Customer Hall of Shame

Hospitality Therapy-Screaming into the darkness, like a wolf on a moonlit mountain. #ServerNotServant

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 07/22/2017

This is priceless.

I’ve spoken with several hospitality industry professionals (many clients) who have adopted a policy of refusing to engage publicly or privately with amateur reviewers. The general philosophy is that they’re never going to please everyone, and they don’t want to waste valuable time interacting with a small minority when they’re slammed running their business. I get it, and I respect that position.

However, there are some business owners and managers who selectively engage and seize an opportunity in a cathartic, epic manor to defend their business and their people. It’s marketing brilliance when done properly.

Case in point:

Written by Tony Cuddihy, and reposted with permission from JOE.ie:

This, dear friends, is how you defend your business and the people you work with. This Doolin hotel manager is our hero.

When Donal Minihane, the General Manager of Hotel Doolin in County Clare, came across a poor review on TripAdvisor he decided to write one of the best responses we’ve ever come across.

A user called Lovnhawaii posted some quite derogatory comments about the hotel – giving out about everything from the receptionist to the Wi-Fi to the ‘grumpy ole men’ working in the hotel – which you can read here.

Anyone familiar with Hotel Doolin will know that the person in question was talking out of their arse, so Donal decided to defend Hotel Doolin in the best way possible.

This is what he wrote back:

Dear LovnHawaii:

Thank you for staying with us at Hotel Doolin on your recent trip to Ireland and for posting your feedback. We were very disappointed with the content of your review. However, after investigating the particulars of your stay in detail with all team members I was even more disappointed to learn that the content of the review was not an accurate reflection of what actually happened.

From the title of your review, other readers would think that you inadvertently stumbled into Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn and that Hotel Doolin was full of brigands and cutthroats, that our staff wear eye patches and pantaloons and are hiding behind the pillars in the lobby, cutlass clenched between our teeth, waiting to jump out and pillage passerbys.

You say the hotel is deceitful and dishonest and that one of our staff members, Emma, is a liar when, in fact, it is your good self that is being liberal with the truth. Emma did make a mistake on check-in with the rate, this was spotted the following morning by one of our more senior receptionists and was rectified before you checked out so that you never paid €240 as you stated above.

 Also, the duty manager met you the following morning, apologised for the mistake and gave you a further reduction on your rate. We are 100% certain that Emma made a genuine mistake, as sometimes people do, and we feel it is very unfair and irresponsible of you to call her a liar and dishonest on a public forum.

I’m sensing a lot of anger in the review above and I know that you probably didn’t mean to let loose all that anger on us. Hey, sometimes people just need to vent. Sometimes at night when I come home from a long day’s work at the hotel, I check to see if everyone is in bed and then I go out into the field at the back of my house and scream into the darkness. I let it all out, like a wolf on a moonlit mountain.

I feel better after that and nobody gets hurt. I’m not saying howling into the night like a wolf will work for you, I don’t know your circumstances, you may have neighbours that’ll think it is weird, but there are other ways of channelling rage that don’t have to involve Hotel Doolin and slandering Emma.

With regards the Wi-Fi, yes, the Wi-Fi in the west of Ireland is the worst in Europe, there is nothing we can do about this for the moment, although I think we are getting high-speed broadband in the area pretty soon. in the meantime, to anybody else reading this review. DO NOT COME TO DOOLIN IF WI-FI IS MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU THAN HUMAN INTERACTION, YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED.

There are three men over the age of forty working in the hotel. Only one of them was working on the night you stayed, so we didn’t know how to deal with the ‘grumpy old men’ in your review, until my assistant manager came up with the only viable solution.

 We’ve decided to execute all three of these men to ensure that no other guests will have to endure the horrific ordeal you went through that evening in the bar.

Paul, Martin and Luis will be blindfolded and shot in the back of the head at Fitz’s cross after mass this Sunday. There will be trad music, cocktail sausages and face-painting for the kids and I can organise a pair of complimentary tickets for you if you wish to attend. I know this will not make up for what happened to you but we hope it will go some way towards showing you that we take your feedback seriously.

You see, even though you hurt us deeply with your review, we’d still like to be friends, we’d love if you afforded us the opportunity to change your opinion of us and hope that you will return to Doolin someday.

In fact, each year on the 30th February we have a party for our valued past customers who think we are liars, we all hold hands and dance around a campfire and sing songs that help us forget about the past and look with hope towards the future. We’d love if you could make it (that lying cheating ruffian Emma won’t be there, we promise).

Ends

JOE would like to thank Donal for giving us his permission to share his response, and Aaron Stone McHale for bringing our attention to it in the first place.

