True tales of customer service

How Not To: Act Like a Grown-up

A couple was sitting at one of our two seater tables, a "two-top" as we call it, in the middle of the row of tables. To talk to people at these tables we have to stand behind one of the people, and this time I was standing behind the woman. After I delivered their drinks, I left again to give them some more time to review the menu. I returned again, standing behind the woman. The man noticed me and said to the woman, "Are you ready?" The woman snapped at him in a most hateful way, "I'm looking!" I quickly said, "I'll give you some more time," and left. When I returned the woman sulked that she didn't want anything; while the man ordered and then ate, she just drank her diet cola.


A fellow server, Cathy, told me that a couple had come in for dessert, and they ordered blackberry cobbler. When she told them we were momentarily out, the man slammed his hand on the table and shouted, "That's the only reason we came here!" He then pulled his wife out of her seat and toward the door. Cathy thought he was kidding at first. (He wasn't.)


As time went on, the boss at my office began to dislike the business manager. It got to the point where any attempt at conversation resulted in her snapping at him. For example, one day he had been telling me about the tasks he had in the works so I (as the receptionist) could know what to say to people that called for him. Boss Lady stormed into his office, demanding to know what was going on. He politely explained, but she snatched the papers that he was about to give me, declaring that *she* would look into those things. Another time, Business Manager had assisted a guy in the office next door. Boss Lady had asked, accusingly, what he had been doing in that other office, and he explained simply that he had helped the guy recover a computer file. Boss Lady scoffed, "That's nothing! My sister is teaching her five-year-old how to recover files!" Business Manager wasn't implying that he had averted a major crisis. I don't know why the boss felt she had to resort to belittling him.


How Not To: Ask For Ketchup

Customer: I need ketchup! Ketchup! Ketchup! Ketchup! Ketchup!
Waitress (thinking, sarcastically): So... what are you trying to say?


How Not To: Ask For Lemons

I was waiting on a party of five regulars, and one had ordered water with lemons. When I returned with the drinks, I'd set her drink down first, and she said, "Oh, are you out of lemons?" If she had waited for just a moment she would've seen that I had them in a bowl on the side of the tray I was carrying.


How Not To: Ask For a Refill

As a waitress, I had people raise their hand up, snap, and point at their table and bark "Tea!" What kind of way is that to talk to anyone?


How Not To: Ask For Soup

I was waiting on a party of five. One man had ordered soup to have before his dinner. I forgot the soup. I was delivering some bread for them to start on, and the man demanded, "Where's my soup?" He could have politely said, "I'm ready for my soup now," or something to that effect. As I was walking away I thought I heard one of the other large men there say, "We're starving to death out here." I *know* that he didn't go there.


How Not To: Complement Someone

I went to work after getting the first perm of my life. When my boss saw it for the first time, she seemed to be trying to suppress a smile. She didn't say anything at that time. She came to my desk an hour or so later and said, "I like your hair. Did you do it yourself?" As a matter of fact, I DID NOT! And knowing that it looked like I did made me regret the sixty dollars I'd spent on it.


How Not To: Get What You Want

I heard a radio DJ complain: "When I tell the waitress that I want 'just a little' more coffee, is there some sort of law that says she must fill it to the top?" Apparently this guy is the world's foremost authority on coffee refills; perhaps he'd be so kind to enlighten the rest of us with the official definition of "just a little." Is it half a cup? Two ounces? An inch more than the present coffee level? If you want half a cup, say "just half a cup, please."


 pouting gets you nowhere


How Not To: Inquire About Your Meal

One evening, one of our regular couples had come in, and the man ordered breakfast. The food was taking longer than he thought, I guess, because when I held up the coffee pot to offer him a refill, he snapped, "Where's my d@*n breakfast?" I quietly said I'd go see. In the kitchen, the cooks were just putting it in the take out window. I looked for a manager to carry out the food, but while I was on a manager hunt, the hostile man's food was still not with him. So, I bit the bullet and carried out the tray. He turned to glare at me and say, "Do you want to get a manager, or should I?" After that, I let the manager wait on them the rest of the night. $2.13 an hour is definitely not worth that abuse.


How Not To: Make a Funny

Customer: Is your coffee fresh?
Me (joking): I am pretty sure it was made today.
[Insert blank look from customer here.]


How Not To: Make Sense

During the Christmas season, the boss had asked me to look for something - such as a shirt or a briefcase - that we could imprint with our company logo and distribute to the employees as gifts. I suggested that we simply give gift certificates, like we did for Thanksgiving, but the boss didn't like that idea. She snapped, "With certificates, people just choose what they want!" I still don't understand why that was a bad thing.


How Not To: Pay Attention

When I was a waitress, on so many occasions, I would ask a table full of people something like, "I see you need some more tea. Do you need anything here besides tea?" Without fail someone would announce, "I need some more tea." (If only I'd thought of that!)


How Not To: Respond in a Crisis

Server (during a power outage): I don't know why these people are still coming in here and asking me for things. Apparently they think I work for the Red Cross!


How Not To: Respond to a Greeting

I greeted a man with a "Heidi," and he snapped, "It's gonna be a minute." What, until he responds with "hello?" He could've said, "Hello. It'll be a minute."


