Boston Server’s Restaurant Family Steps up to Support Him

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 07/8/2015

I don’t share fundraising initiatives too often here. When I do, I prefer that they be small, private, non-corporate, low admin fee initiatives. Here is one that I fully support, especially because I know and like Fernando and his co-workers helping him a lot. No one is exempt from life-changing events. Please help and share if the spirit moves you. Thank you.

From the GoFundMe page:

Many of you know our loving & happy-go-lucky coworker, Fernando Moraes. He has been a dedicated part of BL Gruppo’s Sportello Restaurant for 4+ years, working as a server and making his mark as part of “Team Wine”. He is also a loving husband and father of an 8-month old daughter, Norah.

2 weeks ago, “Fern” was riding his bike home from work and was stuck by another vehicle. He suffered a broken & fractured arm, broken wrist and 2 broken hands. Honestly, he is very lucky to be alive..

In hopes to maintain his spirit and optimism, and to relieve some financial burden, we have chosen to set up this fundraiser page. Fern’s recovery process will possibly take upwards of 3 months, during which time he will be out of work. As his arms and hands play a vital role in his working enviornment, the quality of his recovery will be extrememly important.

7/8/2015 update from my friend and Fernando’s co-worker, Haley Fortier:

WOW!!! What a push!! We are over half way there in 2 days already!! THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to this cause. It is a really testament to our industry, our clientele, friends, family & to our community in Fort Point!! I am humbled by the response and very much appreciate all of your efforts. We are almost there!!! Keep spreading the word….and again, THANK YOU!!!

More details here.  Again, thank you-Patrick

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Service Industries: “No Escape from Reality” + Entitled Customers

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Confronting without Confrontation

Posted: 07/1/2015

Yes, this is the “real life,” and it’s not “just fantasy.” A lot of humans just plain suck.

It’s no fun being the Fun Police. I’ve been a member of the brigade often. And no matter how hard you try, it’s rare to confront a group of “fun” people who completely “get it” when you ask them to consider the circumstances, their volume and actions, and everyone else around them. When you add alcohol to the mix, it often doesn’t end well.

Today’s post comes with permission via KC, owner of KC’s Rib Shack in Manchester, NH via their facebook page:

Open letter to an OBNOXIOUS Self Entitled Customer: ( I have always come from the school of “The customer is always right” and many of you who know me and have been customers of KC’s for many many years know I will bend over backwards for my customers.) That being said, there are times I need to say what needs to be said. Which is what follows [after Joyce's 'review'].

Joyce — 1 star • KC’s Ribs Shack WAS one of our favorite places to eat HOWEVER we just left there very unhappy. We had a party of twenty for a birthday party. We were all seated in the bar. We were having fun singing along with the radio when the OWNER came over to the table and very RUDELY told us to keep quiet others were trying to eat. Now mind you there were about 10 others in the bar and they were all laughing and having fun with us including the bartender and wait staff. When we confronted owner about him being rude he said he didn’t care! Let it be know We will NEVER EAT THERE AGAIN!!! We had a 500 dollar bill they have now lost our business! And I now will never recommend this place to anyone!!! I will never go again!!! ‪#‎KCRIBSHACK‬ ‪#‎THEYSUCK‬ ‪#‎ownersanASSHOLE‬ ‪#‎boycott‬

KC’s response:

Dear Joyce, I sincerely apologize that you mistakenly thought my restaurant was a karaoke bar.

We are a family restaurant not a bar. I realize you felt as though everybody in the entire restaurant was rejoicing in the painful rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody you and your self entitled friends were performing, yet that was not the case.

Although sometimes it is tough to walk the line between being the fun police and allowing our customers to enjoy themselves to their fullest. We have to draw the line when it becomes a nuisance to other customers in the restaurant at the time. Two tables asked to be moved to other areas of the restaurant even after your group was asked to stop singing. You probably missed out on that because it is clearly all about you. I’m glad you and your inconsiderate friends have vowed to “Never Eat There Again” and to #Boycott KC’s Rib Shack. Go ahead and continue your social media crusade on Yelp and facebook. I think you may have forgot Tripadviser as well. Thanks again for your feedback. We will let you know if we decide to become a karaoke bar in the future. ‪#‎IMKC‬ ‪#‎IMTHEASSHOLE‬ ‪#‎ISUCK‬ ‪#‎DON‬TNEEDINCONCIDERATECUSTOMERS

“Easy Come, Easy Go” -Freddy Mercury (Bohemian Rhapsody)

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Managing Restaurant Employees in the Age of Online Amatuer Reviews

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 06/10/2015

Today’s guest post was submitted by Joshua Sperber, doctoral candidate at CUNY Graduate Center.

