Customer Service, where to draw the line

Joined Apr 28, 2003
Customer is always right right?

We are drilled by those above us to go the extra step but where exactly do you draw the line and who dictates the limits?

I'm a bit of a fork in the road here. In the past, I've made is pretty public about how I hate where I work and yes, I'm still there if only because no one seems to want to hire me. Before opening full swing, chefs from headoffice introduced a semi-new system to keep track of waste, portion control methods, and daily production. Most of our recipes are pretty much written in stone with little or no deviation because they're products of a franchise that we have no control over.

Customer comes in today (I'm covering as we're short 3 bodies) ordering a poutine, I'm no connisseur but I know how to make one and I know the recipe given so I know they don't match. She wants a larger portion of cheese and gravy without paying because what I gave her wasn't poutine and she refuses to pay extra. I apologized sincerely with and explanation only to get the "your not f**king sorry" response in front of 3 others to which she fills out complaint report which is now stuck to my record and I get the shaft for not giving her what she wants.

So in terms of customer service and portion management, which would win out? Do I give in and have to do the same with the rest of the people in line or was I right in standing my ground firm on policy? Because the way I see it, I would have gotten in "dog poop" regardless of which ever road in the fork I went.
Joined Sep 26, 2009
I'd find a job in a decent place that didn't sell chips topped with gravy, life is to short to deal with that kinda crap! IMO.
Joined Jan 9, 2010
First off, I guess I should wish you luck job hunting. And second off, I remember hearing at some time, somewhere, about a theoretical mathematical equation about this kind of situation. I can't remember exactly how it went, but it went somewhere along the line of, "if it costs less to make the customer happy than what you would lose in potential business by them being unhappy, it's worth the 'waste' to keep them happy." I'm not sure if that helps, or if that even makes sense, but I hope you get the idea.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
Unfortunately you can't please everyone and I'm sorry you have that complaint stuck to your record now.

I hope you can get out of there soon!
Joined Dec 8, 1999
Don't knock poutine, Au Pied De Cochon serves it. I echo the moving on sentiment though. Perhaps to a place that isn't so dogmatic as to place a clearly undeserved complaint in your employee file automatically.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
No the customer is NOT always right.

You basicaly have two tactics to deal with such people.

One is "X(name of your restaurant) standard", as is in, "this is our standard, and due to company policy we can not deviate from this standard".

Two is to grab the duty manger and let him deal with the physco.

Believe it or not you are in contol in this situation. The physco wants something, either for free, or additional items for free, or to see you get canned. I don't what makes these people tick and why they want this "extra service" or why they feel entitled to it--maybe they lost thier home or maybe they don't like the way you comb your hair.

In any case they want something from you and only you can give it to them. You have the power to deny or grant their wishes. The "broken record" tactic works well, just keep repeating the same thing over and over again in a plain, flat voice--drives them nuts becasue they want a fight and you won't give it to them. If they start yelling, you have to tlell them that you can't give the what they want until they cool down. Many cases they'll walk out.

Good luck. Sorry to hear this sh** happened to you, but it will crop up again and agian, and again.....
Joined Apr 3, 2008
As friendly as I can be, this is the type of customer that instantly makes me "shut down". Psuedo smart, pouty, spoiled, make you feel obligated instab!tch. When dealing with this kind of customer i usually just stand by the ticket i received. "The ticket says you wanted "X", you got "X" is there a problem?" if at this point the customer "pushes it" my next best response is "Let me get the manager/owner, they will be able to facilitate any requests easier then I could..."

now I can seem sympathetic (sometimes I actually am) and get back to my job, which is cooking food, not holding finicky peoples hands. Just keep in mind that the owner or manager will likely just tell you to refire the order and this time add "Y" not "X" and possibly be annoyed for you knowing your limits when it comes to customer relations.
Joined Sep 26, 2009
:thumb:I know, I know, it's a Canadian thing:lol: Please excuse my British sense of humor, I thought my response was quite funny!
Joined Feb 13, 2008
IMO, you were wrong. Whether the customer was right or wrong, the customer is always right. In this particular case, it was easy enough to please her. Your unhappiness with your job affected your performance.

Advice (from someone who's read all your posts, sympathizes and likes you): Act like a professional. Lose the stick. Lose the attitude.

Joined Oct 10, 2005
Hang on a sec, weneed to clarfy a few things.

Do you have poutine on the menu?

If you do, are you comfortable serving it?

