This is a very odd story I have to share with you. It happened to me last evening when I was out trying to get "the usual" for my 11-year-old son at Taco Bell: a plain bean and cheese burrito, an caramel apple dessert and a soda.
Easy enough, right? Well, it should have been. And usually it is.
Until I walked into the local eatery to find a dozen or so people just standing there. No one was eating. They were just standing or sitting.
The man behind the counter promptly told me that they were "a little backed up" and that it would be TWENTY MINUTES before they could assist me. HUH??
TWENTY MINUTES?? I don't think I have ever spent twenty minutes in a fast food joint, with ALL 6 kids, lingering and all, EVER!!
And they were telling me it would be twenty minutes just to be served?? Why, even without training, I could probably bang out a dozen or so soft tacos myself (after years of careful observation of workers making them).
What could possibly take them that long?? At a fast food place?? And at a Taco Bell EXPRESS on top of it all??
I didn't ask. But I certainly didn't stick around like everyone else. Not to sound elitist or anything, but I had better things to do than sit around and wait for a fast food joint to get their act together. The tacos are good. But not THAT good. I have eaten at GOURMET Mexican restaurants that serve me in less time than that.
So I left. And I fumed in the car all the way home.
I don't care if the kitchen had a fire, if an employee lost a hairpiece in the guacamole, or if Jimmy Hoffa was found in the freezer.
You don't tell customers to wait twenty stinking minutes to be served. You turn your OPEN sign to the CLOSED position, apologize generously to the customers, and close your doors until you figure out what the problem is. And then you solve it as quickly as possible before your customers decide they like the hamburgers next door better than your tacos. On top of that, I personally would have given each customer a gift certificate to come back when the situation was remedied.
But instead, they let me and others walk out. Bad idea. Bad public relations. Bad business sense.
I looked the location up in the phone book. No listing. Then at the company's corporate website. Still no location.
I started feeling like I was in a junk food Twilight Zone. What if this location existed only in the confines of my imagination? What if I was in the Matrix? What if super intelligent bugs stuck probes in my brain and the whole thing never happened?
So I called the corporate customer service number and complained. The lady was very nice and patient in hearing my story. They got my address and are mailing me a coupon for a free menu item.
They handled it the way the franchise itself SHOULD have...with humility, apologies, and an attempt to keep my business.
My family and I love Taco Bell too much to never go there again. And it doesn't make sense to punish another franchise owner for the faults of another. But one thing is for sure, I will never, EVER go back to the one I went to last night. I don't care that the next closest one is twice as far. I would drive to another county before giving them another dime of my business.
Too bad I was one of the only ones to walk out and say enough is enough. It's because of all the customers that sat and waited that this sort of thing will just keep on happening.
It may seem silly to get worked up over a two dollar fast food meal. But it's bigger than that. It's not about a free certificate being mailed out tomorrow morning.
It's about being treated with respect, courtesy, and promptness. If a business isn't willing to grant you these things, there is always somebody else who will.
At least the corporate side of things figured that out.