Best Customers Ever

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Fame

Posted: 06/30/2010

As promised, I will occasionally post a question from the questionnaire I’m using to gather research and stories for my book. If you’re interested in completing the full questionnaire, please click on the Submit Your Stories tab at the top of the post.

Unfortunately the stinging comments made by the 20% of customers who are impolite, disrespectful or downright rude, linger with us long after the customers leave. I’ve received emails from service industry workers sharing war stories from decades ago in vivid detail. Personally, I still remember the condescending comments made by customers when I was bartending like, Good thing you went to college, implying that I wasted my time pursuing a degree.

 What entitles anyone to make judgmental comments like that? Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m a big fan of the underdog.

As my good friend, Greg Reeves often says, It’s really not that hard to do the right thing. How true. Too bad not everyone got the memo…

Shifting gears, let’s turn our attention to the positive experiences we’ve all had with great customers. Exceptionally gracious people can also make a lasting impression.

Question #12: What adjectives would you use to describe the best, most refreshing customers you’ve had over the years?

In addition to the adjectives, please include a brief summary of some of the best experiences you’ve ever had with customers, and what made them memorable. Enjoy the July 4th weekend. Thank you-PM

14 Responses to “Best Customers Ever”

  1. Vanessa says:

    I only have one customer who comes to mind. Really, truly a good person. She was a long time customer at the ice cream store I worked at – knew everyone by name, super nice, brought in friends and family (who she always formally introduced to us) she always got the same thing and would always get others to try her favorite. Vanilla blended with a combination of peanut butter pieces, cups and sauce.

    She disappeared for a while and sort of slipped our minds. When she came back the pieces quickly came together – her husband had died on 9/11.

    Somehow she was still the awesome woman we knew. Still with the smile, positive energy. She remarried, had more kids. When I switched jobs and became a server she was once again my customer. She celebrated a birthday in my section and I was honestly honored to serve her. An amazing woman to me – to be burdened with such horror and to have the courage and ability to move on with such grace and gusto.

    So, she’s the one I remember.

    She was just a genuine awesome person. So few of those in this life.

  2. Lou Warren says:

    I had customers a couple of weeks ago…that were relaxed, having a birthday celebration for her, wanting to take time, spend money, eat well, and couldn’t have been more polite. When their meals took a long time to come out of the kitchen (we were slammed), they were truly glad to have more time and didn’t care. They were funny and ready with a laugh. And the big bonus…very generous. They are the kind of people that makes me enjoy and even look forward to work.

  3. Kelly Shepard says:

    Hey Patrick, my name is Kelly and I am a server here in Memphis, TN at the world famous Corky’s restaurant. We are a very very very busy, fast paced small restaurant. Turn and burn is the motto on the floor. The food comes out fast, the hosts get those tables up and out before they knew what hit them. It’s great money, great stress and can really leave you exhausted at the end of a shift. I am grateful to work there and really enjoy the people from all over the world who come to visit and eat there. Although the customers at time can really be a pain; demanding, picky (esp. the locals) and outright rude, the few good stories far outweigh the bad ones.
    The customers that are special to me are the children from St. Judes who are either just released from the hospital or getting a break from their treatments. These children are beautiful, loving and so sweet. The parents are a different breed of people, they are people who truly know the meaning of life and know how to treat each person and each day with dignity. They are amazing for what they have been through and seen. It’s not about money in this case for me; it’s about giving this family the break they truly deserve and relax and enjoy themselves for a few precious moments. These are some of my favorite customers and best memories. Thanks, Kelly

  4. Scott Allan says:

    that being said I have experienced many of these attributes in my guests throughout the year..once (over 25 years ago) I had a table of four that consisted of one couple that were regulars and one couple I had never met before. I was working as a busboy (SA..busser…etc..) and was happy to see the “Smiths” in for a return visit as they were always very nice..they were celebrating something (my memory fails me) and had some of the more expensive items on our menu for appetizers, entrees etc.. Their meal was going well until dessert and coffee time, at which point I proceeded to refill a water glass and spill half of it on one of the guests I did not know…they were gracious and kind about the misdeed and at the end of the meal the gentleman from the unknown party handed me a $50 bill saying “you handled that very well THANK YOU”…I was amazed and grateful and thankful & honestly shocked too..I took their waitress aside and showed her the fifty saying that “we” did “okay” despite my heinous error..trying to give her the cash in the process…she handed my the bill back saying that I earned and they gave her one too!…these were in addition to the gratuity left by the “Smiths”(not their real name as my memory fails me there too!)… I think (or would like to think) that this memory is fond to me because of the kind response and not the cash….but as a young service worker the cash was a welcome addition to my evenings gratuity…since then I have countless encounters with guests that have resulted in significant “over-tipping”….I believe if you serve your guests as you would be expecting to be served then you will consistently “over-earn” for your services..if you have a problem at your table or with your bar guest is not how you REACT but how RESPOND to the situation at hand…accidents happen and not every guest will be happy with your response but utilize the resources at hand do you best to “make it right”…I guarantee you will be rewarded consistently….