If not, you should direct the guest away from the item.

A guest who is screaming infront of customers over a $5.00 item is not worth keeping.
Joined Apr 28, 2003
The item is on the menu due to a large demand for it otherwise since the section is a franchise with standard recipes and portion control, I had abide by those recipes 100%. When we started this item some 4 years ago, we had portion control issues because like with this incident, people demanded larger portion sizes at no extra cost plus other workers did their own thing and its taken nearly 2 years to fix that and made standard with everyone who will ever set foot in that section. I've already been written up on not abiding by the recipes and now I'm being written up by abiding by the recipes. Was the headache worth $4.00, no of course not but I show professionalism and courtesy all the way till she said "you not ****ing sorry". I'd show a video of it if I only taped the whole thing.

Do I know what poutine is really suppose to be like? Yes. Do I have control to make changes to the corporate recipe? No.

EDIT: BTW, did I also mention that I was covering this area b/c someone was away, plus anther person was away and another had quit. Yes, about 70% of that was on me plus what I do regularly.
Joined Jan 29, 2010
C'est la vie des chefs, if you think that you can count on others to do even as little as show up to work then the restaurant biz is not for you, not as a chef any way, one difference between cooks and chefs are chefs adapt and cooks complain. Give her the gravy and cheese, who's gonna turn you in the food police, are you running a full inventory every shift with exact weights then figuring out how many of each item you sold then figuring out what product was theoretically needed to produce said menu items so your boss could determine that one customer got extra gravy and cheese give me a break that's simply not reality. I know these are not the things you want to hear but sometimes you've got to realize that it wouldn't be called hospitality if you didn't have to be hospitable even to people that don't deserve it. If you think its bad in your location now know that the higher the price the greater the expectation and the more pompous and assuming clients you will be serving. l would tell your superiors that alot of people complain about the putine having enough gravy and curds. But I could be completely wrong and you could have a ligitimate gripe, if your job is that bad, do lousy work and get fired then collect and find a new job, if there is something you don't like in life, change it cause you only get one and tomorrow is no place to place your better days.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Ethical, look at headless's last post again. They have standard portion control, other staff take it unto themsleves to abuse this and offer larger portions. What a mess! And it reflects more on the management than eanyone else. Ergo, the customer wants a larger portion and doesn't want to pay for it.`

IMHO the customer is abusing the restaurant, and only frequents the restaurant because it is poorly managed and therefore easy to abuse.

Me, I'm a wierd guy, I strongly believe that serving a customer is a business transaction: I supply goods and service, and the customer compensates me, each party is equal: That is, no party is superior to another, and therfore no party is inferior to another.

The customer is abusing the situation, and when she doesn't get what she wants she screams at the employee and infront of othe customers. Is the customer right to do so?

Is the customer always right?
My definition of the impossible or just plumb crazy is trying to please everyone all the time--basically every customer who walked in through my doors since I first opened up.

Is the customer always right?
Well, I can come halfway to those who say the customer is, and agree that the customer should leave the place thinking that they're right......
Look, when you go to large public events or places, it is a prudent thing to keep your wallet and valuables secure, thieves and pickpockets are out there.

When you open a restaurant to the public, you are open to customers, but also open to thieves and opportunists. I've been in this biz for 27 years now, 14 of them with my own biz, and I believe in the "2/10" rule.

That is, about 2% of all customers are outright thieves, specifically coming in with the intention of not paying (shoplifting, dine & dash, importing hair, glass shards, insects, credit card fraud, etc) and about 10% are opportunists.

What's an opportunist? A customer who sees an opportunity not to pay full price.

For example in my shop, I sell chocolates and pastries, at least once a week I get it: Customer buys product, pays up, and is happy untill s/he looks at the cash tape reciept.
First question: "Is this place a franchise or a branch?"
No, I am idependant, although I take pride in a nice, well designed store
Second question: " Then why are you charging me tax?"
Well dearie, because it's the law?
"Can't you just forget the tax, or give me a 15% discount?"
Well dearie, I could mark everything up by 15% and do it your way, but it wouldn't be fair to everyone else.
The customer wants the opportunity NOT to pay tax because I'm not a franchise, therefore I'm a small business owner and meant to be taken advantage of. This has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of my goods or service
Is the customer right to think/do so?

