Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

Service of Comping—Yes, or No?

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

You be the judge in these instances which could go either way: To comp or not?

You have costly theater or concert tickets and your companion can’t come at the last minute. If you ask a friend or acquaintance to take his/her place, do you expect the person to pay for their seat or should they get a freebie?

You’re producing a networking event, with speaker, in elegant surroundings, serving Dom Pérignon and catered nibbles. Based on RSVPs in hand, you’re concerned that not enough people will come to duly honor the speaker, so you plead with some members to attend. They normally pay for membership as well as for each event. Do you comp or charge the ones who are doing you a favor by attending?

Your kitchen was slow in food prep and the waitstaff was thrown off its game. Service plummeted. As a restaurateur do you offer free desserts/after dinner drinks to the guests who were impacted, simply apologize or don’t mention anything?

Where do you stand on comping others or being comped? Can you share other examples?

Service of Can You Believe This Still Happens? Women Treated Like Second Class Citizens in Restaurants

Thursday, September 7th, 2023

After all the work to secure–and publicity to foster–gender neutrality in the workplace you’d think that some of the fairy dust would have landed in restaurant culture in a city like New York. Apparently, it hasn’t.

A friend who eats out three to five times a week brought to my attention something I’ve noticed on occasion: Women are still treated like second-class citizens in some restaurants.

Just as we were finishing our delicious meal last week, we told the waiter we wanted to bring home what we couldn’t eat. We subsequently overheard a man at an adjacent table say the same thing. We were handed containers to fill with our leftovers. His plate was taken away and the unfinished food was placed in a container–and in a shopping bag–for him.

Ironically, my friend had just shared her experience at a restaurant last week where she was meeting friends—all women. They were ushered to a terrible spot and they asked for another table. Two seats at the second table faced a giant, ugly blank wall. They asked for a third. The host was annoyed and told them—when they asked–that the better tables were for people with reservations. My friend piped up, “I have a reservation!” This doesn’t happen when she’s with her husband.

I had the same experience years ago at a restaurant I’d frequented often with my husband—and never returned after being seated in Siberia next to the bathrooms when celebrating a friend’s birthday without him. I thought we were over this discrimination against female customers behavior especially now that so many of us have expense accounts.

Is such bias a thing of the past where you live or eat or is it alive and thriving?

Service of Remembering a Person’s Name

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Fred

“Remember people’s names,” said my friend Erica Martell recently, “they’ll treat you better.” She’d just returned from her Honda dealer where she’d greeted the receptionist by name. She’d also remembered that the woman had been gone for a while, further personalizing her conversation. Her car was first serviced.

I wonder if Fred, [photo above], the doorman at my building, gets the biggest and most holiday tips. As I’ve written before, he knows the names of most tenants, their kids and dogs as well as their apartment numbers. There are 510 apartments and most house more than one person. It’s lovely returning home to hear “Hello Jeanne-Marie!” I’ve lived in doorman buildings where a hello barely warrants a grunt in return. [I moved.]

I envy people with remarkable name memory–I know a few. I have always been name lazy and deficient. A basic tip at how-to-network events is how to help others remember your name. Take Byington. I might say “My name is Jeanne Byington, and although the By in Byington is not spelled B U Y, it’s a good name for me because I love to shop.”  But who speaks like that? I never tried it. And people tend to remember my name anyway.

I think we’re born with such talents, like learning languages, being musical, handy or athletic. My husband remembered numbers. He could tell you the cost to the penny of a project that happened years before. He also remembered dates and details from the biographies and history books he read by the armloads full and could identify an opera after the first few notes [even though he was tone deaf].

Do you remember a waiter’s name, if he announces it, if he isn’t wearing an ID? Do you call him/her by name? When you enter a restaurant, dry cleaner or other business and staff remembers your name does it make a difference to you? Do you think you get better service when you call an employee by name?



Image by motointermedia from Pixabay

Service of Perfect Customer Care: A Michaels’ Cashier Wins

Friday, November 26th, 2021

As I write on Black Friday I think about Angela, a cashier at Michaels on Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street in NYC.  If she didn’t love her job she gets my kudos for being a great actor.

I’d waited to pay in a long line for noon on a workday. She greeted me with an angelic smile befitting her name and asked if I had any coupons. I said “no.” She asked if I was ever a Michaels member. I had been when I lived upstate three years ago. She told me to type in my phone number on their website. It worked.

To save time, she expertly directed me from memory to click the right spots on the site. Boom. I was recognized and got a 20 percent discount.

