Wednesday, February 6, 2013

...Your Business is Failing...

Last week when Applebees fired a server for posting a customer’s bill online,  I was surprised at how many people were mad at the restaurant about it.

The customer tab in question belonged to a pastor who later claimed that she did not want the waitress fired by was lodging a complain about the receipt being made public.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Exhibit A
I’m on the fence about whether or not the waitress should have been fired. This is one those situations where my Dad would say, “you got in trouble for being stupid.”

The whole thing could have been avoided with one very simple step: a crop.

All “Chelsea” had to do before she was so quick to post the receipt was cut off, block out or otherwise remove the signature from sight.

If the signature wasn’t on the photograph of the receipt, the Pastor’s name wouldn’t be out there and she probably wouldn’t have responded the way she did. And even if she had responded, the waitress could always deny everything. The signature was the proof of the encounter, so the waitress provided ammunition on the pastor’s behalf.

Honestly, I’m guessing any server that would take the trouble to post this because they thought it was “funny” probably didn’t deserve a tip.

I’m a generous tipper, just not an automatic tipper. I know the job is hard, but lots of jobs are hard so that’s no excuse for poor work performance.

A lot of people are saying they won’t eat at Applebees after this and I’m wondering why they were eating there ever. I’ve been there three times in my life and all three times the service was so poor I thought I was going to have to go to the kitchen to pick up my own plate.

Money is too tight these days to do business with places that don’t know how to treat a customer.

Rule one is, Don’t staff your business with morons.

Training is key. Unfortunately, what I’m finding is that you sometimes have to state the obvious to people.

But to be fair, check your own behavior, too. Some of your staff have funky attitudes because the moron is in management. As soon as they figure out how to pry a door open, they’re leaving. A few others will just jump out of a window.

Either way, value their importance. Show it with proper on the job training, continuing education, reasonable wages and some decent benefits.

Rule two is appreciate customer loyalty.

There were a lot of good Super Bowl commercials this year. Some funny ones, and some surprisingly touching ones, too, but the best commercial I’ve seen in a long time has been out for quite some time.

It’s the State Farm commercial with the two ladies shopping.

Now if the video’s not working for whatever reason, let me give you a quick summary.

Two shopping ladies see a purse when one “jingles” up her State Farm agent to ask how much her “discount double check” (a review of your plan to see what can be done to save you money) has saved her.

Satisfied with the answer (“About $150”), she runs off to buy the bag.

Her confused friend tries to call up her own non- State Farm agent to find her money. The agent finds her a dollar, and when she reaches for it, he snatches it back scolding her to “be quicker than that.”

This commercial struck a chord with me because I have State Farm. Following a random audit they sent me a check saying I had been over paying. So I called my local agent to find out what the deal was. I was given 217 excuses for why that had to be a mistake, nonsensical explanations about how the check had nothing to do with them, (Really? You think?) and a lot of over the phone shoulder shrugging.

Finally, a reluctant offer to do the discount double check, and guess what?

They found me a dollar.

A month later they took it back. And I never saw that dollar again.

Time slipping away from me is one reason I didn’t immediately move to another insurance company. The other reason was feeling like one service is as bad as the next. I asked around and couldn’t find a single person who was insured with a company they liked.

But I think moving to another company would be less about loving the new place than it would be about letting the old place know you’ve been collecting my money for a few years too long to not treat me better as a customer.

Which brings me to Rule Three: Don’t be greedy.

It was late, cold and snowing when I ran into the nearby Walmart just to grab a quart of milk.

Yes, Walmart, the so-called super cheap, super store that allegedly underpays and mistreats its employees and has buying practices that some have compared to extortion.

I had to ask the woman next to me if I was reading the tag right.

“Does that say almost $3 for a quart of milk?”

“Someone must have put the sign in the wrong place, that has to be for a gallon.”

We leaned in closer to read the tag, then simultaneously looked for the price on the gallon jug.

Almost $4.

I understand that some people are cutting back on things for financial reasons and not buying a lot of stuff. But it doesn’t seem like good business practice to overcharge the people that are still buying to try and make up the difference.

Seems to me that if you still try to keep your prices as low as possible, you would get more customers, sell more stuff, and make more money.

All I got from that store on that day was a reminder of why I stopped shopping there years ago.

Rule Four is Sell Me Something Good

Sell me that you like it, yeaaaah….

Oh, don’t act like you didn’t start singing the song either.

Anyway, my favorite dessert is an apple. Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Pink ladies… my mouth is watering right now.

Too bad every store I’ve been in for months now as been trying to sell me rotten or near rotten apples at ridiculous prices.

The mini lunch size apples used to be 5 for 2, now they’re 3 for 2. And Honeycrisps are never cheap, but four buck a pound is kind of pushing it, don’t you think? Especially considering how many of them have busted butts and soft spots on them.

I heard this was a bad year for the apple crop. So why aren’t they priced accordingly? If the quality isn’t what it usually is, then price it a little lower than usual, not higher.

The economy remains a popular topic and we try to blame everything from the shady mortgage dealings that blew up to whatever political party we don’t belong to – and I’m not saying they don’t have a role in it, because they do.

But you hardly ever hear anyone talk about the role of commerce in any of this.

Unless it’s a cover up for some illegal activity, a business cannot exist without its customers.

Price gouging, bad customer service, and less than stellar product quality and availability don’t strike me as key elements of a thriving business.

Sure, you can count on some customers who still come to you because they have nowhere else to go but I’m guessing you and your business will do much better if you don’t subscribe to the philosophy of Humbert Humbert.

Oh good grief, look it up. That’s one of the best lines in the book!

* *

I still think that the footwork in this video looks like special effects.

Janelle Monae f/ Big Boi – Tightrope

There’s an official video for this but it sucks and distracts from how cool this song is.

Little Big Town – Tornado

Dwele – Shady

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