On Topic: Eyes in the backs of their heads

Michael Chevy Castranova
Published: February 3 2013 | 6:00 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:53 am in
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She has skyward of 1,000 “friends” on Facebook.

Which means when the Cedar Rapids-based marketing agency chief commented on the social media site earlier this year about witnessing what appeared to be a “very drunk” restaurant operator — she wasn’t certain if he was the owner or manager — accosting the band, lots of folk read about it.

And they likely told many more.

You know the old retail axiom: A happy customer will tell one person about the experience, but a dissatisfied one will carp about it to 10.

Consider what happens today with the frightening planetary reach of Facebook, Twitter and other bare-all Internet gab sites. Managers today almost need eyes in the backs of their heads.

Soon after my wife and I first moved to Eastern Iowa, we frequented a tiny restaurant that featured some pretty tasty Middle Eastern dishes. But the take-away stuff was never ready on time. Not once.

I’d drive over, eventually learning to arrive past the time the food was to be ready … and still wait. And wait.

Our BFF relationship with this particular establishment came to a screaming halt one evening after I’d arrived home and opened the boxes to discover completely different items from what we’d ordered. Hey, where’s my falafel …?

When I telephoned, the employee sleepily replied that they’d run out of what we’d requested. So, what the heck, he’d just tossed into the boxes whatever they’d had in the kitchen.

Guess how many friends and co-workers I’ve told about this?

My father spent his entire professional life in retail, and I recall tales of customers wanting refunds for items long beyond their natural life expectancies: “I bought these shoes for my teenage son here last year and now they don’t fit.”

So even if the customer isn’t truly always right, merchants need to at least begin the conversation proffering the benefit of the doubt.

Here’s one more true restaurant story:

Our waiter, several minutes after taking our order, came back to our table to report the restaurant didn’t have those actual selections today.

We chose other items from the menu.

A few minutes later he returned to tell us they were out of those things, too.

We asked what the restaurant might have. He tromped back to the kitchen, from where we soon heard him complaining about us.

A short while later a man we guessed to be the owner came to our table. He jabbed his index finger at us and said: “Let me explain something to you. We sold many things at the farmers market yesterday.”

He did not say: “Let me check with the kitchen to see what might be available.”

He did not say: “Please try us again some other day.”

He then left the building.

Guess how many times we’ve gone back there?

At the very least, as managers cannot be at the helm every hour of the day, they need to set a good example.

And even if not every potential customer is a Facebook friend with our marketing executive, being reasonably sensible is probably an excellent idea, too.

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