turning bad customer service around

Black Swan to White Swan pt. 1 – Guest Post from Adrian Charlie

Adrian Charlie recently had a pretty interesting customer service experience at a local bar. I read as he tweeted a few comments while it happened and, as the “are you kidding me” moments ramped up, I had to ask him to provide a guest blog. How many strikes can you count?

A few nights ago I took my fiancée to Swans after work. I could tell the waitress was over-worked and understaffed. Hunched shoulders, no smile and literally running back and forth between the bar/kitchen to the tables. She dropped a couple of menus on our table without a hello; interesting side-note, one menu was sticky and had visible signs of dried sauce all over it.

turning bad customer service around

Not even Natalie Portman showing up could have made this a better experience

We placed our order, two mains and one pitcher of beer. Fifteen minutes later our food and drinks arrived. I’m used to receiving drinks first, then our meal, I let it pass because they are busy. An hour goes by and I realize our waitress hasn’t checked in with us a single time. There was no effort to make sure we are comfortable, she did not ask us about our meals. Fair enough, she is busy, I’ll let it slide.

We receive our bill and I notice a customer feedback e-mail address. I write the e-mail address in my Blackberry along with our check number. I make plans of going home and write them an e-mail “I realize you had a busy night, it would have been nice to receive more engagement from our waitress. I just wanted to let you know it felt like we were forgotten, at the same time it’s possible other guests felt the same because of the capacity at the time.”

Our waitress comes along and rudely/abruptly asks “Can you two move tables? We have a party of 10 and we need the space.” I tell her we’re nearly finished our drinks, we’ll be on our way in a few. She rushes off. I turn to Sarah and ask “Do you feel rushed? I’m practically slamming my beer back now.” She agrees with me. I ask to speak with a manager.

I introduce myself to the manager and shake his hand. I tell him my thoughts, he listens to me, he expresses empathy (I love it!), he tells me he is going to see what he can do about my bill and be right back. We finished our drinks and we waited. The manager did not return. I looked at the time and realized he kept us waiting for 20 minutes. At this point we did not see the adjusted bill. I place $27 on the table (original bill was $54) and we walk outside.

We hail a taxi and as we’re getting into the taxi, another waitress comes outside screaming at us at the top of her lungs. “You can’t leave! You did not leave enough money on the table!!” It honestly reminded me of Gandalf from LOTR: Fellowship of the Rings “You shall not pass!” She also added in a jab for good measure, “You two held up our service tonight because you were so slow! I couldn’t serve my guests because of you!” The next part baffled me and still shocks me, she took out her iphone and snapped pictures of me. Excuse me?? You better get your manager out here!

I find it interesting we finally caught their attention when it came time to settle the bill, which speaks volumes to me. Two men came outside, the manager I spoke with and another gentleman looking like he is ready to physically restrain me if necessary. Gentleman #2 looked very upset, his body posture and non-verbal cues communicated “I’m here in case things get physical.”

The manager said “You can’t leave until you pay your bill.” I reminded him I haven’t seen the adjusted bill. His response, “But I gave it to your waitress, she should have given you the bill.” I tell him again we haven’t seen the bill. He shows me the bill, he took $10 off the bill. I’m embarrassed to say I took a $20 bill out of my wallet and dropped it on the ground, “Here’s your money.”

He picked up the money and said “Take my number, let’s talk about this later tonight.” I waited a few hours and called the manager. He wasn’t available, they took my number and promised he would call back.

Twenty minutes go by and I receive the call. We have the exact same brief discussion we had outside Swans, “You shouldn’t have left without paying.” You guys shouldn’t have ignored your guests. That girl shouldn’t have taken my pictures and she has no right to blame us for a busy night.

Clearly the phone call is going nowhere when he interrupts me and says, “I have to cut you off right there because I have given you enough of my time.” I do not argue, he says “Here is my boss’ e-mail, send him an e-mail, he will call you next week.” (It’s Thursday night at the time of this discussion)

I ask him, “Next week? Seriously? Do you really want me to stew over this for a week? I tell him Monday Magazine and Times Colonist may be interested in a story where the wait staff took my photo with an iphone. He told me to call his manager tomorrow morning and we could sort it out.

I’ve counted at least nine bad customer service moments. But how would you have handled it? Was Adrian right to leave without paying the full bill? Was that the only way he could get notice?

To be continued in part two….


  • Im stunned, shocked, speechless (well, not that speechless because Im still typing). That is on of the worst customer service experience I have read about in a long time. I am looking forward to reading whether or not the Manager’s boss (Owner?) can resolve the mess they have made.

  • Adrian Charlie

    @EB tell me about it! I was flustered to say the least, my poor Sarah was in tears.

  • Jimmijimmi17

    i think your fiance may have been in tears due to your rediculosity. bad service happens and that is what the tipping part is for. to demand or feel like you deserve a bill reduction is absurd. i am on the side of staff when you ignorantly leave less than the cost of the meal for the overworked server to deal with. it was rude and uncalled for to demand a bill reduction, and when that did not happen to underpay the waitress. your actions were summarized in dropping the 20 on the ground instead of dealing with it like the civilized human you wish to portray yourself as. if you wish to resolve issues of this nature look at their cause: understaffing and overworking, rather than taking your frustration out on someone who is just following orders.

    • Thanks for the comment “Jimmijimmi”
      I would agree that leaving less than the cost of the meal was probably not the best response to this experience. I also understand Adrian’s frustration to the point of not knowing how to respond.
      It’s true, some restaurants are understaffed and the employees are overworked…however, those are excuses for bad behaviour, not reasons for it. What would you have done in this situation?

    • Adrian Charlie

      I have heard this feedback as well. Hindsight is 20/20, it’s very easy to sit back and think of what you would do in this situation. Once you throw emotions in the mix, everything else goes out the window. I made it very clear I was embarrassed by throwing the $20 on the ground, I owned up to my actions by admitting this in the blog. I could have easily saved face by leaving that part out of my story. I did not demand a bill reduction, the manager offered it. As for me taking out my frustration on the wait staff, I think it was the other way around in this case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *