At the end of September I visited your brand new Marina Del Rey location with several of my co-workers. Everyone in my office had been excited for months while we waited for you to open. When you decided last year to demolish the friendly, inexpensive, personal, small-town bagel shop that we all knew and loved, we were very sad. But we were glad when we learned that an IHOP — a friendly, inexpensive, personal, small-town restaurant — was taking its place.
I ordered a big breakfast even though it was my lunch break. We all did. Terrific eggs, two pancakes smothered in strawberries, bacon, ham, hash browns. So good. I thought that $11.94 was a lot to pay for breakfast and coffee and an orange juice, but I understand that you have to charge $3.00 for a glass of orange juice because oranges are so hard to get here in southern California. I left a $3.06 tip because I like nice round numbers and the service was pretty good.
Imagine my surprise when I connected to my bank to synchronize Microsoft Money that night and realized I was charged $25.00 instead! Sure, I suppose it could have been a typo, but I’m guessing that Hector the waiter pocketed that extra ten-spot with glee. My penmanship isn’t brilliant, but I’m fairly certain that anyone can tell the difference between my 1s and my 2s. I was a little bit bothered, but not irate.
When I called the store a manager acted annoyed and said I needed to bring my checking statement and my copy of my receipt and she’d return my $10. Okay. I could handle that. I’d have to remember to save my receipt, and remember to visit you when my bank statement arrived, but I could deal with that. Again, I was a little bit bothered, but not irate.
So my bank statement came on Tuesday. I dutifully brought it with me to the office and then walked over to your restaurant after work. The fact that you don’t have a hostess is only mildly annoying. It’s not a big place. Letting the first available waiter help visitors is fine. I can even — sort of — understand that a waiter wouldn’t be qualified to handle helping me. That’s what managers do. So I waited for a manager. I was a little bit bothered, but not irate.
When the manager finally met with me, I thought my situation was fairly straightforward. I had my copy of my receipt which showed that I had only intended to tip $3.06 and not $13.06. I had my bank statement which clearly showed that I was charged $25.00 instead of $15.00. The dates matched.
This is what you should have done.
- Open the cash register.
- Remove a $10 bill.
- Hand me the $10 bill.
- Offer me a free meal or a doughnut or even a cup of coffee.
That would have been excellent customer service. I would have gone from a little bit bothered to incredibly happy in an instant. I would have written about what a great restaurant you are.
This is what you did instead:
- The manager told me that I had waited too long to bring it to their attention. When I said, “But I called and you said to return when my bank statement arrived,” she said, “Yes, but now it’s been more than 30 days so we can’t credit your debit card.”
- She said she’s have to call the corporate office.
- She made me sit and wait while she got the corporate office on the phone.
- She talked to the corporate office for a little while.
- She told me she’d need to make a photocopy of my bank statement and my receipt. I am not totally paranoid about “identity theft” so I didn’t have a problem with letting her do that. I don’t know why she needed a copy of my receipt since, y’know, it was generated from your computers, but whatever.
- She asked me for my phone number.
- She made me sit there for a full ten minutes while she disappeared into the back office and, presumably, learned how to use the copy machine.
- She finally returned and told me that the corporate office would call me “in a few days” and then mail me a check for $10.
- She argued with me when I said that was sort of ridiculous.
- She acted the entire time as if I was trying to scam IHOP out of $10, even though I’ve eaten there 10 times since you opened two months ago and have graciously tipped her specifically several times and she recognized me when I walked into the restaurant.
- She never apologized.
- She blamed everything on “the way they do it here”.
- When I described the alternative method of handling the situation (above) she just gave me a blank stare.
- She allowed me to leave very irate.
Which way do you think would have been better for both of us, IHOP? The manager could have just handled it so quickly and so well. If you can’t trust her, then the person in the corporate office could have said, “Just give him $10 and we’ll handle it later.” There were so many opportunities to make me happy. You failed at all of them. Just make me happy. I am your loyal customer.
Or at least I would have been.
Update: The store manager called me this afternoon. She apologized for my troubles, told me that the “better” resolution that I had explained to the night manager was how the situation should have been handled, and told me that if I walked over there she would just give me the $10. So I walked over there and she did. Kudos to the store manager.
New comments are disabled on this post.