Customer Service – Right and Wrong

Any perceived irony is intentional

Yesterday concluded one of the best customer service experiences I’ve ever had.  Before I tell that story, however, I’m going to tell you about one of the worst.  They both happened within two weeks of one another.

My office of 3 sometimes orders lunch as a group.  Often, this happens when my wife, who is a driver for us, is delivering near a restaurant we like.  Because the office is so close to our house, she can easily drop something off on the way home.

On a particular day recently, we knew she’s be working right next door to a Chipotle and we were in the mood for burritos.  We placed our order through the Chipotle web site and waited anxiously for our lunch to come.

Our lunch was crazy late because, apparently, the restaurant was busy as hell and even though we’d ordered our lunch early, nobody had actually pulled it off of the register yet.  When my wife arrived, they told her they didn’t have an order, looked on the computer and insisted they didn’t have it and sent her away. She called the office and got the confirmation number (because we’d already paid for the order).  After a long time period in which it became apparent that the manager had no idea how to operate her own computer system, the order was located.

Through all of this – even the point at which it became clear that the screw up was their fault, the manager was unpleasant and arrogant.  When she finally found the order, instead of apologizing for her problem, she apologized to the other people in line for the fact that she had to make our order.

The order was, eventually, prepared and brought to the office.

And the entire order was wrong.  Not little things, either.  I, for instance, wanted black beans on my burrito and they gave me pinto beans.  Another person got the wrong kind of meat.  Everyone’s order was wrong.  Most of us ate little or nothing.

So we called to complain because we couldn’t go back to the store and get new food prepared.  The manager admitted that she remembered the order and told us that they were very busy over lunch so deal with it.  She made no apology and she did not offer to even give us a free bag of chips to make up for the fact that we had been provided with food we didn’t eat and it was their fault.  We told her that we wanted our money back and her response was – I shit you not – to hang up on us.

Frustrated by the manager’s complete unwillingness to give a fuck, we sent an e-mail to the corporate office for Chipotle.  We detailed the entire experience and indicated we were extremely dissatisfied and would like our money back for the improperly prepared food that – I will remind you – we didn’t eat.

Their response?


Now please understand, Chipotle is a huge company and they don’t need our business.  Every Chipotle I’ve ever entered is packed with people during lunch and dinner rush.  My writing about their shitty service could go viral and they still wouldn’t notice a dip in sales.

That isn’t stopping me from linking to their corporate web site every time I mention them in hopes that someone sees all the pingbacks and comes back here to figure out why I tagged them so many times.

Because what Chipotle did on that day was let me know that it wasn’t enough that they didn’t need my business.  They didn’t want my business.  I was, in plain point of fact, an inconvenience to them.

All of this happened, by the way, at the Shoreview Chipotle.  I won’t ever go there again and I recommend you don’t either because it seems pretty clear they don’t want you there.

So let me tell you about another business that doesn’t need my business but decided that they wanted it.

Panera is every bit as busy as Chipotle over lunch.  Mid December, I went into the Roseville Panera to pick up lunch for my office.  It was busy and I needed to get back to the office so when I checked the bag before I left, I completely missed that a sandwich was missing.

When I started unpacking all the food and realized the sandwich was gone, I checked the receipt.  Sure enough, I’d been charged for it.  I just didn’t get it.  It was their mistake.  Checking the bag is a good idea but not a requirement because it’s their job to make sure all the food is in there.

So I called the manager to tell him about it.  All I really wanted was a credit for the missing sandwich.  He immediately said he remembered me (because I go in there a lot) and told me who had served me that day and asked what the problem was.  I told him about the missing sandwich and he was extremely apologetic.  He asked me what he could do.

I was just going to ask if he could send me a card for a free sandwich (I’d paid cash so he couldn’t put a credit on my card) when he interrupted and he said “you know what?  You come here all the time.  How about I just pay for your office’s next meal?”

