Nobody’s Listening

So I go to White Castle and order hamburgers with no ketchup. Hanging on my every word, the sales clerk types in, “No Pickle.”

My wife wants a particular kind of Vitamin B syrup. Our local health food store is out of it. So she phones another store and reads the specifications, and the clerk responds with a chirpy, “We’ve got it right here!” Ten miles and forty-five minutes later, we discover that “it” was not “it” after all, but another product entirely different from the one my wife requested. We had to take it back.

We order Chinese food. Chicken dumplings. The restaurant we order from every week makes nice chicken dumplings, nice and light. I bring home the order and we’ve got pork dumplings. Heavy pork dumplings.

Italian restaurant. My wife orders a single order of spaghetti with only a little bit of sauce. The guy who takes the order interprets that to mean a ton of spaghetti drowning in thick glops of sauce.

There you have it: all within a single week, four different businesses, and all four of them getting the order wrong. Whether you tell them what you want face-to-face or over the phone, they simply aren’t listening. The failure rate in this sample is 100%. If we had tried to place four more orders with four more businesses, I wonder if even one of them would have bothered to get it right.

Why is no one listening? How did “The customer is always right” morph into “The customer can go cly himself”? And how does anyone stay in business, with that attitude?

7 comments on “Nobody’s Listening

  1. It would be sad if this was an isolated incident. But of course it is happening many places. Here in southeast New Mexico its much the same. And at the root of it is an even more serious problem – that people today expect to work with such inaccuracy and bad attitudes and get paid and we the customers are just something that’s an unfortunate side detail to their more important parts of their working day – staying in touch with their friends by phone, texts, email, Facebook, etc. 30 years ago a manager of a fast food place taught the staff that the attention to the customer was first on their list of duties – or they would not work there long. Now the managers are often not even educated about such and have to put up with employees which fall in the categories of bad or worse – and with no alternatives, you choose the lesser of the two evils.
    I have tried seriously to reward those folks that take the time to get an order right, to handle any mistakes with proper attention and such. They are getting more and more rare. I taught some classes how to use software I had written over 2 decades back and told them this. That today, when many companies offer the same basic items and service, the things that often set you apart from the crowd are how you handle mistakes. This is more true today. I went to a fast food place recently and ordered a diet coke – and as they had been having a fair record of success, I did not taste it before pulling away. Well of course it was not diet – and I circled back into the drive through line and politely explained to the intercom person what had happened and that I wised to replace it with what I had actually ordered. They said to pull to the window and they would fix it. They did not sound happy. I waited through several more cars worth of the line to get to the window where a person with a obvious “I am having a bad day and have a chip on my shoulder” attitude says “what happened ?” So I explained it again, and he looked at me like “so?” I again requested the diet drink to replace the incorrect one, explaining that I suffer from headaches if I drink a sugar based drink. Grumpy took the incorrect drink and dumped it in the trash with an overly dramatic flourish and made a new one in a new cup and shoved it to me, then closed the window. No “thank you” or “come again” was heard. No ” we’re sorry – nothing but the whole feeling that I must have really had lots of gall to come back and try to get it as I had ordered it.
    Other places the person is on the phone or texting while handing you your order. If you have to ask for ketchup or a salad dressing they look at you like “Gee whiz man, can’t you see I am busy chatting with my girlfriend !”
    Have we as parents failed to educate people to see that taking pride in doing your job is important? To show them simple politeness in dealing with strangers? One of the more important Christian principles is to share and to make strangers welcome, to offer water or refreshment and food and even lodging to those we encounter if needed. Maybe by turning away from others in our own lives we have sent the message to children that you don’t have to worry about offending someone at the food places, workplaces, and on the streets and highways? If so – how can we best set an example at this late date to try to reverse this trend?

    1. Thanks, Mike, very well said.
      After what I’ve seen in various classrooms, workers’ slovenliness and bad attitudes really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

  2. Doesn’t happen to often but it does get annoying.

    I went to a place and ordered a lunch from a place known to serve SUPER fast, often in under 2 minutes. After 15 minutes I went up and said where’s my order? The girl didn’t know.

    Ordered special tea from an upscale restaurant and the guy said yes, it never came. My brother ordered chocolate ice cream and got vanilla instead.

    We went to bakery counter and he was ordering and the girl walked away, apparently she didn’t hear him order.

    I joked with him and said what kind of place is this? They get your ice cream order wrong, they can’t hear? He let out a big laugh.

  3. Things aren’t much different these days. My daughter and I went to a nice local restaurant for lunch. Not a chain. A nice family restaurant. A waiter came to our table and took our order. We waited. Many other customers, some of them having arrived after us, were served, Finally, we called another waiter over to our table to inquire about our order. Turns out he had left and gone home without submitting our order or alerting another server. Good customer service – the kind that actually takes into account the customer – has all but disappeared.

  4. Now, now. It’s participation that counts! They participated in school and got nifty stickers because they tried. So, what do you expect, they tried during school so they shouldn’t have to try now that they are grown up. They are all awesome and they even have stickers to prove it, given to them by their teachers, so it must be true. 🙂

    Besides that, caring about chocolate vs vanilla ice cream is racist and discriminatory, are thing with not wanting too much spaghetti sauce, chicken in dumplings instead of pork on no ketchup on a White (as in privilege) Castle (castles are another sign of privilege) hamburger. 🙂

    My point is simple; people have been educated not to care and they have a million excuses for not caring because of having been trained to be self-centered. There are, to be certain, some good people out there, even among the younger generation, but the preponderance seems to be tilting in the direction of poor service and indifference.

    I see the same thing in many places. The local businesses are staffed by people that don’t care. The convenience store where I buy lunch has had some real winners behind the counter, including a fellow who spoke in a basso profundo voice, except when he rang people up, when he’d go into a high-pitched, sing-song voice that made me lose my appetite.

    If, somehow, these aren’t the Last Days, I truly pity those coming behind my generation which will have to deal with a world where these are the world leaders.

  5. I used to check the bag when I bought take out but it is such a hassle when there are cars behind you waiting that I just now cross my fingers and head for home. Fortunately, all the fast foods places we use are close to our house. Also, when I go to the grocery store I never choose the young cashiers – no personality. I’ll take the 70 year old grandma any day!

Leave a Reply