Neroes fiddle while the organization is on fire.
The meal was fine.
But I left my glasses at the table.
When we sat down, I distinctly remembered setting them near the edge of the table. As the meal progressed, and we attended to our 2-year-old, they got obscured by plates and napkins.
As we were leaving the table, we saw some long-time friends at another table. My wife took our son over to visit while I paid the bill (nice tip – more than 25% because we had a coupon) and gathered our things. But I forgot my glasses.
We visited with our friends for about 5 minutes on the other side of the restaurant and went out to the car. That's when I realized that I didn't have them.
I returned to the table, which had already been cleared.
That's when it got ugly.
I found our server, and when I asked her about the glasses, she declared that they weren't on the table: "I would have seen them if they were there." She was quite defiant, and I started to regret that I had been generous with her tip.
She then asked if I had left them in the bathroom – which I hadn't visited. I had to verbally nudge her to get her to ask around in the kitchen to see if anyone else had seen them. She came back: "They're not here." She was getting impatient with me. I was getting impatient with her. I regretted tipping her at all.
I told her I was certain I left them on the table, and I wondered whether they could have been placed into the trash. Now, she looked at me with disgust. She reiterated that she would have seen the glasses "if they were there." When she saw I was serious and wasn't going to leave, she offered to talk to the manager about whether I could go through the trash.
While she was in the kitchen, I heard her declare that she wasn't going "in there" (the trash can). There were also rounds of laughter — I assumed it was at my expense. She came back, and informed me they would carry the can out to the back of the restaurant, and I could rifle through it out in the cold. She looked at me as though I had bugs crawling all over me. Now furious, I told her I'd go out there.
I pulled my car around back, and two kitchen dudes brought a couple of garbage cans out. Without saying a word to me, they plopped them down, returned to the kitchen, and slammed the door. I stood there in the cold, stunned for a few seconds as I realized that no one was going to help in the slightest — even to offer any suggestions on where to start or implements with which to sift through the trash…
Then, I remembered that I had a 24" level in the back of my car. At first, I poked and prodded through the kitchen waste with the bright yellow level. No glasses. Then I was rowing through the stuff to get deeper and deeper into the can. My son was repeating "What is Daddy doooooing?" over and over again. It must have made for a comical scene, but I was livid.
I was angry enough that I entertained the thought of emptying the trash cans all over the lot. Or, even better, the lobby! I just wanted revenge.
Then, I rowed back a piece of lettuce and found my "prize": The glasses were covered in some sort of ranch sauce, onion, and ketchup concoction. I went back to the car to get a few paper napkins, and then fished the disgusting mixture out.
I wanted to show our server — despite her absolute certainty that the glasses weren't there — that in fact, they were. So I headed around to the lobby. One of the kitchen dudes was outside the front door on his smoke break. "Did you find 'em?" "Yes," I said, holding up the messy prize. "Really? That's amazing…" I asked him to let our server know, deciding not to make a bigger confrontation out of it.
While I had gone to the front, the manager had come out briefly to talk with my wife. He went inside before I got back.
But for me, it was too little, too late. I hated Ruby Tuesday. That was two weeks ago, and I'm still peeved. Can you tell?
A Few Lessons for Business
- It isn't just what you are selling. Bad service ruins a great, quality product.
- Be vigilant. One employee (and one incident) can reflect badly on the entire company. It won't matter if you do great 90% of the time.
- Be humble. Don't pretend to be certain, whether to cover for what you don't know or to cover for what you didn't do.
- Don't tell customers they are wrong.
- Don't treat customers with contempt, disgust, or derision.
- Own some part of the customer's problem. Even if it involves something distasteful, offer to help the customer in some way. They didn't have to sift through the trash with me, but I would have appreciated simple suggestions or tools or even sympathy…
- The real problem is bigger. Very few customers blog or confront like I just did. Most simply give up and never come back. Find out why. And fix it.
- Customers talk. Customers will tell family, friends, and acquaintances (and, sometimes, blog readers) about their bad experiences. But they probably won't tell you.
- Don't leave your glasses at Ruby Tuesday. On second thought, better be safe and just don't go there. Ever.
[where: 1808 Alysheba Way, Lexington, KY 40509]