Nine dollars and fifty-four cents

Service, service-driven, customer service…these terms immediately conjure up images of friends, colleagues, the people at the hardware store and so on that routinely go out of their way to help others.  These kinds of people are easy to recognize and often underappreciated. A service mindset really does make a difference and I doubt we can ever have too much of that in our world. I was reminded of that recently.

I stopped into one of my favorite local restaurants to pick up a sandwich. Like a lot of establishments these days, there were tables at the door with pick-up orders piled on top. It also looked as though indoor dining was not an option, which suited me just fine since all I wanted was a sandwich to go.

When I approached the register, there were three staff members behind the counter.  One was filling the pickle tray, another putting together someone else’s order, and the third standing at the register. The one at the register then asked if I had placed an order online, which I had not.  The same staff member then explained that they were short-handed, and until further notice all orders had to be placed online.  I was then told what website to go to on my phone so that I could place my order.

I admit that at this point, I was feeling disappointed.  I’ve developed a dislike for places that make customers use QR codes to place their order, and this was starting to feel similar. But, being a good team player, and understanding that staff shortages are a real problem, I decided I needed to buck up and comply.  It was going to be a bacon sandwich, after all.

Shoot.  I didn’t have my reading glasses. Who wears their cheaters into a take-out place?

Squinting as hard as I could, I fumbled with my phone, entered the website address and waited. It took me three attempts at the menu to find the sandwich section.  When I finally found what I wanted, I added it to my cart.

It was sort of dark inside the restaurant.  Angling the card just so, and using the light from my phone, I was able to make out my credit card number. Eventually, I managed to key in the necessary information and submit.  But something went wrong.  

I forgot to add my name.  Done.  

Still nothing.  

I had missed a small box where I had to authorize the use of the card I had just keyed in.  Done.

Just before hitting submit for the third time, I sarcastically asked the staff member who was watching me struggle, “How many customers do you think you’ve lost because of this?”

I know, it was a moment of frustration and weakness and I couldn’t help myself. 

Card declined. Ugh. Done.

At that very moment, I made a deliberate decision to inform the person at the register that I just wasn’t going to go through that again.  I walked out the door, crossed the street and got my sandwich from a competing establishment.  There were people, and a register and staff who took my order.  

Ahh. And a bacon sandwich to boot.

I should note that I was in and out of the next restaurant in less time than I had spent trying to place my order at the previous. And it was four cents cheaper.  The only reason the price stuck in my head is because, with very little additional effort, one restaurant earned nine dollars and fifty cents and another lost nine dollars and fifty-four cents.  

I don’t expect to be treated differently, at least not most of the time.  But I like to think that if I were the staff member on the other side of the counter, I might have offered to just enter the order myself.  Even if all the orders needed to go through some web-based application, I would have thought management would have set-up a failsafe so staff could assist when possible when necessary. 

In case you’re wondering, I am fine.  I got my bacon sandwich.  More importantly, the experience reminded me how service–good or bad–can have a profound effect on the experience. 

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