“You know what the great thing is about owning your own business? You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
That’s what you told me this morning when your food truck arrived 10 minutes past its scheduled opening time and still hadn’t opened 10 minutes after that. That’s what you told me after I waited for you in 10-degree weather for 20 minutes, until my gloved fingers had lost all feeling. That’s what you told me when I commented to you, “You know, when it’s this cold, you really have to be here on time.”
But that wasn’t the end of it. You then lectured me about how comments like that were “hurtful.” You bitched at me about some earlier negative feedback I’d given you privately; apparently those comments were “hurtful” as well. You explained at length (while my shwarma got cold and my fingers got colder) why negative feedback about your business is hurtful: your life is just so darn hard (You have a baby! You’ve been working since 7:45 this morning! Your generator broke down! Oh, the horror!) that it’s just not fair for people to complain about your food or your service.
Do you know, Avi, what you could have said to me instead of all that? “You’re absolutely right that we should be here on time. We had some problems with the truck this morning, but of course you shouldn’t have to worry about that. I’m so sorry you had to wait in the freezing cold for 20 minutes. Please let me give you a discount on your lunch to try to make up for it just a little bit.” If you’d taken that approach, I wouldn’t be writing this letter.
The customer is always right, Avi, even when he’s wrong. And I was not wrong.
I was not wrong when I told you that your felafel are neither hot nor crunchy enough. (As I told you at the time, it’s entirely possible that other people might feel differently; I was giving you — again, privately — my own, personal opinion for you to do with as you saw fit.)
I was not wrong when I told you your french fries are soggy. (Sorry, this one is not a matter of opinion; your fries have been totally, indisputably soggy every single time I’ve bought them.)
I was not wrong when I told you that you and your crew don’t know how to put hot sauce on a wrap properly. (Amazingly, even after you claimed this morning that you had taken special care to spread the hot sauce evenly, I failed to detect a single bite of hot sauce in my entire wrap.)
I was not wrong to be annoyed when it took you three tries to charge LevelUp properly the previous time I visited the truck, the first of those three tries being a 30% overcharge you’d have gladly let stand if I hadn’t brought it to your attention.
I was not wrong to be upset about being kept waiting 20 minutes past your scheduled opening time in the freezing cold. I was not wrong to share with you the fact that I was upset.
During your tirade this morning, you asked me why people make “hurtful” comments to you about your business. While I can’t speak for other people, the reason I do it is to help the businesses I patronize improve, which benefits both them and me.
Now that you’ve made it clear to me that my feedback is not welcome, I will no longer share it with you. That will be easy, since I will no longer be patronizing (or recommending) your business.
You know what the great thing is about having an internet connection? You don’t have to remain silent when a business treats you like crap.
Another perspective. A comment from my Facebook feed:
I went to the Chubby Chickpea restaurant in Canton shortly after it opened (did it close? reopen?) and it was a miserable experience although the food was not as bad as the experience. Very little service, plastic tablecloths that were torn up, no decor. But it was cheap. I would prefer to pay a little more and have a nicer experience. My second experience was a few weeks ago when I went to find their truck near the prudential. Ten minutes after it was supposed to be there, it was not. Not even 1 hour later. I saw nothing on the web page indicating a problem or a change. The hospitality business is difficult and it takes a special person to flourish in that environment. Today, I had some time on my hands, thought about going to the truck which would have been on my way home. I then remembered my experiences and made other plans.
Cannons at 4 paces. Dawn tomorrow (6:23 AM).
My house, front yard. Everybody to get from street!
[Coffee and blintzes afterward.]