Meanwhile to protect the item I was buying she’d quickly wrapped it in paper as carefully as a gift. She didn’t ask me if she should.

Not once, when I thanked her, did she say “no problem,” two words that drive me nuts. She would have been one of the only service people who had reason to as in all ways she went beyond the strict requirements of her job which was to ring up the sale and hand me my purchase. When I thank a person who has done her/his job, “no problem” is irritating and inappropriate.

I hope you run into an Angela as you find a perfect gift you hope will please. Have you already?


Image by NguyenLe365 from Pixabay

Service of Worker Shortage

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Have you been impacted by worker shortage? The answer would be “yes” if you were trying to renew your passport. Debra Kamin reported in The New York Times that it could take 18 weeks to renew by mail vs. six to eight before the pandemic. Appointments at one of the 26 official passport centers around the country–if you hope to fast track a renewal–are almost as hard to come by as winning lottery tickets.

A shortage of Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers has created inordinately long Airport lines.

Yet service was perfect at the Hudson Garden Grill located in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last Sunday. One of my friends asked the waiter if they were serving monkey bread and he explained that the restaurant is short-staffed and not fully back to where it was before the pandemic, so not yet, but soon. [I’d never eaten, seen or heard of this bread. Next time.]

I was happy to find an item that was out of stock at the three CVS stores within walking distance of my apartment when I happened to be on East 72nd Street. The store was clearly short staffed as it took too many minutes to get someone to free the item from behind locked doors. And then there was trouble with an express checkout machine and only one cashier. A valiant very young man was trying to answer questions, assist at checkout and open locked items.

CVS usually sends a “how did we do?” query after I buy something and I gave my experience an 8–because I was so happy to see the hard-to-find item. There’s space to explain your score. I was blown away when the store manager wrote the day after my response. Here’s an excerpt of his email: “As the Store Manager, I deeply regret that we were not able to meet your expectations regarding the items you wanted being locked up and your checkout experience.

“Good news or bad, feedback from our customers helps us understand the experience for all, and when necessary, make improvements to meet your expectations. We will continue to get better at unlocking items. I truly apologize for the inconvenience. In terms of your checkout, we do have some new hires that we are training and it takes some time to get them up to speed. They will get better as well. I hope next time your experience is a 10!

“I would like to personally invite you to let me know how we are doing. Please respond directly to this email with the best date, time, and phone number to reach you.”

Now that’s customer service!

Has the worker shortage affected you? Have the businesses and services you frequent been able to work around it?

Service of Inspiration: It’s All About Attitude

Monday, January 4th, 2021

Service is the root of my posts and the inspiration of my 12 year old blog. Memory of exceptionally bad service I received since I was a teen remain and fascinate me which is why I chose the topic. [I even remember a bus driver who yelled at my mother when I was young.]

I’ve previously written about the ruthlessly nasty man behind the engagement ring counter at Cartier. My fiancée and I were in our early 20s. His nasty attitude made its mark. Fully aware that this was only one person, I have nevertheless avoided the brand ever since.

I had a flashback to that exchange when I entered the local liquor store I’d frequented since the pandemic started after a lovely New Years Day walk with a friend. I didn’t recognize the two behind the counter in the otherwise empty store. They were chatting in French and didn’t greet me. I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I asked them “Can you please recommend a good red wine in the $10 range?”

One of them answered “No,” and turned back to his conversation. The single word felt like a slap.

I’ve never worked in retail sales but given a live customer and the fact there were no other customers waiting I’d have shown her a red costing $15 if necessary saying “You should give this one a try even though it’s a bit more.”

I wished I’d not let my French rot over years of neglect or I’d have mouthed a few choice words. Why were they working in a store with specially priced wines prominently displayed by price from $5.99 to $15?

I never gave Cartier another chance though I plan to return to the wine store to learn if the men are new owners or employees. If the latter, I will share my experience. If the former, I will find another store.

My wine store of choice is Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. Trader Joe’s hasn’t delivered in a few years and is not convenient–I avoid public transportation for frivolous reasons these days. Wine snobs: sneer all you like but I have been happier with wines I’ve bought there starting at $6 than I have some at $16 from the local store.

Have you noticed that insulting service is infrequent these days and therefore more startling? Do you have recent superbly good or bad service experiences to share?

Service of Pandemic-Caused Rigmarole That’s Hard on City Seniors & the Time-Pressed

Monday, December 14th, 2020

Block long line to be tested for Covid-19, 8:30 a.m.

The pandemic is hard on everyone. Here are a few things I noticed about getting things done in the city that impact seniors, those with disabilities and the time-pressed.