When I was a receptionist, our company had two very nitpicky employees, and it seemed that I would only misspeak when I was talking to them. For example, one day at 12:02, I cheerily greeted one with a, "Good morning." He replied with a slightly sarcastic, "Oh, is it morning??" Congratulations, Literal Man! My words were technically incorrect and you just couldn't let that go. Heaven forbid that you simply take my greeting as a greeting.


How Not To: Talk to Your Waitress

One of our regular customers, an older lady, was sitting at one of my tables. I'd greeted her and her party and taken their drink orders. Then I turned to the table across the aisle from hers and she said, "Hey" rather loudly. I smiled politely to the people, excused myself, and turned back to her. She wanted to make sure her dining companion's baked potato got butter and sour cream. I was delivering their food a bit later and had placed her plate on the table and was handing her companion his plate and she snapped, "Apples." (Because it was not on her plate, and clearly I was trying to cheat her. Umm... not!) We always put our "fried apples" in a dish on the side, so I simply hadn't set them down. Not too long after that, I'd turned to that same table across the aisle from hers, and she took that as her cue and called, "Hey!" I forget what she wanted, but in her defense, that time she said, "Excuse me."


After my third trip to a table I overheard one creep say "If she's gonna keep asking, I'll keep answering." He seemed to think that when I said, "Do you need anything else right now?" that it was his duty to answer positively. My next trip I closed with "Y'all enjoy it."


One female customer asked her server if we had cheesecake. The server said no and was about to suggest something else when the customer put her hand in the server's face and said, "Then, poof! Be gone."


A man was ordering a meatloaf dinner and the vegetables to go with it. He added, "And bring me some pintos." We have various sizes available, so I asked, "Did you want a bowl or a side dish?" He retorted, "I don't care: just bring me some beans! And some cornbread, and not just two little pieces either." Yes sir, your majesty.


I was standing at a table waiting for the woman to take her coat off and sit down. I didn't mean to, but I was kind of standing next to her, so when she took her arm out of her sleeve she hit me with the coat. Out of respect and I guess instinct I said, "Oh excuse me." She replied with, "Watch it."

Thanks to "StarGazerLily" for this one!


I was serving a party of five - two grandparents and three children. In bringing the food from the kitchen, we had two trays, but I couldn't even serve the first person, because the woman was busy trying to discern which plate for the kids had the *crisp* bacon. Then the woman studied the plate's contents - bacon and eggs - and snipped, "Is that all he gets?" I pointed out the grits and biscuits on the other end of the table (where I had placed those heavy dishes to pass out the food that was in the tray on my other hand), and the woman said nastily, "Well, I don't think he can reach it way over there." I think her husband told her to be nice and she said, still nasty, "Well, if she's gonna serve it she should serve it." I'm surprised Her Majesty didn't expect me to cut up everyone's food and feed them, too!


How Not To: Talk to Your Employees

I worked at a paint store, where my title was "interior decorator" but my duties were basically those of a salesperson. There were just two other people who worked there and at one of our meetings, the store manager had said that we would all split the task of cleaning the store. One day I took it upon myself to mop, since it was a pretty slow day. The manager observed and remarked, "Oh, you're mopping. Good, because the floor looks like s---." I was taken aback that this guy who acted so professional would say something so crude. I was particularly incensed that he said it after I started the task without being asked, and I didn't think the floors looked any worse than usual. Plus, I hadn't been at work for a while, so if the floor looked bad, it was the fault of whoever had been working.


Our office has a small counter area with cabinets and a brass bar-type sink. Apparently, a visitor had remarked to Boss Lady that the sink looked filthy. (The sink was a little tarnished, but it was clean.) When the cleaning lady came in for her weekly visit, Boss Lady approached her and said, in the tactless, accusatory way that she has perfected, "You're not cleaning that sink." She could have phrased it much better, such as, "Could you check on the sink? It's looking a bit tarnished." But no, she chose the most insulting way possible.


Later, the cleaning lady didn't show up for a couple of weeks. She had previously mentioned that a relative was sick, but she didn't say that she wouldn't be in. Finally, I was able to reach her and she insisted that she had left us a voicemail message. Boss Man spoke with her on the phone and said that she had agreed to come in. A few minutes later, we received a fax from her. In it she said how Boss Man had asked her, "What phone number did you dial?" I think that was the insult that broke the camel's back. I know Boss Man was just trying to figure out what happened and why we didn't get the message, but that question is purely ridiculous. It implies that the cleaning lady didn't have the sense to know if she was leaving a message with the wrong company. Not surprisingly, in her fax she wrote that she was quitting.


How Not To: Talk to Your Potential Employees

One of my first post-college interviews was with a company that sold carpeting. Though my interviewer agreed that my school record was above average, he took issue with the fact that I lacked work experience. I still remember the condescension in his voice as he said, "If you'd worked at Burger King and got some beans spilled on you..." I immediately thought, "Burger King doesn't even sell beans!" But I learned that the good thing about a bad interview is that you're actually *glad* you didn't get the job. Who wants to work with a guy who can't hide his jerkiness from the start?


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