Jonathan- I just finished reading your blog entry and open letter addressed to me. You misquoted me several times, including in your powerful opening statement- which you used quotation marks for- and in every instance you used the difference between what I actually said and what you wrote to paint me as something I am not- an apathetic business owner who did not hear your complaints out or value your business. When you sent me facebook messages with honest feedback a week or so ago I took the time to respond and try to understand what had gone wrong, promising to try my best to make improvements. After you scolded my staff person (what you failed to mention in your post was that immediately after pulling into our parking spot one of my staff members came outside and asked what you’d like so that we could make your lunch before we set up for the day, as we did) I came outside myself and delivered your lunch and you scolded me as well. Your tone and choice of words, coupled with my bad morning admittedly, led to the reply which you sort of paraphrased. What you expected when you stomped your feet and gave me a hard time I think was a corporate response from what you maybe believe is nothing more than a feeling less business owner who exists to agree with every customers viewpoint. What you got was a give and take from a person (not unlike yourself) who was frustrated and didn’t like the way he was being treated. You left out the part where I told you that criticism like yours keeps me up at night, stressed with any of my shortcomings and scheming of ways to improve. That and the part about HOW MUCH I VALUE YOUR BUSINESS AND HOW SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE SAID TO ME ARE AS HURTFUL AS IF I TOLD YOU I DID NOT NEED YOUR BUSINESS, WHICH I WAS CLEAR THAT I WOULD NOT SAY AND DO NOT BELIEVE!!!! I told you that I CARE WHAT ALL OF MY CUSTOMERS THINK- WHICH I DO! I respond to every negative review I’ve ever gotten, I reply to every email with feedback, pride myself on admitting when I am wrong, work very hard to improve the way I do things every day and work with my staff to hold themselves to the same standards. After our interaction today, I spent 10 minutes talking with my staff about how poorly I handled the situation and commenting that I should not have allowed my frustration, lack of sleep (you said 7:45, I said 5:45) or stress to get the best of me. In conclusion- I can’t say I understand your need to post an open letter to me the way you did any more than I expect you to understand me being snarky with you this morning- it seems we may be a lot more alike than you let on: I was upset with how you treated me and I reacted, just as I see you were and you did. Sorry for making you feel undervalued and in the event you ever decide to soften your stance on being our customer I will try to make the fries crispier. -Sincerely, Avi.
I did not misquote you.
I never said you were apathetic, nor did I say that you did not hear my complaints out, and I don’t believe either of these things are true. You seem to be having some trouble understanding exactly what it is that upset me, which makes sense, because if you actually understood it, you probably wouldn’t have done it.
Yes, you did, that’s true, and I thought your response then was quite good. But your behavior yesterday made it clear that you held a grudge about it, since the lecture you gave me was more about my earlier feedback than it was about my commenting on your late arrival.
I didn’t mention the interaction with your staff member because, frankly, it would have made you look even worse, and I thought it was unnecessary piling on.
I didn’t “scold” either you or your staff member. I made a one-sentence comment to each of you about your late arrival. What I said for him was almost word-for-word what I said to you, and it was said in both cases in a polite tone. What I said to him and you could only be interpreted as “scolding” by people who are not as receptive to customer feedback as they claim they are.
Just to preserve accuracy, your staff member actually approached me several minutes after you pulled in, not “immediately.”
The quote with which I started this letter was, to the best of my ability, a word-for-word rendition of what you said to me. I may have put a few of the words in the wrong place in the sentence, but I assure you that it is a 100% accurate rendition of the meaning of what you said.
This sentence captures the essence of what you really feel about your customers, and it illustrates both why I chose to post my letter publicly and why I will no longer do business with your establishment.
Avi, you’re a lot younger than I am. When I was your age, I was like you in one very significant way: I was bad at hearing and reacting appropriately to criticism. I’m not perfect at it now, any more than I’m perfect at anything else, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years.
The difference between us is that I’m not the owner of a business. When you own a business, customers complain about things — customers have the right to complain about things — and how you react to those complaints reflects not only on you, but on your business as well.
If you still don’t understand why what you said to be yesterday was so egregious as to warrant a public response, and if you don’t understand why your comment on my blog was equally inappropriate, then you have a lot to learn about how to treat your customers. I recommend Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless: How to Make Customers Love You, Keep Them Coming Back and Tell Everyone They Know by Jeffery Gitomer.
Whether you said 7:45, which is what I remember, or 5:45, really doesn’t matter, because the point is that you shouldn’t have said it at all. And if you really spent 10 minutes talking with your staff about how poorly you handled the situation, then that’s the only thing you should have said here in your comment, along with an apology, rather than continuing to defend your behavior. You clearly just don’t get it.