It’s ironic because a city like New York allows seniors to be independent with its myriad transportation options, nearby watering holes and entertainment opportunities.

Standing for Service

Photo: iphoneroot.com

I needed a battery for my iPhone. The Apple staff at the store at Grand Central Terminal couldn’t have been nicer. But there was a lot of standing around waiting: to go upstairs after being checked in; on a line upstairs properly socially distanced–and then hanging out in the station for an hour while the phone was fixed. My appointment was in early evening so the few stores that remain in business at the station were shut. There were neither seats nor distractions.

Standing for Testing

We’re encouraged to be tested for Covid-19. The procedure at urgent care locations in Manhattan is daunting I’m told. You must have an appointment and can only sign up for one the same day. At certain hours I pass long lines outdoors, some with people better socially distanced than others, on cold, rainy and mild fall days [photo above].

I wonder, as I head for the gutter to keep more than a 6-foot distance, why are these people in line? Have they been exposed to Covid-19? Are they feeling ill?

One friend found a place that had no line. She made an appointment and they called her when they had a free time-frame which gave her 30 minutes to get back. Best that you live very near this place and choose a day with no appointments because you don’t know when you’ll get the call.

Goodness only knows what the rollout to get a vaccine will be like.

A benefit of the suburbs is that you can wait for a test in your car.

Pin the Tail on a Bank: Three’s a Charm

I needed to have a document notarized and was told by my bank that every branch had notaries. No longer accurate. I asked a customer service staffer at the first branch to call another one to confirm that they had a notary. Nobody picked up so I walked there. That customer service man disappeared in a back office.

After I waited the length of time in which three people could have had their signatures notarized he returned and told me I needed an appointment for the next day. At least this customer service person knew of a branch that had a few notaries so off I raced.

I appreciated the mileage I’d covered–recorded on my iPhone–but not the stress and I couldn’t help wonder what if I was unable to hotfoot it around town?

Just Sayin’

I love Trader Joe’s but notice that many shelves are empty during early senior hours no doubt because there hasn’t been time, at 8 a.m., to restock them.

Have you noticed other topsy-turvy situations during the pandemic that have impacted the way/how quickly you do business and/or conduct your life? Do you observe situations that especially impact seniors and the time-pressed?

Service of Being Painted By the Same Brush

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

There are some companies set up so you can’t reach them and others you can contact but that don’t listen to sense: They see all customers as offenders. A grouchy or nutty customer or employee writes a terrible online review and the words glare back from the top of every Google search about you or your business. Just try to get rid of it even if insane and untrue. Same if a competitor trashes your restaurant or business on Yelp. Nightmare.

And now, a company you can reach but can’t reason with—Retail Equation—can forbid you from returning purchases or exchanging them to a particular store for a year according to its calculations, even if you’re innocent.

Khadeeja Safdar wrote “Retailers Crack Down on Serial Returners,” in The Wall Street Journal. I’m all for that: Cheaters and unreasonable customers are not my favorites. I recently wrote about 106 year old L.L. Bean’s tightening its generous return policy after too many abuses hurt their bottom line in “Service of Going Too Far: L.L. Bean Puts its Boot Down.” But with Retail Equation keeping track of returns and more for retailers, reasonable shoppers can be swept up in the fray and painted by the same brush as serial returners.

One Best Buy customer bought a bunch of cellphone cases as gifts for his kids, let his sons choose among the colors, planning to return the three they didn’t select. When he did his salesperson warned him that the returns would jeopardize future ones–and even exchanges–for a year even though he was well within the designated 15 day after purchase period.

He contacted Retail Equation that tracks returns for large corporations. His entire record showed returns of the three cellphone cases worth, in all, less than $90. The company refused to change its decision. According to Safdar the customer said: “I’m being made to feel like I committed a crime. When you say habitual returner, I’m thinking 27 videogames and 14 TVs.”

Safdar reported: “Stores have long used generous return guidelines to lure more customers, but such policies also invite abuse. Retailers estimate 11% of their sales are returned, and of those, 11% are likely fraudulent returns, according to a 2017 survey of 63 retailers by the National Retail Federation. Return fraud or abuse occurs when customers exploit the return process, such as requesting a refund for items they have used, stolen or bought somewhere else.”

WARNING: You could be on the Retail Equation’s black list if you return in store or online:

  • an expensive item
  • a significant percentage of purchases
  • something without a receipt
  • after the accepted period
  • things that are often stolen at that store
  • just as the store closes or
  • too many items at once

In addition to Best Buy, other stores that use Retail Equation to track returns are Home Depot, J.C. Penney, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. If you want to protest your ban, you can call Best Buy at 1-866-764-6979 the Journal discovered when researching the story.