He promised me he’d remember and just said I should ask for him the next time I came in.

So I went back today to get lunch for my office and I asked for the manager.  He remembered me and remembered what he’d promised to do.  He comped our entire lunch and he made sure it was right.

His name is Jerry, by the way.  He’s the head manager of Panera in Rosedale.  He doesn’t need your business either.  But he deserves it.

I’m telling this story not so much because I want to stop people from using the Shoreview Chipotle (even though they should) or encourage people to patronize the Rosedale Panera (even though they should)..

I’m telling it because there’s a valuable lesson to be learned about customer service in work and in life.  If you screw up and you own it, apologize and try to make it right, people will forgive you and they will love you for it.

If you screw up and decide to tell the person who suffered as a result of your mistake to piss off, you might not go out of business but you will ensure that at least one person never says anything good about you.

And seriously Chipotle, would you rather I was saying nice things about Panera or you?

Update: Someone tweeted this blog to Chipotle and now they are talking to me.  I have to give a “good job” shout out to their social media group.  Turns out I should have used Twitter to complain.

Update #2: There was, apparently, a response to the complaint e-mail.  I’ll fill in what happened there once I get more details.  What I don’t believe ever happened was an offer to refund the money.

Update #3: The original responses from the corporate office did not include any sort of apology for the bad experience and they sent one 2 for 1 burrito card.  Not the same as giving us our money back for three burritos we didn’t eat.  Still talking with their Social media person, though. 

Final Update:  Joe, who handles Chipotle’s Twitter account, did a great job.  He not only managed to work through my misspellings (I type too fast) but he followed up on the situation and we’ve been offered our money back plus a couple of free burritos.  I’m still not going to patronize the Shoreview store but I’ll give the folks at Chipotle a lot of credit for regognizing they had a really annoyed customer and doing something about it.

As an addendum, I’m going to reiterate that my goal was to really write about the customer service experience and point out how easy it is to turn a bad experience into a good one.  Kudos to Chipotle for recognizing that.

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About Petsnakereggie

Geek, movie buff, dad, musician, comedian, atheist, liberal and writer. I also really like Taco flavored Doritos.

10 responses to “Customer Service – Right and Wrong”

  1. Erik Mason (@geekonablog) says :

    I’m totally with you on Chipotle. I love Chipotle, but there are two stores near me that I avoid like the plague. The one closest to my house always gets things right and they are very nice, the other two couldn’t care less about you. They’ve “lost” my orders in their system before, even asking me to pay again in order to let me leave with the food I had already paid for online (I didn’t and left without the food), I made sure to tell my credit card companies and they overturned the charges.

    I love Panera and have never had a problem there.

    I agree with you that customer service should be stressed here. Customers are your source of income and can influence you’re level of success. Get loyal customers and they’ll tell the world about you. Get spiteful customers and they’ll do the same, just not in a good light.

  2. Albatross says :

    Big Panera fan. Not entirely sure how they make a profit as a business – and I sure miss the Panera at University and Hennepin which apparently did not – but good customer service is definitely one way to do it.

    My worst customer experience was a couple of years ago at a Barnes & Noble in Seattle. I was dropped off by a friend and I was to be picked up by another friend, so I arrived with a backpack not overly large or overly stuffed with luggage, but a backpack, just as the store opened.

    I bought a coffee and a roll – note, I BOUGHT a coffee and roll – and browsed the bookshelves, enjoying being the only person in the store. Then a skinny woman with a Manager badge came up and asked me what I was doing in the store. “I’m browsing books,” I said, confused. Apparently that was the wrong answer? But it was what I was doing.

    Unfortunately I had to use the restroom once or twice, and being the only person in the store I had to bring my backpack in there with me, and I guess that must have been disturbing to them, because emerging from the restroom the second time a very tall fellow asked me to leave.

    To leave the store. Because I’d used the public restroom twice and brought my backpack in with me (as opposed to leaving at at table to be stolen?)

