Complaints about bad service27 Jun 11 11:00AM EST |
A few days ago I had an expensive degustation dinner at a restaurant in Sydney’s north shore. I’ve been there several times before, and have recommended it to many friends and family members.
But this particular night, while the food was not memorable, the service will forever be imprinted in my mind.
The meal stretched on for almost four hours. I understand that these things take time, but the tiny morsels presented (two oysters, for example), just accentuated the extremely long wait between courses – more than 35 minutes in some instances. While usually the company would have made up for the stall, the long, shared table my partner and I were seated at was not conducive to conversation – especially as the couple next to us were having a raucous and borderline offensive chat that became louder as the evening wore on.
By the end of the night I was not impressed, but was ready to chalk up the experience as an unfortunate off-night, and willing to give this restaurant the benefit of the doubt. This would not be how the evening ended however.
After asking for the bill and twiddling our thumbs for 15 minutes while those around us received theirs, we decided to just head up to the counter and settle there – it was a busy night, we couldn’t flag down another waiter, and we were in a rush to get home. We politely asked for the bill, but a grumbled “Sit back down!” was barked in our direction. We asked for it again, explaining that we were in a rush, and once again, like misbehaving school children, were told to get back to our seats. When we insisted on paying at the counter, the mumbled expletives that were thrown at us were ridiculous and totally uncalled for.
Shocked, we paid and left. And of course the whole way home we wished we’d called the gutter mouth on his outrageous rudeness. Usually, I am not one to stand for this sort of treatment. But I was simply dumbfounded.
The night needlessly ended on a sour note, and of course I will never go back to this restaurant again. I will never again recommend it to family or friends, and I will make sure that those I have recommended it to in the past know that my opinion has changed.
But this experience made me wonder about the impact of poor service on businesses.
Here at CHOICE we often receive first-hand reports of both good and bad customer service from members for submission into the Your Say and Thumbs section of the magazine. Overwhelming we hear that the way in which a company values its clients is as important, if not more important, as the quality of the product or service they are selling. And once a thumbs down or a negative experience appears within our magazine or online, it can make quite a difference upon consumer perception of a certain business.
Our members report that some companies, like Electrolux, Dyson, Weber and Beefeater, have gone out of their way to help consumers, replacing or repairing items that are beyond their warranty period. But others write in about the poor communication and lack of satisfaction from companies like Nespresso and Neff. And while perhaps our thumbs aren’t the most important factor when considering whether to buy a certain product over another, the imprint of repeated positive and negative experiences surely weigh on the minds of some regular CHOICE readers.
The problem is that businesses sometimes don’t know when their clients have a terrible experience. Many people are unwilling or unable to complain. But whether through traditional methods or via social media and review websites, word will almost certainly spread.
Which brings me back to my experience at the afore-mentioned restaurant. I cooled down for a few days, and then decided to let the restaurant know why they were losing my business. After emailing the owner about the situation, I received a sympathetic response and the offer of a dinner on the house. But on principle, I will not dine there again. There is no excuse for the abuse of consumers, and I want to make sure that the message is received loud and clear. Plus, I’d hate to think that the freebie was motivated by the fact that several years ago, I spent a delicious (but regrettably fattening) year working as a restaurant reviewer.
Do you complain when you receive bad service? Do you generally have positive responses?