Friday, January 1, 2010

American Customer Service?

Ah, we used to long for it, especially when living in Germany, where customer service is "take it or leave it" for the most part. However, customer "service" has deteriorated here, and people are just accepting it without question. Several examples come to mind from just the past couple of weeks. Watch out, I say!

Example #1: My neighbor and I went to our favorite local restaurant, Shorty's, for supper and took seats at the bar instead of a table as we often do. The bartender was not there, but a cook from the kitchen was getting himself a soda. He said, "Chris (the bartender) is out back taking a personal phone call. He'll be here in little while." Then he went back to the kitchen. Patsy and I just looked dumbfounded and then started to laugh. Since when is it okay to be taking a personal phone call instead of waiting on customers? We don't think Shorty (if he exists) would like that.

Example #2: I flew on Delta Airlines from Atlanta to Orlando in December. It's a direct flight of about an hour and a half. As usual, it was completely full. I dozed off, and when I awoke, I asked my seatmates if they had come around with beverages. They said they hadn't. Then we began to descend for landing. An announcement came over the PA: "We are sorry that we were not able to offer you a beverage service on the flight. We hope you get one the next time you fly Delta." Like it's a lottery or something? This, by the way, after you have to check yourself in, print your own boarding pass, and carry your luggage to the screener. What next, bring your bag to the plane and throw it on?

Example #3: Very recently, my family and I stopped at a McDonald's for a quick lunch. We got four sandwiches, some fries to share, and four soft drinks. It was a self-service soft drink fountain. We quickly found out that the carbonation was not working for any of the soft drinks. An employee assured us that it was being fixed quickly. However, that did not happen (I think they had no re-fills of CO2), and we were eating lunch without any drinks while we had paid for four. Much to our surprise, the staff continued to sell soft drinks (or empty cups, anyway) in spite of the non-functioning machine. Apparently, people were just okay with drinking flat Cokes. My family discussed it. I thought that they should offer us another drink in place of the flat soda. My daughter said, "Go for it, mom!" I took their orders and went to the counter and said, "We've paid for four soft drinks and your soda machine isn't working. Would you be willing to substitute other drinks for us?" The manager quickly agreed and they gave us a shake, two iced mochas, and a hot chocolate. "But this is great service!" you might say. The point is, we were the only ones who received this, and only because I asked. The continued to sell flat sodas to everyone else without even a warning. Ha!

Watch out, I say. American service isn't what it used to be.


  1. Ruth Callahan:

    My "fave" incident regarding "service," was the pick-up window at Little Caesar's when the whole kitchen/management staff had a fave tune come on the music system & broke into DISCO CENTRAL....while three of us stood waiting for carry-out orders! Dance! Dance! Dance!

  2. Jamie Miles
    Welcome Home! To the land of 24 hours, abundance and entitlement. we know...a land of freedom and opportunity. Was a culture shock for me too...and I wasn't there a 1/4 of the time you were.

  3. I read your blog on that topic, and I am not surprised at all. It has all "gone to Hell in a handbasket."
    No one, not any age, cares about the customer any more. I've taken to writing management, and am getting ready to send one to Delta/NW and the Swiss Agency that evaluates their service. The seats are miserably narrow on transatlantic flights and too close to each other. It took my feet and legs (up above my knees) three days to lose the severe swelling because the seats were so cramped. It's awful. I just detest flying now. And then there's all that "security" to boot.

    Raise Hell and don't take it sitting down!!

    Do you think it is cultural or generational? Personal calls, good grief!!

  4. I'm afraid you haven't seen anything yet. It certainly isn't getting any better, is it? Makes me happy I don't have to recruit and hire (and fire?) employees.... and that I can't get blamed for not teaching them those necessary skills... oh wait, are they necessary or just me remembering the "way it used to be? (BP)

  5. trust me, I would have asked for the soda replacements too! (in a nice but firm way) (JF)

  6. Oh, Maryellen, you have hit the proverbial "nail on the head" with this one. Tom and I often say that it is good that we are retired because we spend a portion of each day on the phone trying to straighten out something that incompetent folks have done to our orders/accounts/etc. The worst so far is Medicare which you will have the pleasure of experiencing one of these days. We often wonder now what people who work do without the time for the calls or what people who aren't very well educated do. One of the reasons for retirement is to enjoy life with fewer hassles. Too bad it isn't true! (MCS)

  7. Hey, where is that "glass-half-full" attitude that is supposed to come with the serenity of retirememt? At least you have heat and electricity, which was not always the case...

  8. I thought the one at McDonald's was amazing, and I mean that in a good way. I mean, as long as you got what you wanted, what more could you say?