I worked, mostly as a host and cashier, in three Los Angeles restaurants during the mid-1990s. In each restaurant, whether it was a mom and pop or part of a national chain, management made the same complaint: my refusal to greet customers with a warm smile was bad for business and, by implication, my job security. One owner even referred to a national study that demonstrated that – as is in fact the case – worker unfriendliness is the main reason that customers don’t return to a restaurant.

While my managers sometimes seemed embarrassed, or even apologetic, to be lecturing their mostly un-tipped, minimum-wage-earning employee on the importance of appearing happy, there was one time when management became deadly serious about its “smile or else” policy. I had been written up by a Mystery Shopper for not smiling while hosting at Coco’s. Seeming to forget that the Mystery Shopper was in fact a company employee applying criteria that the company had invented in the first place, my managers acted as if I had grievously harmed someone. Indeed, management ordering me to smile was one thing, but a customer – even a fake one – ordering me to smile was something else. My only comfort was knowing that because Mystery Shoppers were said to visit infrequently, I wouldn’t have to worry about being spied on by one for a long time.

The website Yelp has changed the way many restaurants manage their staffs. Numerous restaurants, especially chains, still utilize Mystery Shoppers, but these restaurants also supplement their internal reviews with Yelp’s online reviews. And smaller establishments (which are more affected by negative Yelp reviews) that don’t employ Mystery Shoppers generally do rely on Yelp as an informal, albeit unreliable, customer-subsidized “Mystery Shopper.” If I were working at Coco’s today, my occasional anxiety about a potential Mystery Shopper would likely be replaced by perpetual concern that every customer could be a Yelp reviewer. I might even start smiling, not out of happiness or general well-being but out of fear.

I have talked to over two dozen New York City managers who have punished (for instance, through loss of shifts) and even fired employees who had been identified in negative Yelp reviews. Some managers also use Yelp reviews to provide positive feedback. For instance, one chain posts on a bulletin board reviews that praise employees (while still confronting employees about negative reviews, of course). And one manager, according to his employee, even puts his staff to work writing positive Yelp reviews whenever a negative one appears. In short, managers – while maintaining a decidedly ambivalent attitude toward Yelp – have found numerous ways to incorporate online customer feedback into their management of workers.

I am currently writing my dissertation on the ways in which customer-based websites are being used to manage employees. While I have had no trouble interviewing dozens of Yelp reviewers and restaurant managers, it’s been trickier to interview servers (I can’t go into a restaurant and spend 25 minutes talking to a server with the manager watching). I therefore wanted to ask any servers or bartenders reading this to please contact me if you have any experiences with or thoughts on how Yelp has affected your workplace. I’d like to hear from you whether your experiences are good, bad, or neutral, and all interviews will be anonymous.

Thank you very much- Joshua Sperberjsperber@gradcenter.cuny.edu

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To Shame or Not to Shame?

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 03/8/2015

On the heels of one of the biggest stories in the news last week, publicly shaming abusive guests and fellow humans, I made 2 lists for current and future consulting clients to consider before pulling the trigger. Now that we’ve all had time to reflect on the incidents and the aftermath, I decided to make my lists public here for discussion.

Reasons why initiating public shaming of customers by a business on social media is a bad idea:

  1. Defending the decision or apologizing for it can be a huge time drain.
  2. The distraction from running your business.
  3. It could backfire badly.
  4. The other side of the story.
  5. The truth.
  6. If you or your staff are culpable, you’ve created an (unnecessary) opportunity for the spotlight to shine brightly on your mishandling of the situation, lack of training, professionalism and experience.
  7. The potential perception that your shaming of guests may be perceived as passive aggressive and cowardly, the same thing many of us accuse amateur ‘reviewers’ of.
  8. Screenshots and residual articles and comments are forever, along with the negative connotations.
  9. The satisfaction is usually temporary, and often not worth it.
  10. The questions about your true motives. (Is it to compensate for something you’re not doing or to create a distraction?)
  11. The risk. It’s rarely 100% beneficial.
  12. The sycophantic, ‘hero’ worshiping, cheerleaders who may enjoy the entertainment aren’t your true friends.
  13. The high road.
  14. Revenge/retaliation.
  15. Inciting ex-employees with a legitimate ax to grind to unearth ugly truths. (Wrongful termination, etc.)
  16. Inciting ex-’everythings’  to expose your skeletons. (Stiffed/jaded vendors, consultants, etc.)
  17. The longer-term implications for the shamed could ultimately be more severe than their improprieties warrant.
  18. Potentially being accused of staging the incident for PR purposes.
  19. The questions raised about your professionalism and hospitality philosophy.
  20. Huge distraction for FOH staff when future customers repeatedly ask about the incident.
  21. The story will be repeated over and over inaccurately, with negative connotations for you and your business.
  22. You’re better off letting someone else do it, bloggers, media, customers, Chowhounds, etc.
  23. Your PR firm may fire you.
  24. Potential lawsuit.
  25. Google.