[Thanks to Darren Tully, living in Dublin, Ireland for bringing this to my attention. -Patrick Maguire]

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Restaurant Owner and Teenage Daughter Beaten by Grown ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ Customers.

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 06/25/2017

Subhuman. According to Merriam Webster, “subhuman” is defined as “less than human: such as (a) failing to attain the level (as of morality or intelligence) associated with normal human beings.” There aren’t too many other ways to describe the despicable couple who wantonly attacked a Qwik Chik restaurant owner and her 15-yr-old daughter in Baxley, Georgia on Thursday, 6/22, according to ABC WJCJ22. As the disturbing video within the piece by reporter, Tori Simkovic proves, the female customer physically attacks and beats the restaurant owner, then her husband sucker punches the owner’s 15-year-old daughter in the face on the way to fleeing the scene. The teenager easily could have died of a punch from the ’man’ almost twice her size, especially if she hit her head after the horrific blow. Miraculously, she jumped up immediately to come to the aid of her mom who suffered a broken nose during the beating.

According to this piece filed by Vince Cestone of KRONE 4 TV:

The owner of a Qwik Chick restaurant … says the incident happened Thursday. A couple went to her stand and complained about their food being cold. After a few minutes back and forth, the owner says she refunded their money, but then she says the couple went crazy. They started cussing and beating down the window. The owner went outside to tell them police were on the way when the woman started punching and slapping her in the face. That’s when her daughter got out of the truck to help, and the husband punched the teen right in the face.

“The camera surveillance footage that we put out tells it all. That’s just brutality,” Baxley Police Chief James Godfrey said.

In the WTOC report: “I’ve been here, what, 41 years – 30 of them as chief. I have never seen anything like this. I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Chief James Godfrey.

From the WJCJ22 piece: Mom/Restaurant owner, “When you see your child hit, by some grown man and she’s only 15, nobody deserves that.” The owner said that the customers came to the restaurant often, but had recently started becoming agitated in recent visits. This attack has made her question if she wants to continue working in the restaurant business. “Do I want to put myself, my employees, or my child at risk just over food? That’s so stupid. So senseless.”

When I spoke with the owner of the restaurant on Saturday afternoon (6/24) just before 4pm, police had not made any arrests, but were following several leads. The owner acknowledged receipt of my PM to the Qwik Chik facebook page, and I agreed to email her the same messages I posted there to make it easier for her to reply.

PM (Patrick Maguire): Reporter, Tori Simkovic from WJCL22 stated in her piece that the attackers came into the restaurant often, “but had started becoming agitated in recent visits.” Is that true?

Owner: Yes, they were irritated for the lat 5 or 6 visits, per my employees.

PM: And if yes, why were they agitated?

Owner: One example was ordering a large drink and then hollering at them when my employee brought the drinks back saying that they said they wanted a jumbo. Stuff like that…

PM: Did you say or do anything to upset them?

Owner: They said that the chicken was cold which it was not. It wasn’t right out of the grease hot, but certainly not cold. They were already irritated by the time I stepped in. I know they had already irritated my employee.

PM: In retrospect, would you have handled your previous interactions with them any differently?

Owner: Not really because there was no reasoning with them.

PM: Would you have handled your interaction with them the day of the incident any differently?

Owner: Probably not.

PM: Why is the video dated 2010?

Owner: Because our business had recently been hit by lightening and had some of the equipment replaced and the tech forgot to set the time and date. I had noticed the time was off, but had not looked at the date.

Ironically, this picture from 10/9/15, is one of the few pics on the Qwik Chik facebook page:

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The caption under the pic from the owner of Qwik Chick reads, “You never know what someone is going thru. We deal with this everyday and try our best to be nice. Sometimes it’s better to just walk away and not be ugly!!!” Amen.

Based on my research of the restaurant (reviews, social media, Google search) and conversation with the owner, I cannot envision a scenario where the owner and her daughter deserved anything close to the brutal assaults they endured.

I left the following PM on the dormant facebook page of the male attacker:

I am writing a blog post about your attack on the owner of Qwik Chik and her daughter. Contact me if you’d like to make a statement. [No response as of 1:33pm on 6/25/17.]

When I called the Baxley, GA police dept (912-367-8305) at 1:11pm on Sunday, outgoing VM indicated “office hours” are M-F 8am-5pm. I suppose one could call 911 if they had a hot lead on the thug/attackers…

Please watch the video before commenting below. And if you don’t want to feel worse about ‘humanity’ and the world we live in than you do after watching the video, don’t read the comments following the related stories and social media posts. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World…

Updates will be noted here as they are received.

6/26/17 9am: I received a call from the Baxley PD. They’re following several leads, but no arrests yet.