  5. Yvonne Lyon says:

    Really, too difficult to say after over 20 yrs in the business, there are too many of them … maybe I got lucky. And, there are enough horror stories to balance it out.
    Over tippers, or ‘Georges’ are always nice to see. A hundred dollar bill is always a welcome sight, of course!! One man even gave me $600 in approx. 2 hrs. Hitting Keno every half hour. He was memorable, ha ha ha
    But, my sweetest and most enduring were the ones that remained friends to this day, even after I left the State and moved South.
    Like Jerry the Pipe, an old ex cop from Chicago. Schu, who became like a father to me. Bill and Connie, the nicest most spry retirees. Or, Lee from the Biker Bar, always watching my back. Or S.16 a wonderful dog lover, who brought his pup to the bar. Or, Buttercup, a Pacific Union worker who was another Sweetie. And Dianna, who rode the Underpriviledged Childrens Fire Truck every Xmas haNDING OUT gIFTS.
    My most memorable are the spirited persons behind the label Customer or Guest. I was priviledged to meet.
    WHY are they so special? Because of their kindness, integrity, intelligence, compassion and understanding. Which we forget sometimes when saying things like, Look out you got a Live One by the window. Or, catch phrases like, If you cant fold it, hold it, Cheap As**H***. Or, 2 old farts on table whatever. It just dehumanises them, and they may think the same of you. Just a another body serving.
    I havent had a BEST Customer Ever, in a while .. probably because I work in a High End Joint now and they dont even notice the server’s face here. Thats another drawback.
    But, places that bring the Human element back, make a LOT of Customers truly special.

  6. Yvonne- Loved your thoughtful comments. You sparked a memory in me.

    In the early 90’s I was managing and bartending at the old Prince Grotto in Lowell, MA. I worked the more casual Pizzeria side of the house. One day a young server was having a tough time with a rambunctious group on the patio and she asked me to talk with them. I approached the tabe, introduced myself, and explained that we wanted them to enjoy themselves, but in order to do so they needed to lower their volume and work with us and not disturb other guests. I explained that if they weren’t respectful of their waitress and my requests, that I was going to ask them to leave.

    As I turned to go back to the bar, I literally backed into a gentleman standing in my way who witnessed the entire encounter. He was one of my regular customers, decked out if full Hell’s Angel’s colors. He asked me, Everything ok? When I told him it was “all good” for now he responded, I’ve got your back, brother. I was truly moved by the gesture, and have no doubt that if my encounter with the rowdy party came to blows, he would have fought for me.

    I’ll never forget that day during an era that “I’ve got your back” meant something…

  7. CD Berkeley says:

    The adjectives that readily come to mind are reasonable, cooperative and personable. I certainly appreciate the comments about great tippers and high energy, easy-to-serve people. And for sure I love the customers that are regulars – there’s nothing better than a familiar face who always has a good word for you and are supportive directly and indirectly, particularly by the cues they send to others. But what is at the core of all of them is that they are genuine and good people that appreciate this is a shared, human experience – reasonable in what it’s really about, cooperative in making it a positive experience and personable throughout it all.

  8. Erica Jean says:

    I have so many memories of great ‘regulars’ from my many years in the business. When I was pregnant with my first son, a regular named Elaine gave me a beautiful baby shower and invited dozens of my friends and co-workers. It was fabulous – full bar, tons of food, games – she was so thoughtful. Then there were all those who remembered me at Christmas, even if they didn’t celebrate Christmas. And the guests who would come in, be seated in their favorite booth and pat it, “Sit down, how have you been?” If it was a slow night, I’d take their little girl back to the expo line or the kitchen to sneak a french fry. She would get so excited! There are so many who were wonderful. I miss it, but needed a job with retirement, health insurance, etc. Sigh.

  9. Archangel says:

    This is my experience from a lot of customers, who are my people. When I’m down, instead of requesting many things, they just expect some smile from me and encourage me to get back to the same person to be able to serve them again.

