Saturday, January 03, 2009

The ABCs of Complaining

Being sick and holed up at home over the New Year's period is really kinda sad. So I decided to spread my misery around and write all the complaint/angry letters that I'd been meaning to write for months. And coincidentally, the companies I'm writing to just happened to begin with the letters A, B and C.

The Arena:
This incident took place some months back, in July. Yes, it's been a while, but since a new year is a time to take stock, look back and reflect, I thought it's also appropriate to write you now.

I was with a few friends at The Arena, and it was near closing time, so the club was emptying. I'd brought along a zipped folder which contained a brand new iPod and a wallet, and it was placed on the couch at the table we were occupying.

For some strange reason (and also our own carelessness), we left the table unattended for about 2 minutes. When we returned, the folder was gone, along with its contents.

I asked a waitstaff nearby who was clearing up for help. He hastily took down my name and number on a notepad, and then disappeared without asking me any details of my lost items.

Disappointed, I returned home. But the more I thought about what your staff took down, the more I felt I needed to provide more details in case the items turned up somewhere.

So I returned the next day at around 9 pm. I asked the bouncers at the door to let me see the manager, because I wanted to leave more details.

The bouncers were cold and curt in their response, refusing to let me in, claiming the manager was busy (without even checking). They also said, "If we find we'll call you." But without any details, how would they even know when they'd found something of mine?

When I insisted on leaving details for the manager, they handed me a receipt and told me to write on the back of it. There was no proper book or file for this.

Do you understand how angry this made me? I was polite and courteous, and they were treating the whole thing like a joke. They made me feel like I was a dog begging for scraps.

Bear in mind that while the chief function of a bouncer is to keep the club orderly, they are also the first employees of the club that the public sees. If they have a holier-than-thou attitude and are rude to customers, what are the chances of those customers returning? Very slim indeed.

They are more than just "security personnel". They are front-line service staff.

If I wasn't a local, but a tourist on vacation, they would have left a terrible impression a visitor to our country. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what a big problem that is.

Additionally, you need to have proper procedures in place for customers who lose items. At the very least, a book or file would let me know that something was done about it. Do you see? Even if you don't take a second glance at it, you have made me think that you care. And customers like to be taken care of.

Because of the terrible attitudes of your staff, I will never return to your club again. I hope you take my comments to heart and make some improvements on The Arena and any future ventures.

This incident took place some months back, probably in July. Yes, it's been a while, but since the end of the year is traditionally the time to take stock, look back and reflect, I thought it's also appropriate to write you now.

I'd lost my Borders Preferred card due to theft, and had contacted you guys to get a replacement. I was sent an email that said my card was ready for collection (see emails below), so I set off to pick it up.

When I got to the Wheelock store, the staff member at the information counter asked me for the card number. When I said I didn't have one, she asked for my printout of the email. Without it, she said, there was no way they could find my card.

I was taken aback, because nowhere in the email does it say to print it out and bring it along. Neither was there any mention of the card number being required.

Since I was already a member, I asked, couldn't she search for my records, and surely it would be reflected in there somewhere? The reply was a negative; her computer was not hooked up to that system.

Well, since I was already there, was there any way she could get my access to a computer terminal so I could retrieve my email? Again, no.

So basically, my trip was a complete waste of time.

Now, what bugs me is that the email wasn't clear on what was needed, and also the fact that your staff was completely unhelpful. Surely she could've been more flexible or helped me come up with a solution to the problem, instead of just saying no all the time.

If it's a requirement to bring the printout or the card number, then please state it explicitly in the email notification. Put it in bold, underline it, whatever, just make sure that the message is conveyed. Otherwise, it's very unfair to your customers who have no idea what's needed. Additionally, the service attitude of the staff member in question (I don't remember her name) also has lots of room for improvement. Surely it's not too much to ask for some flexibility and initiative on her part?

I hope you will take this as an opportunity to improve your service. I'd expect this of a smaller, less established store, but not Borders.

The Canteen:
I visited The Canteen on Wednesday 10 Dec, and there was a promotion going on for DBS Credit Cards.

When me and my companion wanted to order, I asked if there was a minimum spending for the promotion. I was told by our waiter that the minimum spend was $40.00. We then ordered two dishes and an appetizer to make up the $40.00 so as to get the 25% discount.

However, when I then left to visit the washroom, I passed by the sign at your entrance. It very clearly stated that from 9:00 pm onwards, no minimum spend was necessary.

I asked another staff member at the cashier if there was a minimum spend. His response was the same as his colleague's: A minimum spend of $40.00 was required.

I wasn't in the mood to argue, but took a picture of the sign for reference. It is attached. The time was 9:11 pm.

On the DBS website, it again clearly states that no minimum spend was necessary after 9:00 pm. In fact, the exact phrasing is:

- 15% off total bill with min. spend of $40
- 25% off total bill (Daily: 2.30-6.30pm; Sun-Thu: 9pm-11pm; Fri-Sat: 9pm-1am)

While I must agree that the promotion details are a little confusing, your waitstaff need to be very familiar with the terms and conditions. They shouldn't give wrong information to customers. Yes, the bottom line is important, but equally so is earning your customers' trust. That doesn't come easily, and should never be taken for granted.

I hope you will make use of this opportunity to improve your staff's service and product knowledge.

Of the three, honestly, I'm really only pissed at The Arena. I'm putting it mildly in my letter, but those people were real assholes. That's why no matter what they do or how they apologize, I'm never going back there again. It's a lifetime boycott for them.

Update on 5 Jan: All the companies have responded to the emails in some way or other. Borders was the fastest with a phone call, followed by an email from the Les Amis Group for The Canteen (even though they are still investigating and have yet to give a more substantive answer), and then The Arena today - who are offering to call me personally to find out more.

Update on 31 Jan:
On 9 Jan, The Canteen offered me a free dinner for two, which I have yet to take up.
On 31 Jan, I received a $20 gift card from Borders.
The Arena has yet to call me.


At 11:42 AM, February 17, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be glad The B and the C know WTF is Service Recovery!

the A must be thinking they are damn popular, so heck care abt service recovery....



gimme some mindfuckery

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