7/4/17 approx. 12:30pm. Facebook message from Qwk Chik owner:

Hello everyone. Just wanted to take a moment and tell you that you have no ideal how much your phone calls, messages, cards, gifts, donations and encouraging words have meant to me and my family. You would never think that something like this would happen in our town but it did and it’s getting worse all over the world. It is nice to live in a little town where everyone steps up and helps anyone in need. Again Thank You for everything. Please keep your eyes open for these two so we can get them where they belong. Happy Fourth of July and God bless our nation and keep us safe.

July 5th. Attackers surrender.

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Humanitarian Diner Award

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 02/11/2017

Because you can’t make this shit up. This week’s Humanitarian Diner Award goes to amateur ‘reviewer,’ “TM58″ who awarded one of the Boston area’s top restaurants 1 star on Open Table after being inconvenienced because of a fire at a business NEXT DOOR!! Without inquiring about the safety of the fire victims, “TM58″ was last seen ‘fuming’ in Newton Centre seeking a safer place to dine and whine… For those who actually do care, there were no injuries.

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“Sorry” -Donald Trump

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 11/19/2016

Dear America, “I apologize.”

That was hard for me, but I finally did it, despite the irony of the ‘quotes.’

  • I’m sorry for appearing like a thin-skinned, petulant child tweeting at the “very rude” Hamilton cast demanding that they apologize for exercising their First Amendment right, especially after I wantonly and rudely offended so many people across our great country during the presidential campaign.
  • I apologize to everyone who voted for me but couldn’t publicly admit it to their family, friends, fellow humans in their diner or coffee shop, and co-workers, because at the core, they know what a repulsive human I am, despite promising to lower the cost of their healthcare…
  • I’m sorry so many of the people who voted for me are no longer talking to many of their family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow humans in diners and coffee shops. And I’m sorry many of my supporters have been blocked by so many people on social media…
  •  I apologize to all of the good Hombres who were offended by my “Bad Hombres” comment. You can stay.
  • I apologize to all of the painters, carpenters, glassmakers,framers, plumbers, sheetrockers, roofers, electricians, steel workers, bartenders, real estate agents, and all of the blue and white collar workers who suffered severely when I stiffed you for the work you completed for me. Despite that fact, and all of the pending lawsuits, I deceived, manipulated and suckered millions of your co-workers and peers into voting for me under the guise of advocating for them. I’m sorry.
  • I’m sorry for not being able to advocate for anyone except Me, Myself, and I. (“I speak the truth,” and “Tell it like it is,” remember?)
  • I apologize to everyone who voted for me because I “said what you were thinking.” I wasn’t even thinking about what I was saying…
  • I apologize to all of the people who believed me when I said undocumented workers don’t pay taxes but benefit by freeloading off of government services. And I’m sorry for not paying taxes when you did.
  • I’m sorry for not sharing my tax returns…
  • I’m sorry that I’ve ‘calcified’ racism, bigotry, and sexism ‘into a national nightmare’ and set our (soon to be) great nation back 50 years.
  • I’m so sorry so many people had to vote for me by default just to see ‘change.’
  • I apologize to the Republican Party that ultimately I was ‘your guy.’ I didn’t expect to win this thing, I just wanted to elevate my brand and just be a “protest candidate.”
  • I’m sorry for all of the people who didn’t vote because they believed the polls that said their vote didn’t matter and that I didn’t have a chance. (On second thought, that’s on them.)
  • I apologize to all of the people who hold me in such high esteem. Extremists will defend their deity to the death because that defines/validates their existence. That devotion can be deadly.
  • I’m sorry for not having an ounce of decency. If I did, in the wake of my victory, in an effort to unify our  great country, I would have made a thoughtful, powerful, impassioned speech, vehemently denouncing the people who used my win as a catalyst for racist attacks, hate crimes, bigotry, and violence in my name. I apologize that I’m not smart or aware enough to know that our country needed that. I just don’t have it in me. Sorry about that.
  • I’m sorry I’m so ‘bad at twitter.’ I apologize that VP-elect Pence had to ‘take one for the team’ and provide cover while my $25m fraud settlement was announced… “Sorry, Baby Donald, I’m not taking the bait.”
  • I apologize for being such a ‘sorry’ human being.

Insincerely, “The Donald”

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‘Napkin Lady’ at Per Se

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame

Posted: 01/15/2016

All I can think about is Napkin Lady.

  • Did she really ‘drop’, or as Mr. Wells delineated, ‘hurl’ her napkin to the floor?
  • Did she ‘drop’ it on purpose to elicit a response from the server, or to test the staff?
  • Was the napkin ‘drop’ staged by NYT restaurant critic, Peter Wells?
  • What kind of adult human throws a napkin on the floor in protest at any restaurant anywhere?
  • Is Napkin Lady a monster?
  • How did Napkin Lady’s dining companions respond to her?
  • Will she be invited to dinner with Mr. Wells again? If yes, is he a monster?

