Sunday August 25, 2019
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Sunday August 25, 2019
Posted: Apr 21, 2015

The bad (and good) of customer expectations

Travel Talk

As Linda and I traveled the state over the last four years for our Travelin Maine(rs) column published every Thursday in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, I have often asked inn and restaurant owners and managers for stories about their customers from hell. Everyone gets those from time to time. Some of the stories are hilarious.

But recently, I didn’t have to ask, because we saw this firsthand and close up.

A young couple took the table next to us at a very nice restaurant. When the server — an experienced, knowledgeable, and personable guy — shortly after delivering their menus, returned for their order, the guy lit into him, saying he would like to have the salmon but chefs never cooked fish the way he wanted. “They always serve it raw,” he said in an angry voice.

I knew right off that this guy was determined to be unhappy with his meal, and nothing they did would satisfy him. I turned out to be right.

The server calmly and professionally explained how the chefs procure, treat, and cook their fish, and told the customer he might be happier selecting another entre’. The customer grabbed the menu off the table and nearly shouted, “Give me a few minutes.”

During those few minutes, the server talked with the chef, and when he returned to the couple’s table, told them the chef would be willing to cook the salmon the way the guy specified. So the guy ordered the salmon. Turned out to be a bad mistake.

As the manager was visiting with us, the guy banged his fist on the table so hard that the manager jumped, grabbed his dish with the salmon, jumped up, rushed over to where the server was standing with a group of staff members, grabbed him roughly by the arm, shoved the dish at him, and yelled at him. The server was visibly shaken. While the guy was returning to his seat, the manager went over to confer with the server to find out what that was all about, and then went to the couple’s table.

The manager, in a remarkably courteous and soft voice, explained that he could not have customers manhandling the staff, and that the couple would have to leave. The guy stomped out, visibly angry, and I felt very bad for the girl. She was clearly distressed.

A better result

While it is very important that a customer’s expectations are met, you cannot always blame the inn or restaurant for failing to do that. One of my favorite stories, one that turned out very well, occurred on an island off the coast near Rockland.

Apparently the customers had made their reservation online and done no research. When they got off the ferry, the lady was all dolled up and wearing high heels. Her husband was carrying a bag of golf clubs and two tennis rackets. The island has no golf course or tennis courts, and you’d have a very hard time walking around there in high heels. Nor was there any place that requires dressing up.

The owner of the inn, who was there to pick up the customers and transport them and their luggage in his truck to the inn, kindly explained the situation and suggested the customers might have a more enjoyable vacation at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.

They agreed and he called the Samoset, made their reservation for them, and put them right back on the ferry!


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