Hell Hath No Fury Like A Consumer Scorned

Last evening I stopped by a local burger hot spot for take-out for my better half. He was in withdrawal and needed a banquet burger something fierce.

The place of choice is in Brampton and is probably the single largest contributor to clogged arteries in the area and loved by most. Grease abounds and the burgers and buns are large enough to take a bullet through the top and the metal never make it through to the other side.

The format is cafeteria style, so I placed my order with a new cashier, paid her and proceeded to wait.

Without other customers behind me, the cashier wandered over to the grill and commented that she wanted to try cooking. She grabbed the tongs and proceeded to start flipping burgers. I wasn’t concerned until I watched her take buns from the counter with her bare hands (still unwashed from having worked the cash) and place them on the grill.

The staffer that had been working the grill previously moved to the cash register to take a new customer’s order, took payment and proceeded to walk back to the grill and put more buns on the grill with “cash hands”. Ugh.

The staffer took a bun off the grill for the customer ahead of me and doctored it to the customer’s specifications. She then turned to the little sink behind her and washed her hands before picking up the burger to put it on the paper for packaging.

Then, she took the next bun off the grill and called my order. I politely asked if I could please have a bun that hadn’t been touched by “cash hands”. This is when I knew this couldn’t end well.

Appalled, the young lady insisted that she’d just washed her hands. I explained that she’d washed her hands after manhandling the product and I’d prefer another. She then explained that the bun she’d grabbed hadn’t been put on the grill by her but the original cashier. I explained that that young lady hadn’t washed her hands at all and probably had handled far more money than she had. I really just wanted another bun, please. All in a nice tone – not argumentative – not aggressive.

And that’s when it happened. All the blood rushed to my head, my ears started to pound and my eye bulged as the long-time staffer deeply exhaled and in the tone that only a dramatic young woman can accomplish, said “Oh my gawd!” – emphasis on the “gawd”. Notably, every other staff member fell into a hush – as though waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This is where I have internal dialogues that shame me as a business owner, excite me as a consumer and would intrigue the FBI. I have options. I can do one of many things:

• I could immediately get back my money and walk away, leaving them to deal with the waste.
• I could take the product I’m given and throw it out when I get home after slinking away embarrassed. Of course for me, that would involve also telling everyone I know what occurred.
• I could scream and yell and bring the young lady behind the counter to tears.
• I could “tweet” and tell the world exactly what I was thinking.
• I could stand there looking appalled and let the silence linger.
• I could immediately call the owner and give him a piece of my mind.
• I could stand outside with large foam hands and explain to every customer entering what happened.
• I could simply never return.
• I could apply multiples of the above.

Now imagine if you owned the business. As owner you can assume the consumer is lost. Bad news - you don’t know that it happened. Even worse news – two consumers are lost because the product wasn’t for me.

Without an open line of communication to management available to me immediately, bad things will happen. As owner you should assume that every customer has access to a medium that others will review (Twitter, Facebook, a blog, newspaper column, hot air balloon, smoke signals) and that every interaction is being measured.


Hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned.

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Tags: measurement, service


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Comment by Terri Hitchcock on January 28, 2010 at 5:25am
@Marilyn - for the first time in many moons, I kept my cheeks in check and left the situation as a lost customer.

I did the usually mental dance I call the “rationale rumba” – they’re young, they probably aren’t paid well, maybe it’s been a tough day…blah blah blah and dip, turn, turn.

It was in the car on the way home that I became disappointed. I couldn’t believe that I’d allowed myself to be sucked into the bad-service-abyss. That’s when I got angry…LOL

Add to the mix that I’m a “fixer”. If it’s broken, I need to fix it. {insert tap on head here} psssttt… Terri… it’s not your business. It’s someone else’s revenue generator.

Bill, please tell me you hear “the voices” too!!!…LOL

Comment by Bill Campion on January 27, 2010 at 11:02am
Terri - It appears that you have the same passion for customer service that I do. The situation you describe here is unconscionable. Say that 3 times fast. I love it when I use a big word in a sentence. I digress... I cannot believe people continue to make these kinds a fatal errors especially in this lousy economy. I'm interested in learning more about your company. Thanks for sharing. Enthusiastically Yours,

Comment by Marilyn Sherman on January 25, 2010 at 6:41pm
Great job - I agree with Paul - the customer should have just apologized and gave you a new bun without 'cash hands'. Your post should be read to all of those 'OMG' workers - and have a discussion about what to do and what not to do. By the way, what did you do besides post on FohBoh?

Comment by Paul Green on January 25, 2010 at 11:39am
This problem would have been averted if the employee(s) had been trained to NEVER argue with a customer.

I am sure you are not the first person to have a problem there, and can only guess at how much a lack of training has cost the owner.

This morning I read this story, ("Service First") about service. It is very informative.




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