Monday, August 07, 2006

The customer is NOT always right...

Catriona at the till, me at bar...

Cat is dealing with customer #1 and her many requests. Customer #1 has 3 roudy kids in the store. One is literally screaming at the top of her lungs. There is a small line forming. Cat goes to get a pastry for cust #1 and while she is doing that she takes panini from cust #2 (a regular) and pops it on the grill. Cust #1 starts yelling at Cat saying that she was there first and she should be serving her first. Cat tries to reason with cust #1 (this is where I start to hear what is going on). Cust #1 continues to berate Cat saying she is taking too long and her kids are complaining (kid has been screaming at the top of her lungs since they walked in and mum has not even tried to quiet her). I am standing there dumbfounded and customer keeps looking angrily at me. Customer #2 has finally had enough and starts yelling at #1 and they go at it. Catriona is still nice as ever to customer, but since she is frazzled she starts making some mistakes, making customer angrier (I have been there many a times).

So I jump on till so Cat can take a breather. Instead she goes upstairs to bus. She says to irate customer that she hopes she is enjoying her time here. Customer says, "You completely ruined my day! I should not have even come here!"

Later, as customer is leaving, Cat helps her with her pram. Cust says sweetly, "I feel so much better after having my coffee."

I am so glad customer #2 jumped in to stand up for Cat. I was totally dumbfounded and did not know what to say. I feel utterly wretched for not backing Cat up, and I apologized to her for it. At least after thinking through it time and again I now know what I would do if this were to happen again, and it probably would not make the customer happy. There is no reason to abuse our staff.

Josh explained it well to me. He said that we are always in a service mode and we are trained to make the customers happy, that it takes us back when we start getting abused by a customer and we may not know how to handle it.

What I want to know is, WHERE DOES THIS LADY THINK SHE IS LIVING?!?! Does she get stellar service everywhere she goes? I would bet a large sum that she is not. The UK is notorious for poor customer service. And for her to come into Starbucks, where we do strive to provide good service, and to be such a witch just really ruffles my feathers!

Ok, another customer antecdote for today. I am at the till and a customer brings up a bottled water. I smile and say, "Just that for you?" Nothing wrong with saying that. We do it all the time. Just making sure the customer doesn't have anything else in mind that they want. The customer looked up at me in shock and horror and says "Yes!" As if I had just asked her if she was sure she was a female. Cat said she had to move so she didn't laugh in front of the customer. :)


Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh gosh, after years in retail I think I have gotten away with NOT having too many bad customers luckily, but it is definitely an occupation where you have to use your best judgement!! Unfortunately you'll see the true character of people come out when they are dealing with people that are "serving" them.

I once had a lady steamed at me for some reason or other and she said she wanted to speak to the manager (and I said that was me!) and she wasn't happy with that, etc. Then she told me she was a secret shopper and was going to tell on me big time for having bad customer service skills. Well, secret shoppers are never to disclose that they are secretly shopping! So, I assumed she was lying and I was right- never heard from her again!

Soteria said...

We figured out after our strange experiences with customers today as well, that it must be the full moon tomorrow that's doing it. :)

You are right, Steph. Mystery shoppers are never under any circumstances allowed to reveal themselves. I know from experience! So now I know if someone says that to me I can say, "Well, then, I guess you are out of a job then now that I know who you are!"

I am just waiting for the time when someone says they want to speak to the person in charge. :)

neatniche said...

Hi Soteria,

I was wondering if you could help me with a question from your perspective and knowledge as an American expat in Edinburgh with experience in coffee shops. I was browsing barista training courses on google when I came across your blog.

The situation is:
I'm considering visiting my fiance in the city for 2 months in mid-September to early November. He's been there for over 8 months now and we miss each other. He's been asking for months that I visit him and he's pretty bummed that we're missing out on the Fringe Festival, the Military Tattoo, and the relatively decent weather you've all been having. I visited him in December when it was a bit chilly and he wanted to show me the warmer side of Edinburgh.

On the other hand, I need to justify the trip in other ways. I'm supposed to help my mom with her new cafe. I've been staying up until 5am for days creating marketing material, menu boards, etc. after working at my current full-time job. It's a bit intense but it's been fulfilling.

What I'd really like do is to take 4 months of leave of absence from my full-time and use 1.5-2 months to visit my fiance in Edinburgh and maybe take a barista training course during that time. That way, when I come back to California, I could help my mom out with the cafe operation for 2 more months before going back to work.

Do you know if there are any barista courses in the city? Or places that may be willing to train me for a fee? If you don't know, would you be able to refer me to someone who might?

Thank you very much in advance. And I just wanted to say that it's really nice that you and your husband are there together and it seems like things are going pretty well for you two. I wish I was there in Edinburgh too. I apologize if this seems like a post out of the blue. I'm actually pretty new to blogging and don't know all the rules but I've been emailing places like and Gaggia UK for info all night to find this info. I'd really appreciate any help. Thank you!