Bad Service, Good Experiences

I'm not a big fast food person. Especially since coming back from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, I find myself a little grossed out by the greasy sheen of the linoleum floors, the nauseating doctor's office smell that comes up from the floor and tables that smashes up against the odors of sizzling mystery meat squares as well as other things in the kitchen that I'm sure I don't even want to know about. I was none too pleased to find myself in a fast food joint this past Thursday then, looking at a long backlit menu over a counter that had no cashier. It was for a treat for all of us though and I had no intention of going somewhere myself or even eating there. After my siblings told me what they'd like they sat down and It took a minute for someone to come and take my order, for which I was rewarded with one extra large drink to make up for my wait. I was pleasantly surprised at this, and even more pleasantly surprised that when they took extra long on the treats they gave my siblings bigger portions.

I'd heard from other people that this particular place had a reputation for shoddy service and long wait times, which I could believe considering the wait on both items, but what surprised me was that other people had not been recompensed for their waits. Most people don't mind a mild inconvenience, or even a large one, as long as the understanding is there that the person behind the counter will make it right. I don't mind a longer wait personally. What I do mind is the mildest injustice of someone acting like I should be grateful that they're doing their job at all.

There's something that inspires loyalty to a location when they do the right thing in a given scenario. A mixed up order, an extra size of soda, a longer wait, some free fries, things that can transform an inconvenience into almost a pleasure. There's a certain thrill in getting something extra when you have the time, almost as if you've gotten away with a great deal. Whenever I get compensated for an extra wait, sometimes I even think to myself, "Ha! What a great deal. I wasn't doing anything anyways and now I'm getting something for nothing." More than that though, It makes me want to come back to that particular establishment. Like an insurance policy, i know that if I don't get speed, I'll get quantity.

An extra set of fried potatoes or sugar with ice isn't worth celebrating, but the sentiment that lies behind it is. The making right of something wrong. A work ethic almost, that if you can't get what you wanted, then you'll get something just as good. Most people appreciate this, and even carry it deeper. Corporations always seem to be working to increase profit margins while offering fewer and fewer concessions, and yet I can't help but think that they would make more money, while having much happier customers, if they would adopt the mentality that more important than that single transaction, is to make a situation right if they're at fault.

There's no accounting though, for the endless stream of rude, sweaty, unpleasant people demanding their grub only so that they can shove it into their mouth at maximum speed. It works both ways. Wouldn't it be better if the customer were patient, the employee helpful, and the situation all around better? Perhaps it's the expansion of chains bringing with it the dehumanization of customers from people down to numbers, but it seems that there is an almost calculus-like loss. For every (x) store or restaurant that is added to a chain, the quality and ethics of that brand go down (y).

Extra food, another large drink in addition to the one we ordered, that I might add, we ended up filling with water anyways. These things are trifles and matter less than a drop in the bucket over the success or failure of a business on its own. When they impact reputation, however, it does matter. In loyalty to a brand or to a store. I won't personally be eating fast food anytime soon but because this restaurant went so above in their effort to remedy an experience of poor service, I've been telling as many people as I can about this great experience.

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