    For them, I can spend my entire life in this industry because they make me feel so good.

  10. Dr. Hank says:

    A teaching-learning example was this past term. One of my classes was small with 9 students. They were a tough-crowd, as there was a wide range of interests and abilities. I worked hard to bring each individual closer to what they may have defined as their best “potential.” Some days I’d have a 45- minute Powerpoint sprinkled w/story’s, documentaries, film, guest speakers, and many invitations for their input…seeking student participation. One student did make consistent, quality contributions, but even he was “tempered” by the lethargy and apathy of the others (didn’t want to appear to be over-achieving, as he’s be ridiculed and/or ostrasized by others…nice, eh?).

    About two weeks after spring term ended and after grades submitted, I received an e-mail from the quality student stating how much he appreciated my hard work, recognizing the “tough crowd” in a kind way, if you will. He also wished me well in my new assignment. I wrote him back saying I looked forward to the day I’d be sitting in his audience at a conference/meeting as he shared a “best practice” and/or creative idea that he’s developed that will help others be more effective in the classroom.

    A “best customer” from an academic’s perspective.

  11. carpe bliss says:

    This is such a fun and awesome forum and such a blessing to share the very best with others!!! The words that come to mind are heart-warming, ‘connected’, and so so so appreciated!!! I work in an education arena also and have the opportunity to work with our very fine men and women in uniform to support their educational goals in an administrative and supportive capacity. Back from deployment about a year ago, a couple of gentlemen walked into our center and indicated they were looking for me. After introducing themselves I instantly recognized their names as I had processed several of their educational documents. “We came in to meet you and say “thank-you for all your hard work, support and positive energy!” (I work long, long hours and attend to incredible detail, huge volume and demanding timeframes….) I felt so moved and melted by the genuine and thoughtful gesture… their smiles, warmth and gratitude will forever melt my soul…..not only sacrificing for our freedom but unselfishly reaching out to let me know I made a difference. Refreshing? The BEST? You BET!!!!

  12. Ocey73 says:

    I do have a “best customers ever” story.

    When I worked at a restaurant in Brewster, MA, as a waitress, I had a group of seniors (two couples that would come out to dine together once/twice a week). What a pleasure to work for them. They were always so pleasant, and requested me as their server each time they came in.

    What a lovely bunch they were. Long wait? They’d joke about it with me as I refilled their drinks and apologized. They’d ask me about my home life, and we’d share idle chit-chat and laugh over trivial things when I had the time to stop back at their table.

    Even if the wait for food was long (your server, people, has no effect on what goes on in the kitchen. As I’ve done time as a chef as well, food should get out to the customer pronto. It doesn’t happen, though, as we’d like. )

    Don’t rag on your server. He/she is (hopefully) doing his/her best to provide you with the best they can. Unfortunately, servers get hell when the kitchen doesn’t back them up fully.

  13. Christy says:

    This is different from a customer being nice specifically to me, but it was wonderful to see, nonetheless.

    When I was a cashier at a large retail chain, I waited on a woman who was out of work and whose husband was out of work. I usually don’t do this, but after I finished checking this woman out, I told her story to the next woman in line. She asked if the previous woman I had waited on was still in the store, so I pointed her out and the second woman sought her out and talked to her for a minute.

    After she had a conversation with the woman who was out of work, the other woman told me that she was looking for an administrative assistant who had experience in construction, and as it turned out, the other woman had experience as an administrative assistant in construction! I don’t know if the woman got the job, but I know that moments like that give me chills, and I think it’s so great that the second woman took the time to seek out the other woman and help her out.


  14. Kat says:

    My favorite customers are the ones who afford me the same courtesies I afford them: patience, kindness, and generally polite behavior. For example, they notice when I come to the table, they do not interrupt as I answer their questions, they allow me to follow my steps of service, and they graciously accept my advice for wine pairings instead of just ordering the pinot or chardonnay.

    However, regulars, the kind that make you smile when you see them sit in your section, who remember your name, just like you remember theirs, who take interest in you as a human being, not just the purveyor of sustenance, are absolutely the best. The ones that have cared enough to ask for my name (I do not generally volunteer it) and to remember it, who notice that I love my job and genuinely appreciate the way in which I do it, those people are the reason I go to work. These stupendous customers are probably about 20% of the total, just like the truly difficult ones, but they make it so much easier to deal with the other 80% and are always a great reminder of the reasons I’m in the service industry.

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