Last Sunday evening I stopped by a local "we make it your way" sandwich shop to pick up a marginally-healthy dinner for the family. For many years, I have been a raving fan of this particular restuarant chain. As usual, the person on the opposite side of the counter asked what I'd like to order and we started with the type of bread. When I requested wheat, he casually (much too casually) responded, "We're out of wheat. All we have is white." This restaurant is well known for the different types of breads they offer and I happen to know (because they're in plain view) that part of the franchise setup is a commercial oven and all the fixin's to bake the bread on site. Partially because I was very tired (and very hungry) at the time, I chose to avoid confrontation and to accept the white bread.
Our next step was the choice of sandwich. When I mentioned the first one, I was told, "We're out of roast beef and pepperoni. All we have is turkey and salami." Again, I chose to avoid confrontation and went for the obviously-past-its-prime turkey. I also chose not to point out the fact that a certain FL-based grocery store is the anchor in the shopping center where this restaurant is located and that they cheerfully and efficiently sell wheat bread, cold cuts, and, ahem, sandwiches. While the too-cool young man slowly added ingredients to my sandwiches, I gazed around the store and noticed several things: 1) The display of "fresh-baked" cookies was empty, the clear container still full of crumbs; 2) Two of the soft-drink dispensers had "out of order" signs on them; 3) The tip jar was completely empty.
By this time you've figured out (based on the poor service) that I wasn't at [a certain theme park in Orlando] or at a certain GA-based fast-food chicken outfit, and (based on my reaction) that I'm a fairly patient and agreeable person. The rest of the story is that I picked one of the franchisee's cards from a holder at the cash register and called him on my way home. He was very apologetic and assured me that there was no excuse for the employee having failed to offer to bake some wheat bread or to provide a coupon, lesser charge for the meal, etc. Based on the franchisee's sincerity, I intend to patronize his sandwich shop one more time. If I receive poor service again, none of his future cash flow will come from my family.
Hopefully the franchisee is professional enough to look for a solutioin to the problem in ever-larger concentric circles starting at his own shoes.
Later that evening I realized why I had been so exasperated by the exceptionally poor service I'd received at the sandwich shop: We had just returned from a 4-day visit to the world's greatest theme park in Orlando. Though I'm never hesitant to do so, this isn't a plug for [that place in Orlando]. It's a stark comparison of customer service cultures. Part of the reason going to [that place in Orlando] makes you feel as if you've stepped into a different world is that you HAVE done just that. You've left behind the world of the bored, unproductive, baking-impaired clock-puncher and entered a parallel universe in which everyone is trained to treat guests as if each of us is Donald Trump.
For 2009 (and beyond), I'm going to be [Orlando]. I challenge you to NEVER, EVER be the sandwich guy.