Apr 5, 2011

Customer service

Ten days ago, on a Saturday night, Garry and I put our kids to bed after a full day of play.  I decided to run a quick errand at Michael's while I could go alone.  Garry ordered take-out from Texas Roadhouse, which shares a parking lot with Michael's, and I planned to pick it up on our way home.  Eating take-out on the couch after the kids are asleep is as close to a real date as we've had in months.  I was looking forward to it.

Michael's is ten minutes away but I was in and out very quickly.  My arrival at the restaurant was perfectly timed; Garry had called in the order at 7:45 and the order should have been ready in 15-20 minutes.  It was 8:00.  Our food wasn't quite ready, but I paid for it and the cashier assured me it would be out of the kitchen momentarily.

There wasn't a place to sit within close proximity to the take-out register, so I stood against the wall.  This wouldn't have been too bad, except that I ended up waiting for an hour.  There are only so many ways this pregnant lady can stand comfortably, and none of those positions are sustainable for an hour, especially at the end of a day that included a museum tour with four children.  (I have reached the "everything hurts all the time" stage of pregnancy in the early part of my second trimester.  It's awesome.)

Every ten minutes or so I approached the cashier and had this conversation:

Me: Hi, I've been waiting for an order that was placed at 7:45.  How is that order coming along?
Cashier: Oh my goodness!  I will check on that for you.
Me: Excellent.
[Cashier disappears into adjacent kitchen.]
Cashier: It's not quite ready, but will be up shortly.
Me: Sounds good.  (This part got a little less polite every time.)

Then I would stand against the wall and watch customer after customer walk up to the take-out station, pick up piping hot food, and leave with a smile. What was going on?

I wasn't really thrilled about the wait, but I tried to be patient.  I was muttering under my breath but not really wanting to make a scene.  I considered leaving a hundred times.  I had paid when I walked in and wasn't sure how to demand a refund.  I'm mostly a pushover and hate confrontation.  Maybe I should have been more assertive.  But I was hungry enough, and far enough from home, and had stood there smelling hot rolls and barbecue sauce long enough that I was determined to get my food.

At long last, the cashier produced my order.  I counted boxes; everything seemed in order.  I took food to the car.  I was hungry and hurting and it was way past my bedtime.  Once in the parking lot, however, I realized that something was missing.  I had ordered unbaked rolls so I could have some fresh from the oven with my salad, but there weren't any baking instructions in my bag.  So I wearily walked back into the restaurant and got instructions from the apologetic take-out cashier.

Then I drove home. On the way home, I realized that my salad might be getting warm on top of the steak and ribs.  At the next stoplight I leaned over to check on my salad.  It wasn't there.  Really???  I almost lost it.  Well, maybe I did lose it.  I called Garry and angrily told him he had to call back That Stupid Restaurant and tell them they messed up my order and had better have another salad when I walked in the door.  Kind soul that he is, he meekly compiled with his grumpy wife.  At this point I was nearly home, so I drove all the way back to the restaurant.

Before walking into Texas Roadhouse, I took a moment to breathe.  I was mad.  I knew it was stupid to get worked up about food and an hour of my time, but in the moment it still seemed justified.  When I grabbed the bag of food from the van seat, I noticed a small box under the bag that I hadn't seen before.  It guessed salad.  When I had rifled through the bag looking for baking instructions, it had fallen out.

I was an idiot.

So I called Garry back and made him call to cancel the second salad order.  And then I drove home, and maybe I cried about how stupid (and hungry and tired and hurting) I was.    By the time I pulled into the garage I had collected myself, and Garry and I had a nice meal together on the couch.  Afterward I went to and submitted a customer (dis)satisfaction survey.  And then I went to bed.

Fast forward to today.  I picked up the mail after school, as always, and found a letter from the manager of our local Texas Roadhouse.  It was a four-paragraph apology.  I was impressed.  This guy took my complaints seriously!  He offered a complimentary dinner for four as compensation for the bad experience, and to coax us back to the restaurant, since I had mentioned I wasn't likely to return.

So I'm thinking about it.  I suppose this experience isn't the worst I've had at a restaurant.  There was the used Band-Aid in my salad at Fuddruckers (my dad threatened to sue) and the fly in my drink at Taco Bell (on my honeymoon)...

What terrible dining experience have you had?  C'mon...give me a laugh!
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