Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Crappy Customer Service

Okay, this may be stretching the definition of sustainability a bit, but it is probably the single most important considerations for business' continued success. Below are two stories of particularly heinous customer service experiences I've had recently. I'm going to try to make this more than simply a ranting post, but you've been warned about the content to come, and I won't begrudge anyone for giving up on this post. The two organizations I'm planning to drag through the mud today are the Restaurant, Dupus Boomer's, and the Magazine Organic Gardening (and their publisher Rodale.

First, Dupus Boomer's. Dupus is a fairly local chain restaurant that opened up a location in the Compton Union Building at WSU. It's the only non-fast food option in the CUB, and while it's a bit more expensive, I would occasionally like to go up there for lunch. However, since the first two weeks of them being open, the service has been consistently degrading. It's long been the case that to get faster service, you'd want to go grab a seat in the bar area, and generally you'd fairly quickly get some member of the waitstaff to take an order. However, as the last few months have gone by, every time I've been in the service has gotten consistently worse.

This came to a head last week. I sat down just after noon, knowing that I had a meeting to be at by 1pm. This is normally plenty of time. The Waitress approaches me immediately after I sit down, and I ask for water, and a few minutes to read through the menu. Fifteen minutes later, the waitress finally returns to take my order, but not deliver my water. That happened to be the last time I saw my waitress.

Now, it was reasonably busy in the restaurant that day. Almost every table was full, but due to the relatively slow kitchen, the turnaround was not such that the waitstaff should have had a lot of trouble keeping up with the crowd. Perhaps it's because I used to work the lunch rush at a bar about the same size as Dupus, but I really have no sympathy for waitstaff feeling rushed during lunch. Most people only have an hour for lunch, that's the way it works, and those people need to get in and out of the restaurant as quickly as possible.

My food finally arrived with about ten minutes before one. I ate, quicker than I really wanted to, and tried to get the attention of a member of the wait staff so I could get my bill. Oh, and that water which hadn't arrived yet. A few minutes passed, I was unsuccessful, and I was forced to leave without paying. This is the first time I've ever walked out of a restaurant without paying. Even at my least happy with the food and/or service, I've never been forced to leave without paying. Some might argue that I shouldn't have gone if I had a deadline, but I've always been of the opinion that a restaurant needs to be able to get a customer in and out within about thirty minutes. If you can't manage that, you shouldn't be open for lunch. Period.

This was, for me, the last straw in terrible service. I will not be returning to the restaurant, and I've been vocal in my being fed up with their lousy service. I already know others that were growing tired of Dupus Boomer's, and I hope that they figure out a way to improve their lousy service, because a full-service restaurant in the heart of campus should be a lot better idea than it's turned out to be.

I almost feel bad going after this second business, Rodale Publishing. They publish a lot of health related magazines and books, and honestly there seemed to be lot to like about the Organic Gardening magazine that I'd ordered a free trial issue of for my wife. Please note that this was a Free Trial Issue, which in my experience has always meant that if I decided I didn't want the subscription, they'd stop harassing me about it. Sure, I'd probably get a few statements in the mail, but they'd give up within two or three months. Since I wasn't entirely sure when I placed the order that we would subscribe, I just put in for the

This didn't happen with Rodale and Organic Gardening. Now, mind you, we did fully intend to subscribe to the magazine. It probably didn't help that it was the middle of winter, but we just didn't get back to Rodale right away. We continued to get statements about once a month, and I'd continue to remind my wife that she should send in a check if she wanted to subscribe (which she did). Then, we started getting bills marked with things like 'final notice', culminating in an actual letter from what appeared to be a collections agency (it didn't quite pass the smell test, so we're unsure if it was a real collections letter).

A Collections Letter because we hadn't paid for a subscription on the back of our free trial issue? Are you serious?

Needless to say, what had orignally been a subscription we just hadn't gotten around to paying for yet, has now become a magazine, and a publisher, that we intend not to do business with. Unfortunately, this means that Catherine is currently in the market for a gardening magazine that actively discourages the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If anyone has any suggestions, please suggest away, we're in the market.

So, here are two companies that have lost my business. And, I don't doubt, won't have their reputations tarnished by me telling of these experiences. In the case of Dupus Boomer's, it was due to continued poor service on the part of the waitstaff. Having worked the back of house at a restaurant before, I sympathize with the problems a bad front of house can cause, but ultimately utter failure on both sides of that equation can cause major problems for a restaurant. As for Rodale... threatening me as a customer is the fastest way to cause me to drop my service with you. I'm not talking about cutting of my service because I haven't paid. I earned that. But it's like stores that have a no backpack policy. I understand the reason for the policy, but I'll still leave the store without buying anything if I'm asked to turn over my bag. Respect me as the customer, and if you don't think you can for whatever reason, be prepared to lose me.