May 30th, 2009 and it was approximately 97 degrees outside by 2PM. I decided I needed to upgrade my wardrobe. So, I hopped in my car (which has leather seats) and set out to the Outlet Mall. But first I had to stop at the Sonic Drive-In up the street for my favorite Lemon-Lime Slush. This particular Sonic has an actual drive-thru, and I love it. I hate having to stop and sit for one, quick item.
I tell the box I want a “Large, Lemon, Lime Slush please”. She sounded a little disappointed that I didn’t want to upgrade to the Route 44 for “An additional ten cents?” I am not that person who needs 10 more ounces simply because it’s a good deal. I said, “No thanks, just a large.”
I pull to the window and I get my drink. Before pulling away I ask, “May I have a couple of napkins please.”“Sure”, says the young man who seems to be a bit put off that I would need a napkin for one drink (I would be sipping in a moving vehicle).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not an obsessive-compulsive who needs to dab my face after every sip of drink. I am just a woman who purchases icy cold drinks when the temperature goes past 70 degrees. I’m dabbing drink and sweat all at the same time. I need a napkin. This wouldn’t even be an issue if it weren’t consistent.
Just two weeks ago I called the Sonic customer service line to ask if they had a policy against giving napkins because I ALWAYS have to ask for napkins. The store I called to report was this same sonic, up the street from my home. But it’s not just that one Sonic. It wasn’t the first time I’ve called in to report this exact same issue on various Sonics throughout Texas over the course of TEN YEARS. And it’s not just an issue with the napkins.
Again, I love the lemon-lime slush. I try to stay away from a lot of sugar so I once asked for a sugar-free Lemon-Lime slush. According to the person, who speaks through the box, the sugar is already in the slush part of the drink, so it can’t be eliminated. Not a major issue. But recently I have been getting lemon-lime slushes and no one squeezes the lemons or the limes anymore. So technically I’m purchasing sugar water with wedges of lemons and limes in the bottom of the cup. Over the course of years of me enjoying this frosty delight somebody was squeezing the lemons and the limes. Is there an issue with carpal tunnel at the Sonic restaurants? I just got a neat little citrus squeezing apparatus from Minyard’s for four bucks. Surely Sonic can help their staff and provide them with something that would help them with this minor task.
So, what now? Well, my first step has been to get that cute little apparatus that will extract juice from lemons and limes and a 32 oz travel cup with straw. My refrigerator does crushed ice so I can make my own slush from home. I’ll miss happy hour at Sonic Drive-In. But it’s not worth the frustration. Sonics’ are franchised and since the exact same thing keeps happening repeatedly over the course of years, I am inclined to believe they do not care and will not change this issue. Therefore I can no longer get my icy summer treat from Sonic.
When you simply complain to family and friends about an issue with an establishment then you should expect that nothing will change. But if you call a corporate office and bring it to the attention of management then not only do you expect something to change, you expect it to change immediately.
Seriously. Giving someone a napkin should not be a major task?
I may be one of few American’s who are not perplexed that many of our major companies are going away. Either they’re being sold to people who have no concept of customer service (the one thing that guarantees a loyal customer base) or those buying these companies are purposely trying to kill organizations that were built on loyal and faithful clientele.
Let’s take Saturn for instance.
I bought my first Saturn in 1996. It was a brand new SL, gold with no frills. I needed a car, not a statement piece. It was a fiercely loyal and reliable car. I got nearly 300,000 miles within 11 years before my baby gave up the ghost. When I purchased my car in 1996 Saturn was fairly new and they had the best customer service of any other car company.
The Saturn ideology was based on a father wanting his daughter to be able to purchase a car on her own without getting ripped off. Therefore when a Saturn was purchased the dealership would take a picture of the new owner and post it on the customer satisfaction board with comments from the customer. I received a key chain as a gift for getting my Saturn and a t-shirt (free advertising for them). One week after getting my Saturn I got a gift box filled with chocolate chip cookies. Two months later I got a letter from the factory in Tennessee asking me if I still liked my Saturn. And with all of that consistent follow up and nurturing I had no problem taking my car to the dealership for service and repairs (which are always pricier than just taking them to the neighborhood mechanic).
I retired my 1996 Saturn in 2007. To me it was a no-brainer that I would purchase another Saturn. What a mistake! Not only was the customer service horrible, the guy selling me the car got an attitude when I wouldn’t buy and sell some electricity plan he was peddling. Not to mention that this jackass kept trying to sway me from a 5 speed because he didn’t think I could drive one (not even taking time to realize the car I was trading in had manual transmission). When I talked with the manager he made it seem as if I should have been happy they were even talking to me.
No, I did not receive a key chain, cookies or a follow up letter with this new Saturn. And no, I no longer take my car to the dealership for service. Thankfully enough Saturn mechanics now own their own shops and can help me with the maintenance of my car.
But keep in mind that Saturn is now owned by GM and I guess GM is not into building relationships with their customers. And that’s understandable. Their number one job is to sell cars – by any means necessary. And how sad that they are now talking about bankruptcy and are considering selling off the Saturn brand. Hopefully Saturn will revisit their original strategic plan and realize what once had them on top and will inspire them to bring that sort of service back!
