Everything about Friendly’s is bad

By | September 10, 2017

Below is the letter which I just sent to Friendly’s through their web site.

At around 11:00am on September 10, 2017, my son and I visited the Friendly’s restaurant in Watertown, Massachusetts for ice cream. I can say without exaggeration that every single aspect of our visit, from start to finish, was unpleasant.

Because our experience was so incredibly terrible, I’m going to tell you every single thing that was wrong. Although some of them are minor in comparison to the others, it’s necessary for me to include all of them to give you a true understanding of just how thoroughly awful it was.

We arrived on our bicycles, only to discover that there is no bicycle rack anywhere in the vicinity of the restaurant. What kind of ice cream shop doesn’t have a bicycle rack? Is kids biking to the ice cream shop in the summer no longer a thing that people do?

After locking our bikes to the nearest rack 150 yards away, we walked back to the restaurant, entered, and went to sit down at the ice cream counter. At this point we observed that:

  • Although no one was sitting at the counter, there was trash on it.
  • One of the counter stools was missing its seat, i.e., all that remained of the stool was its post.
  • Another of the counter stools was missing its footrest.

I.e., the facilities at the restaurant are not in good repair.

We were not greeted or offered menus; we had to ask a passing employee for them. She gave us a single menu for the two of us.

We spent the next 15 minutes waiting for someone to take our order. Two different employees apologized at different times, more than once, for the delay — one of them “thanked us for our patience,” as if we had a choice! — but those apologies didn’t get us any closer to having someone actually ask us what we wanted to eat.

There are two things I feel it is important to mention about our 15-minute wait:

  • The restaurant was nearly empty. It’s not like the entire staff was swamped helping other customers. (But, frankly, even if that had been the case, the delay would still have been unacceptable.)
  • During our wait, I observed two different employees socializing with customers who entered the restaurant after us. By “socializing” I do not mean friendly banter between restaurant staff and generic customers. I mean that the employees clearly knew these people and were engaging in social conversation with them unrelated to their patronage of the restaurant.

Eventually, one of the employees who had previously apologized to us several times for the wait and socialized with another customer deigned to ask us what we wanted.

When I tried to tell her that my son wanted a bowl of “Rockin’ Poppin’ Cotton Candy” ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, she said she didn’t know what flavor I was referring to. In fact, she gave me such a look of bewilderment that I opened up the menu again to confirm that I had gotten the name right. “I don’t know what that flavor is,” she said. “We just call it cotton candy.” Way to reinforce your brand recognition, Friendly’s employee!

After hearing what my son wanted, she wandered away to start preparing it, not waiting for me to tell her what I wanted. I had to raise my voice after her as she was leaving to tell her I wanted a Reese’s Peanut-Butter Cup Friend-Z.

When my son’s bowl of ice cream was set before him, rather than it being graced with an even layer of rainbow sprinkles, there was only a big clump of sprinkles poured into a crevasse in the top of the ice cream.

When my son’s ice cream arrived, he was in the middle of saying something to me. As the employee walked away to make my Friend-Z, she turned back to us and said to my son, “A thank-you would have been nice.” Yes, that’s right, on top of everything else, a Friendly’s employee felt it was appropriate to lecture my son about his manners because he did not interrupt himself in mid-sentence to thank her for bringing him his poorly prepared ice cream for which he had waited more than 15 minutes. Honestly, I’m not sure I could make this stuff up.

Next came my turn to be mistreated. As the employee handed me my ice cream, she said, and this is a direct quote, “If this isn’t right, you can ask the manager to make you another one. I don’t know how to do the ice cream,” and walked away.

And indeed, my ice cream was not right. It was not right at all. What she gave me was a few big chunks of peanut-butter cups in a cup of chocolate milk. It was nothing like what a Friend-Z is supposed to be.

But I ate (drank) it, because my son and I had somewhere we needed to be, so we didn’t have time to get the manager’s attention and get her to re-make my ice cream. Also, frankly, by this point I was All Done and just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

The employee who had served us did not bring us a check. When we were done and ready to leave, we put on our bicycle helmets and then stood up and leaned against the back of our stools. After a minute or two the employee who had served us noticed that we were standing and apparently figured out that we were ready to go, so she rang us up at the register.

I paid our $7 in cash (which included a 60-cent tip, quite generous given our experience) and we left, vowing to go next time to Abbott’s, J.P. Licks, White Mountain Creamery, Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot’s, or just about anywhere else rather than visiting Friendly’s again.

I guess the one positive thing I can say about our experience was that it was cheap. Alas, even that cuts both ways, since “cheap” has multiple meanings, and they all apply here.

I have fond memories of Friendly’s from my childhood. I guess I’m just going to have to come to grips with the fact that the Friendly’s of my childhood is gone forever. What a shame.


Jonathan Kamens

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