My wife is a petite Asian with an accent. Upon hearing the accent about 10% immediately want to bargain, inspite of clearly advertised prices . When I have other Asian women without accents working for me, or when I work up front, this only happens about 1% of the time.
Is the customer right to want to bargain in a store with fixed prices?

Fund raising......
At least twice a week I get fundraisers. Some are intelligent and can pitch a good yarn. I volunteer my time at local schools, provide free product for auctions, allow space for posters and pamphlets. Yet least once a month I get hit over the head:
"HI, I'm from....(name of school, fundraiser, etc). We have over X amount of members. The reason we don't come to your store is because you don't work with us....."
Well dearie, it would suicidal and probably illegal if I insisted that everyone who buys from me MUST donate to, say the Haitian relief fund or Aids research. Yet, this type of aggressive "fundraising" approach is more and more common.
Is it right for the customer to demand this?

I'm a far cry away from poutine, so I'd better get off my soap box now.....
Joined Apr 28, 2003
This lady is apparently an antagonist.

The manager on our branch site across the street from us reported the same individual causing a **** about our soup spoons that caused a big backup at their small unit with only 1 cashier. Threatend to report her to the district manager because they wouldn't give her a larger soup spoon that our supplier can't or won't allow us to purchase...which btw they don't have any.

Well the damage has been done and its too late. I've suggested to my unit manager to investigate into other section of our unit to see if shes done the same and recommend a permanent ban on her so she doesn't cause another **** putting another black eye in someone else's work record.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Well headless, looks like I'm the only one who's going to reply to you.

To those who say "Give the customer the extra fries and cheese, it's only a couple of bucks fer crying out loud", I say: Look after your other customers...

If you or your manager buckled in and gave pyscho-queen what she wanted, guaranteed that two or more other customers in the dining room would be "disgruntled". Everyone in the dining room got a show with thier dinner, don't think this was a coincidence on pyscho-queen's part... The other customers paid the same price for the same item, why does pyscho-queen get the extra treatment? Should they too, demand extra portions? Should they throw a hissy-fit too?

In any case, a restaurant has every right to refuse service to customers it deems unfit--at least in Canada anyway. Don't let anyone tell you different......
Joined Sep 26, 2009
Can't you kindly invite her to dine elsewhere in future? Sometimes it's best to ask inconsolable customers to not come back.

'The customer is always right' isn't a blank check for every village idiot to be unreasonable or to harass and humiliate hard working chefs and wait staff.....

Sometimes you must draw the line between what's reasonable and what's not.
If a customer wants a liter of gravy and is prepared to pay extra then give them a bowl and soup spoon; if they want it for free then that's clearly unreasonable.....the restaurant didn't get it's food for free and the staff aren't volunteers.

Here in Europe politeness is next to godliness, at least until the customers become rude; at that point they are asked to leave. Simple.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
I really want to discus this with you, BDL.
If this is your business philosophy and it works for you in your restaurant or catering biz or whatever it is that o/o, then great. But if you want everyone else to believe in this philosophy, you need to elaborate a bit on it, and give applications in real situations.

Pity headless. First he gets hit over the head at work--abused by a customer and then given the double standard by his superiors of having a black mark against him AND a ban on the person who gave him that mark (A double standard if there ever as one...), but now he's asking us--industry professionals for advice.

What have we given him? That's it's his fault and that he should smarten up? Have we given him examples on how to handle such customers?

Please, lets discuss this.
Joined Apr 28, 2003
My suggested ban on her isn't a double standard. I have reports of the same individual doing the same thing on other sections and company policy is to report harassment under the quote "Nobody here is paid to be harassed at work" so all I'm asking from my management is to abide by that policy they supposedly take seriously. I'm just waiting for them to say "that only applies to internal matters" and I can corner them on other reports of their harassment on fellow employees, especially from our director.

Not to derail my thread on the subject but I want to take advantage of this scenario. My chef reports how some individuals at head office of this company are "surprised" to hear of some of our issues at our account, we've been getting a number of weird visits from auditors and head office junks. I've been trying to build a history here but its hard when management seem to be doing all they can do bring this account down. I refuse to lose my job because I have a director who thinks an oven can replace the boiling capabilities of a steam kettle then pins the blame of faulty equipment on the workers.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
O.K. so you're short staffed that day. Were you waiting on tables or is this a widow pickup? How is it that the customer can approach you?

The food went out according to franchise standards, right?

The customer starts screaming at you, there MUST have been a manager or other employee to see the whole thing?

Just trying to picture the scene here

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