    I left, quite angry, and as I left I waved to the manager woman who apparently was too chickenshit to ask me to leave herself, and said “I’m leaving!” She followed me out of the store. “What?” she said.

    “I said ‘I’m leaving,'” I told her, “Although I have absolutely no idea why you’re throwing me out of your stupid, empty store.”

    “We have the right to serve whoever we like,” she snapped, walking back to the doors.

    “I have the right to complain to your corporate office, SANDRA,” I said, having noted her nametag.

    Like you, my letter to the corporate office resulted in absolute silence.

    No wonder those bookstores are going out of business in droves.

  3. Damon Thrift says :

    If you are ever in St Cloud, check out Bravo Burritos. There uses to be one in downtown Mpls, but it closed 10 plus years ago. I swear the people that created Chipotle ate at Bravo Burritos and totally ripped off the concept. Pick your meat, beans, hot sauce, etc, you even get chips in a bag(if it is to go). It is 100 times better then Chipotle and is a small family business. I’ve just ate there a month or so ago when I was in St Cloud, amazing food!

  4. David Skoglund says :

    My wife’s bookclub used to meet at the Barnes & Noble in Har Mar Mall in Roseville, MN. It seemed like the management did everything they could to discourage them from meeting there and spending money. They would try and reserve tables every month, but most months the management didn’t follow through on their promise. Usually they found tables, but not always.

    The final straw was the time the manager came over to their group two or three times and told them to keep it down because people around them were trying to study.

    They cared more about the high school and college kids who buy a coffee and sit there all day rather than the bookclub with a dozen people, most of whom would buy a bunch of books after their meeting.

  5. Dave DuJour says :

    “Update: Someone tweeted this blog to Chipotle and now they are talking to me. I have to give a “good job” shout out to their social media group. Turns out I should have used Twitter to complain.”

    But not always. Some companies just decide to block the people complaining to them on Twitter. As has happened to me. No acknowledgement of a screw up, no trying to fix anything, just BLOCK so they don’t see the dissenters anymore.

  6. footnotegirl says :

    I still refuse to eat at Redstone.

  7. Eric K. says :

    The CEO of my company has a theory that I think makes a lot of sense. Any contact for customer service is an opportunity; if you handle it well, you have the potential to create someone who is not just a customer but a fan, much more so than with someone who has never had a problem with your product or service, because handling a problem well is going to be more impressive to that person than never having an issue at all.

  8. E says :

    Customer service is simply something Chipotle lacks in. From my experience, it seems to me that customer service is not built into Chipotle’s foundation as they do not seem to demonstrate this important factor upon their employees as well. Let me explain my story:

    I do love Chipotle but it is such a shame to see how they respond to issues. I once ordered my usual chicken burrito, paid for it and left. The first bite i take of the burrito, it was not chicken I bit into, but a screw nail! I immediately went back and the so called manager (I later find out he lied about being a manager) of the store responded horribly and I contacted corporate headquarters. They played the role well, they apologized for the awful service from the store, etc. The representative told me they’d give mail me 14 (strange number) free burritos, but they sent me 2 or 3. I understand, beggars cannot be choosers. I wasn’t disappointed that I got 3 free burritos, but it was the principle. It seemed like Chipotle didn’t have the customers in mind when they respond to customer issues and they definitely do not follow their word. I eventually gave up on the issue and moved on.

    Like this blogger said, Chipotle definitely does not need my business. But the business world is changing and a business without great customer relationships might eventually fail. Not to mention word of mouth is strong.

  9. Erica says :

    Good and bad everywhere. I bought some used video games at Gamestop in Crystal a week ago, and one was Lego Star Wars II for the kiddo. Well I told him he could play it during nap time the next day, and we opened it and it wasn’t there. I called game stop and they were super apologetic (believed me), and replaced the game that evening and gave me a $10 gift card for my inconvenience, which I then spent on a $40 game.

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