there shaking and trying to decide if I had handled it right. The cashier came by and said that they had paid and left. I said, "Did they pay for it all?" and he answered, "yes".
I then began to push it behind me and ordered up some supper before leaving.
The next day, Judy received a call and walked into the office with the phone. She told me it was the same man and that he said that he had never refused to pay for his food, that he felt that I was rude to him, and that he wanted compensation. She asked him if he wanted to talk to me and handed me the phone.
With Summer and Judy in the office with me, I began to engage with the man again. He told me that he had never said that he would not pay for his food and I reminded him of what he said at the table the night before.
He then told me that I had played games with him placing words in his mouth and I assured him that I played no game. He said that I made him feel like a criminal, that I had talked down to him like some kid who was trying to get out of his meal. He then said that he would have liked to come back again sometime but with me treating him like that and not giving him compensation, he would not.
I reminded him of the conversation the night before where he said that it was his first and last time there. I went on to say that was why I told him that he could pay the bill and the logic for that.
He then said that he had paid the bill in full and I thanked him for that. He then restated that I had made him feel like a criminal. I asked him how I could have come across that way as it was him that was yelling to everyone around how my food was crap and so was my service.
He then blurted out something that I could not understand and his voice went still. I thought that he had hung up so I hit end and placed the phone on my lap. "He hung up on me.", I said.
Judy, Summer, and I talked about it and I admit laughing out of frustration saying something like there is no good way of handling those types of situations. I asked both of them if what I had said was the same thing that I had told them earlier when we discussed the situation (Situations like this don't come up that often and I admit discussing them as I did right then looking for answers on if I did handle it right and what we could better do to handle a situation like that.).
No one likes situations like that and no one wants to lose customers. And, I admit that I don't always handle things right. I fished in my head for ways to better handle them so that in the long run, the customer is happy and you hopefully keep him as a customer.
I remember jokingly stating that I had given him the option to tell anyone on the floor. We laughed as we discussed what Zeb's reaction might have been. As I spoke, my phone rang and it was someone that we had helped out by finding something of his. He told me how much he loved us and appreciated me. It was exactly the medicine that I needed and I stated that to the two girls. I then handed the phone to Judy and noticed the beep beep beep of disconnect on the phone as she reset it.
Almost immediately, it rang. Judy answered and it was him again. He said that he had not hung up and that he had heard us whispering about him. He said, "I heard everything that you said.". Now, Judy knew that we had not said anything bad and said to him. "I don't know what to tell you sir. Lyle is my husband and there is one thing that I know about him.......he does not lie.". The man then accused Judy of calling him a lier. Judy said, "I don't know you sir.".
He then blew up at her, telling her that he was going to call the health department and was going to tell everyone on facebook about how he was treated. He said that he was a 66 yr old disabled vet and that he had never been treated like that before. Judy told him that she did not know what to say and he hung up.
There is no text book way of handling these situations and I have that side of me who wants everyone to like me but I must realize that just does not happen. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding.....maybe if I had just.....no, I just need to move on.
I told Judy later that it still bothered me but not half as much as it would if we did not receive so much positive feedback from our other friends and customers.
I do appreciate every soul that walks through our front door and I do desire to make them happy. I realize that by not hanging up the phone properly when I thought he had hung up on me, that it just made matters worse. I need to keep a positive attitude however and that can easily be done by the realization that even though I did not know that he was listening, that I didn't say anything detrimental.