“It isn’t easy for shoppers to learn their standing before receiving a warning. Retailers typically don’t publicize their relationship with Retail Equation. And even if a customer tracks down his or her return report, it doesn’t include purchase history or other information used to generate a score. The report also doesn’t disclose the actual score or the thresholds for getting barred.”

I understand the reason for such a policy, but think it should be used judiciously and not be directed by a company that seems to treat every customer like a sleazy thief. Safdar didn’t say if the policy referred to gifts. What if you give your Aunt Millie a portable heater from Home Depot and her son had already bought her one? Who will be dunned and subsequently penalized for the return? Are customers supposed to keep unwanted items instead?  Have you been confronted with such a punishment? Does it make you think twice about using a vendor that resorts to such measures?

Service of a Happy Surprise When a Stranger Takes a Minute to Help

Monday, November 27th, 2017

There’s plenty to gripe about but I want to write about two positive things because you don’t want to hear about my attempt to get to Brooklyn by subway on a recent weekend. Embarrassing how nonexistent were communications that day between the track repair, motorman and station staff for a city the size of NY. We’ve never lived in such a well-connected world and I’ve rarely seen an example of such incompetence as happened that Saturday. Even the relatively new electronic messaging machines were out of order in all stations, bad timing or bad planning? There are NYC neighborhoods, such as Red Hook Brooklyn, where people lose their jobs because city transport consistently prevents them from arriving on time. A disgrace.

This is why I especially appreciated what happened on a Metro-North train recently. The doors had closed at our upstate N.Y. station and the train was about to move south when over the loudspeaker the conductor said loud and clear, “We’ve got a runner!” That could have meant lots of things [had someone robbed a passenger and was the person running away? I watch too many “Blue Bloods” re-runs.] But in this case he’d observed a passenger racing from the parking area towards the steps to the train platform. Had he missed this one, the runner would have had two hours to wait for the next train. I trust everyone else appreciated, as I did, the one minute wait so he could travel with us.

In another instance, I was about to leave for the station to meet my husband when over the office loudspeaker we were told that all elevators were stopped until the fire department checked out a smoke condition on the roof. This meant that I was probably going to be late arriving at the gate for our train at Grand Central Terminal because I couldn’t drag my suitcase down 11 flights of stairs.

“Big deal,” say you, because all the people you know carry a mobile phone. Not my husband. I knew he was at the Oyster Bar and I called there. I described him and his suitcase and the approximate location I knew he’d be seated to the woman who picked up the phone and she found him and gave him the message. Wow.

We’re all in such a rush or so involved in our own world we often don’t stop to do something meaningful for a stranger. Do you have any good examples of strangers helping others?

Service of Retail Etiquette: How Does the Message Get So Garbled?

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

 

Retail stores are having a heck of a time so when I hear of one that sells a good product but whose owner or employees miss the mark in service, I wonder what’s going on.

There’s a bakery in a charming Litchfield, Conn. town that sells scrumptious delicacies that look as delectable as they taste. Friends surprised me when they served a delicious cake from there at my last birthday, [I didn’t think they knew what day it was], so I know about the quality of the goodies.

The friends who made my birthday dinner—I’ll call them Fred and Paul–had been asked to buy brownies for another birthday person who preferred them over cake. Paul described what happened: “As we walked into the bake shop a man with an unpleasant look on his face stared at us. The brownies were under a glass bell, priced $3.00 each.

“Fred asked for 12. The owner was horrified—actually angry. He gritted his teeth and snapped ‘Why didn’t you call ahead!?’ He feared that there wouldn’t be enough for other customers.”

Paul continued, “Didn’t the owner register that we were giving him business too? He opened a bag—instead of a box–and threw them in, one by one, while continuing to seethe. I was close to telling him to keep them. Fred also controlled his anger. But we were stuck–we’d been asked to contribute these favorites.”

There’s a bakery on First Avenue and 57th Street in NYC—Andres–that sells amazing palmiers, aka elephant ears, which I adore. If for whatever reason they don’t have any when I drop in, I’ll go another time or I’ll remember to call first!

What does it matter who buys what you’ve made as long as you have no leftovers at closing? If a bakery’s logistics are faulty it’s not the customer’s responsibility. If you’d been Fred and Paul, would you also have held your tongue? Good bakeries are few and far between in rural areas. If you had walked out of this bakery without the brownies, what would you have told the hostess and what would you have brought instead?

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