And then there’s Walmart . . . I think Walmart bases their work ethic on low prices and evil workers. No, that’s not a fair statement. It’s not all who work at Walmart who have never been trained in customer service. I’ve had some very good conversations with warm hearted clerks at Walmart and have gotten great customer service. But it only takes one.
A couple of weeks ago as I was leaving Wally World with my paid pack of 36 rolls of toilet tissue in my hand, I looked at the young lady at the exit and said, “Goodbye“. She was engulfed in a conversation with a young man who was talking to her about the bible. As I stepped out of the archway with my paid item in my hand she yells, “Huh uh. Come back here before I cuss you out! You better show me yo receipt” I stopped in my tracks and looked around to see who was causing this type of conflict in this fine establishment. “Yea, you!” she yelled looking right in my eyes. I took a breath, and realized that this young lady who had been having a discussion about the bible with her friend, who had obviously not been taught any social graces by her employer or mother, was indeed doing her job and was talking at me.
I said, “Oh, so you’ve started checking bags like Sam’s Club”. “Naw, we just got ta check em if they ain’t in a bag.” “Okay, thank you” is all I could say; especially knowing that most of her persona was not her fault.
Now, let’s go back to my trip to the outlet mall.
First, I hate shopping at ANY store on a Saturday. Some of the most horrific issues that take place during Saturday outings are due more to rude customers than service providers. Unfortunately that was not the issue today.
The Grapevine Mills Outlet Mall is a fantastic place to shop when you’re on a budget. It is about 20 minutes from Dallas and about 45 from Fort Worth. The deals alone make it worth the drive.
I am dedicated to two specific stores at this outlet mall – J C Penney’s and Burlington Coat Factory – slipper’s for $6, earrings for $2, shoes for $14 and purses galore! These two stores are right beside each other. I always find things in my size and rarely spend over $100 for up to 15 items.
Today I walked into J C Penney and did my preliminary scan of items. They had really cute dresses for less than $20. Since my objective was to get a dress today I got really excited seeing that JCP had more than a few in my size. But, I’m a sensible shopper. I had to go to Burlington before making a purchase because I didn’t want to spend money on dresses knowing I have an ever so slight shoe fetish, and Burlington always have great deals on really cute shoes.
I get into Burlington and thankfully it was not crowed. Although the shelf I needed to get to, with the specific shoes on it I wanted, was being blocked by a lady, her daughter, her son-in-law, a niece and a wheelchair. They seemed like nice people so I just said, “Excuse me” and shared the isle. The problem surfaced when they “finally” got help from a store clerk. This clerk never acknowledged that I was on that same isle. She furiously searched for shoes for this family, all but pushing me out of the isle. Not once did she say “excuse me” nor did she look up to ask if I needed help also – even though I had been standing there the entire time with a shoe in my hand trying to find a match.
Once this person, who was obviously on Burlington’s payroll, was told by the family she was helping that they no longer needed her help, she did not stop searching in the area I needed to get to. So I said, “Excuse me. May I switch sides with you?” She, in a very stern voice said, “Go ahead!” Then she stomped out of the isle and back to the front of the store.
I have nothing but sympathy for retail workers. One of my first jobs out of high school was with my favorite J C Penney. 8 hours on your feet dealing with customers, managers and internal issues can wear you out. But none of that should change the fact that you have a job to do which requires you to deal with each person on an individual basis.
After my scenario with the lady by the shoes I decided to bring the issue to the manager’s attention. I realize many issues are not resolved because no one ever brings them to the attention of management. Well, due to the fact that she was the on duty manager I felt it was a moot issue to even try to address it with her. After all, how far would the matter go telling it to the person in charge who happens to be the problem?
Sure, our economic climate is declining. Teenagers are now competing with people the age of their grandparents for jobs, people who thought they would be retired are back in the job pool and no one is making the income they had anticipated they would be by whatever age they had gauged making their first million. But if you work a job that promotes itself as being a customer service leader, you must service the customer. Yes, you have a right to refuse service to anyone. But might I suggest you exercise that right toward belligerent and vulgar customers.
Consistently asking for napkins means your staff is not thinking. I understand that everyone is trying to conserve money. But a restaurant not giving a (at the very least one) napkin makes absolutely no sense. You’re serving food and drinks. A napkin should be a standard item handed to the customer.
I could go on for days discussing bad customer service. But what I would like to do is ask everyone who reads this to start paying closer attention to your dealings with those who are in the business of customer service. Don’t just get an attitude and start criticizing service providers. Check yourself first. Did you arrive at the drive-thru with an attitude because the kids are in the back seat working on your nerves? Do you always say “please” and “thank you“? Do you wait patiently when you see the salesperson has been overwhelmed by the crowd trying to get that great deal they saw in the paper? Or do you instigate conflict because you think those who work in the services industry are beneath you?
Let’s everyone check ourselves and immolate the attitude we want in return. If our good vibes are not reciprocated then report it to the powers that be. If nothing is done once the issue has been sent to the top tier of that organization then you need to start seeking out a venue that would be glad to receive your money for their goods and services.
Last note, would everyone please contact Sonic (if they are in your area and you patronize them) and ask them to send napkins to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We have entirely too many potholes to have drinks in our cars and not get napkins with our order!!!!