Per Se, on the Upper West Side in NYC, is one the most highly-regarded, expensive restaurants in the world. On Wednesday, New York Times restaurant critic, Peter Wells awarded Per Se two out of four stars in a predominantly scathing review. According to the NYT, two stars is “very good,” but Wells’ narrative was far from that. Menu items were described as droopy, rubbery and flavorless, gluey, mushy, dismal, random and purposeless, limp, dispirited, lame, and bouillon, “murky and appealing as bong water.” The negative comments about service included, haphazard, unobliging, oddly unaccommodating, and oblivious sleepwalking. And the experience was seen as a no-fun house, lame, disappointingly flat-footed, out of date, mediocre, and among the worst food deals in New York.

The two-star review was a significant departure from the four stars awarded by legendary NYT critic, Frank Bruni in September of 2004, and the four-star review by the NYT’s Sam Sifton in October of 2011. Mr. Sifton called Per Se, “… the best restaurant in New York City…”, and lauded, “It’s synthesis of culinary art and exquisite service is now complete.” “It represents the ideal of an American high-culture luxury restaurant.”

Who cares, right? The restaurant geek world does. Most of us can’t afford to eat at places like Per Se, but following the news in and around restaurants has become a sport that consumes us. And the news about the two-star ‘demotion’ caught fire with many of those who play, enjoy, watch, and broadcast ‘the game’. The 1,000+ animated comments from the NYT website are a testament to the interest in a review of elite restaurants like Per Se.  A sampling of the reactions:

  • Is fine dining dead?
  • Are ‘celebrity’ chefs too cocky and complacent?
  • Does the critic have an entitled, narcissistic, personal agenda?
  • At the Per Se price point, shouldn’t one expect perfection?
  • Are servers and staff being exploited at the “best of the best” restaurants?
  • Who can even afford to eat at places like that?
  • Why don’t people spend money on helping others instead of lavish meals?
  • Finally, someone had the courage to speak the truth.
  • The first staff meeting following the review is really going to suck…

And I just can’t stop thinking about Napkin Lady…

The first two paragraphs of the review from Peter Wells:

The lady had dropped her napkin.

More accurately, she had hurled it to the floor in a fit of disillusionment, her small protest against the slow creep of mediocrity and missed cues during a four-hour dinner at Per Se that would cost the four of us close to $3,000. Some time later, a passing server picked up the napkin without pausing to see whose lap it was missing from, neatly embodying the oblivious sleepwalking that had pushed my guest to this point.

Shortly after the review went live, I posted the following on my Server Not Servant Facebook group:

Perhaps Mr. Wells’ dining companion was role-playing to test the staff as fodder for the review. Or, perhaps she’s a bitch who acted like a petulant child… Hard to imagine someone thinking it’s ok to “hurl” their napkin to the floor while eating and drinking at Per Se. That’s no “small protest,” it’s a bullshit, entitled, bitchy move, especially if it wasn’t on her dime. I’m also interested to know if Wells will ever invite the woman to dine with him again. If she wasn’t acting, and he does invite her back, it speaks volumes.

My friend, Chef Mark O’Leary replied to my tweet to Peter Wells, “That was my first question, how much entitled fervor must you have to throw a napkin on the floor as an adult?”

I emailed Peter Wells on Wednesday night and asked him:

  • Was throwing the napkin staged by your dining companion or you to test the server’s response, or was it a legitimate, out-of-control, hissy fit initiated without your prompting?
  • Was your inclusion of the ‘napkin drop’ hyperbole to add drama/color to the prose?
  • How did you and your other dining companions respond after she hurled the napkin to the floor?
  • Were you or anyone you were with embarrassed?
  • Did you or anyone at your table admonish her?
  • Did she apologize to you and your table and/or the server or any other workers?
  • Will you ever invite “Napkin Lady” to dine with you again?
  • Feel free to add anything else that you’d like me to include in my post.

Mr. Wells responded that he wouldn’t answer my questions because he makes it a policy not to comment on public reviews, especially negative ones, and finished with, ”Readers can draw their own conclusions about my words, just as they can draw their own conclusions about a post in which a woman is called a bitch twice in a short paragraph.”

I read hundreds of the comments following the review on the NYT website (sport/entertainment, right?), and I’ll leave you with one beauty:

“rk-Nashville”:

What happens now?

Can Per Se survive this? Does the entire staff get fired? Is the chef’s career ruined? Is the owner expected to publicly respond? Do they close for a month and reopen? Are they going to have to cut prices? Do they call in another ballerina? (Just joking about that last question. Sort of.)

More importantly, is Napkin Lady a monster???

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