Reasons why initiating public shaming of customers by a business on social media is a great idea:

  1. You’ve slept on it and considered all 25 reasons above and are convinced that you, your employees, future guests, your brand and your business will benefit in the long run.

There are exceptions when we’re backed into a corner and need to defend ourselves, our families, staff,  brands, businesses, the ‘truth’, and fight fire with fire. Absolutely. And there’s no doubt with the way that technology has evolved, and the way people sometimes use it as a threat, that we’ve all been tempted to strike back, and have in some cases. I’ve done it probably more often than I should have via blog posts. We all wish we could have moments back and could have handled things differently. As business owners, employees and customers, we can all learn from this recent spate of public shamings, and reflect on how we might respond the next time we’re tempted.

I strive for the mission of this blog and my book project to present balanced views of the issues. That doesn’t always happen because we’re all biased and my bias has a (strong) tendency to sympathize with workers/owners vs. customers in most instances. I understand that, and I’ll continue to work on being more objective while researching and posting here.

I welcome your comments and perspective.

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Attorney Benjamin Edelman “Internet Sheriff” on ill-advised crusade

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 12/10/2014

The level of stupidity that service industry workers and owners encounter interacting with the public is astonishing. Last week a Boston restaurant owner and food truck operator shared the story about a woman who called and was irate because her nephew didn’t get the exact hamburger he wanted. Her nephew and his friend only paid $7.50 for two burgers (one was comped because of a communication error), but the woman demanded a $30 refund. I know, “fuzzy math.” He ended up sending her a $10 gift card to keep the peace. It never ends.

This one from Hilary Sargent at Boston.com  is tough to beat. Attorney Ben Edelman took  Sichuan Garden to task over a $4 “overcharge” on his takeout order, and in an email exchange, things got out of control. The email exchange was shared with Boston.com and suddenly it became a huge story.

I’ve reached out to Benjamin and the dean of the Harvard Business School (where he purportedly teaches negotiations) for comment.

From Ben’s website: “Ben holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at Harvard University, a J.D. from the Harvard Law School, an A.M. in Statistics from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College (summa cum laude). He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar.”

Not a whole lot of common sense or street smarts from a guy with so many degrees


Ben Edelman (left) and Ran Duan (right)

By Hilary Sargent, Boston.com Staff | 12.09.14 | 3:28 PM

Ben Edelman is an associate professor at Harvard Business School, where he teaches in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit.

Ran Duan manages The Baldwin Bar, located inside the Woburn location of Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant founded by his parents.

Last week, Edelman ordered what he thought was $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden’s Brookline Village location.

Edelman soon came to the horrifying realization that he had been overcharged. By a total of $4.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant screwed him out of $4, you’re about to find out. (Hint: It involves invocation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute and multiple threats of legal action.)

Surprised yet? We were, too.

In addition to teaching at HBS, Edelman also operates a consulting practice where he advises clients like Microsoft, the NFL, the New York Times, and Universal Music on “preventing and detecting online fraud (especially advertising fraud).” (That’s from Edelman’s own website, which it seems safe to presume is always kept up to date.)

He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Ran Duan moved to the U.S. from China when he was 3-years-old. His father had hoped to support the family with a career as an opera singer, but when that didn’t pan out, Duan says “like all Chinese families we decided to open up a restaurant.”

Sichuan Garden opened its doors in Brookline in the early 1990s. A second location followed in Woburn.

Despite the restaurant’s successful expansion, Duan admittted that Sichuan does not have the budget for teams devoted to public relations or a website that is updated as regularly as it should be.


Screenshot of Sichuan Garden’s website as of December 9.

“I personally respond to every complaint and try to handle every situation personally,” said Duan, who was profiled by Boston Magazine in June and featured in GQ Magazine last month as “America’s Most Imaginative Bartender.”

The exchange with Edelman stood out to Duan. “I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business. It just broke my heart.”

Edelman told Boston.com that investigating pricing discrepancies by neighborhood restaurants isn’t something he does every day.

“I mostly look for malfeasance by larger companies,” he said. “It certainly seems like a situation that could call for legal redress. But this is a small business in the town where I reside.”

As for the troves of angry customers likely looking for recourse? Edelman pointed Boston.com to Massachusetts General Law, Section XV, Chapter 93A, Section 9. (Translation: If you didn’t pass the Massachusetts bar, but still feel as though you must do SOMETHING, then just gather all the receipts you’ve saved, along with all screenshots you took and saved of the website menu in case that dinner order ever ended up in court, find a lawyer whose fees aren’t likely to exceed the few dollars you’re seeking, and … voila?)

As for Edelman, he alerted town officials in Brookline about the matter, but told Boston.com he doesn’t expect them to take action. He plans to “take a few days” before deciding whether to pursue any further legal action against the restaurant.

Oh and the food? Edelman admitted: “It was delicious.”

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