A lot of work for ten bucks

IHOP -- Home of Mindless DronesDear IHOP,
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 understand there’s a citrus shortage in California.

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.

  1. Open the cash register.
  2. Remove a $10 bill.
  3. Hand me the $10 bill.
  4. Apologize.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.”
  2. She said she’s have to call the corporate office.
  3. She made me sit and wait while she got the corporate office on the phone.
  4. She talked to the corporate office for a little while.
  5. 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.
  6. She asked me for my phone number.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. She argued with me when I said that was sort of ridiculous.
  10. 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.
  11. She never apologized.
  12. She blamed everything on “the way they do it here”.
  13. When I described the alternative method of handling the situation (above) she just gave me a blank stare.
  14. 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.

2006-11-09: 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.
2024-01-21: Broken links in this post have been removed and/or updated.

There are 7 comments on this post

  1. gosh you seem to be having a lot of food-related issues! this after your grocery issue i am beginning to see a trend here. 🙂
    this reminds me of the time i was in the uk and due to some screwup the bus that was supposed to ferry me from london to nottingham never turned up. this was on freezing winter night and i was stranded along a motorway in sticksville. thankfully there was a motel just behind the service station. the lady in the bus co. who attended my call that night suggested that i write in to them and asked for reimbursement for the motel charges. that’s what i did and they promptly debitted the money to my credit card. well i guess i was luckier than you.

  2. Sounds like you were wearing your SUNGLASSES again, David.

  3. huzzah to IHOP for doing the right thing — finally. it makes me nuts that it takes so much complaining and vigilance as a consumer to get what should be simple human courtesy.

  4. I hear your pain. I went to a large electronic retailer that will remain nameless, because they had a printer advertised for under $40. Normally, I wouldn’t do business with this particular chain, but I was doing my father in law a favor, as his printer was DOA.

    When I got there, I asked for the printer in question, by model number. They handed it to me, asked me if I needed ink, cables, or the extended warranty. I politely said no thanks and was allowed to go to the cash.

    I gave the person at the cash my credit card and wasn’t paying full attention when he told me the total. After I walked away and looked at the receipt, I saw that they had charged me an additional $7.

    Not a big deal, but definitely not the price I had planned on spending. I went to the customer service desk (because the cashier had disappeared in the 15 seconds it took me to look at the register tape). The CSR was polite and said she could take care of the misunderstandimg.

    After hitting a few keys on her computer, she told me that I had not purchased the advertised printer. I pointed to the model number in the ad and on the box, demonstrating that the numbers were shockingly identical. She replied that the code for the printer in the flyer was different from the printer I had bought and that they were out of stock for the advertised printer. Not only out of stock, but not getting any new stock of this mystery model.

    I told her that this was a “bait and switch” tactic. The pretty thing didn’t understand what that meant (or pretended not to), so I explained that their flyer was misleading and that because her precious codes didn’t match up, they were taking an extra $7 from unsuspecting customers.

    “There’s nothing I can do” was the reply. I explained that she could refund me for the $7 overcharge due to their misleading ad, which would create good will and maybe get me to return. “There’s nothing I can do” she was obviously on some kind of loop.

    I told her to refund my purchase, which, fortunately she did without incident, then she told me to have a nice day. I told her that trying to fleece me for an extra $7 prevented that from being possible.

    “There’s nothing I can do…”

    She’s probably still stuck in that loop 24 hours later.

  5. That’s a theme that seems to be more and more prevalent nowadays – companies nickel and dime-ing customers by “mistake” (whether on purpose or not), then hiding behind “alleged” polices, leaving customers out in the cold. Most people will think “It’s just ten bucks, why even bother?”

    Now, imagine they do that to just one person a day. That’s $3,650 extra “profit.”

    Now, imagine they do that to five people a day…

    I’m not saying that every company does this, but again, I seem to be seeing that more and more. Why do they do that? Because they can.

  6. I’ve had extremely poor service at IHOP in Downey,CA and NO response to a letter sent to the home office in Glendale, CA. After the 2nd time that I sent the letter with the note that I still had not been contacted, some “guy” called and left a message on my answer machine. He mumbled I thought this was all taken care of call me at “garble, garble, garble”. He talked low and mumbled that I could barely make out that it was IHOP calling. A few minutes after that message there was another one, I think from the local manager that spoke so fast that I couldn’t get anything from his message.

    I wrote back to the home office quite some time ago, but still have not heard a word.

    The initial problem? A large “wad” of hair in one ladies crepes, charged for more cups of coffee than we had in the party, while also being charged for milk, and tea that we had, it took 8 of us nearly three hours to order, receive our food with no coffee until we reminded the waitress and then to get the bill straightened out (3 rerings!) and NO apology for the hair ball in the food! We had to pull tables together ourselves! The waitress expected us to crowd together at a table for 4 and the restaurant was not busy at the time.

    This was a new place in our town, but had been open long enough that the kinks should have been worked out by the time we were there.

  7. On Sunday 11/23/08 we visited IHOP at 4.30 pm. There was just one other table and they were almost finished. The waitress- young, slim and blonde- took our order. We ordered an Ice cream sundae , Hot Chocolate and Tilapia Hollandaise. We also ordered a Coke and a Lemonade. The drinks were served , the order was taken and she informed us that they rarely had ice cream at that location so she would check and see if there was any ice cream at all for the sundae. She returned and said that they had enough Ice cream for the sundae. I asked her what soup I could have with my Entree and was told that they had no soup and instead I could have a salad. After 20 mins. we wanted refills for the Coke and Lemonade but our waitress seemed to have disappeared. I then saw her in the pick-up area taking lettuce out of a container and placing it on a plate with her bare hands. She was also standing in stagnant water , about 1/2 inch in depth . That did it. I went up to her and told her to cancel the order, which invoked a shriek from her, and left a few $$ on the table for the drinks. I have frequented IHOP for almost 20 years in different cities and states and have never had an experience like this. Furthermore, the restaurant was practically empty so I cannot understand what our waitress was doing when she disappeared. It certainly wasn’t to pick up orders for any other customers.

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