Sometimes, people surprise you in the best ways. And sometimes, they do not.
Yesterday and today reminded me of both those lessons.
The man and I have done some minor home improvements over the past few weeks (fueled mostly by our desire to streamline our small apartment and make it seem less like a clutter magnet). Those improvements include a new sofa in our living room (it’s my favorite piece!), a chop block in the kitchen, and several new shelving units throughout the house. Still to come … improvements in our clothing storage. But as the man reminds me, it’s one step at a time. Buuuut … that’s me veering off subject.
Replacing furniture leaves the inevitable “problem” of having too much furniture, so like most people in this modern world, we posted it on craigslist.
It took a little bit to get a response. But we did, and the gentleman in question, named Winston, was interested in quite a few pieces. Last night Winston arrived to inspect and possibly purchase one of our couches, our old desk, books and a filing cabinet. And after the haggling was done, and he’d also agreed to a bookshelf, we made arrangements for the pick up, shook his hand and waved goodbye as he climbed into his truck.
Which didn’t start. For the next three hours. Finally, as twilight faded into evening, AAA showed up to tow his car to a garage. By that time, we’d gotten to know Winston, and found him to be a really super guy. He told his stories in a slow, thoughtful way, and had a deep, genuine laugh. Lucy was completely in love with him and followed him every time he went to his truck, walked down the driveway to make a phone call, or sat at the table with us. She was stuck to him like glue.
As the expenses to fix his truck seemed to compound, the man graciously told Winston that if he no longer wanted to purchase our second hand furniture, we completely understood. Winston laughed and said, “Oh no! I definitely want this stuff! Don’t you worry!” He had such a great sense of humor about the whole situation – when I’m sure on the inside, he was frustrated, fuming at AAA and the tow truck driver’s callous disregard, and probably uncomfortable having to linger at our home for hours.
We talked about “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Winston watched all three Swedish films, and saw the more recent American version, and felt the original films had an authenticity and understanding of Swedish culture that didn’t quite translate in the American film.
We talked about “Magnum PI.” Winston owns all nine seasons on DVD, and is going to loan them to me on Saturday. He said that it was going to be a surprise, but he looked at the man and said, “Can I tell her?”
Winston came to our house to get furniture for his son, to help him furnish an apartment. He told us about his ex-wife, and how he lost his two dogs when they split up. He listened to our car horror stories politely, and laughed in all the right places. He was a delight; the epitome of the best of human nature. People like Winston remind us all to have a little faith in our fellow man.
It was brought to my attention by the GM of the restaurant I oversee, that we’d had a customer complain that not once, but twice we’d made a mistake on her take-out order, and she’d had an allergic reaction.
Let me preface the next few paragraphs by saying that the mistakes were ours, food allergies are not to be trifled with, and it saddened me greatly that we’d so hugely dropped the ball.
I drafted an email to the woman (whose only contact I had was an email address). I outlined how important hospitality and customer service are to us and how much pride we take in making our guests feel comfortable and well taken care of. I let her know that we were all, from my boss (the owner and managing partner) right down through the person who took the order, deeply disappointed and apologetic for the circumstance happening not once, but twice. I asked her how she best felt we could make amends to her regarding these two mistakes.
Aaaaand, for the next few hours she and I exchanged emails in which she attacked all parts of our business, myself included, without at any point attempting to understand the message I was sending to her.
It was incredibly frustrating.
A few emails in, I came to the realization that she really just wanted to be angry about everything, because there seemed to be nothing that either I, the GM or the restaurant could do or say to assuage her. Each communication on my part was an effort in staying positive, apologetic and professional. My company, in general, does an amazing job at being hospitable to our guests. We have loyal regular customers, and overall positive reviews. Our management staff, floor staff and kitchen staff go the extra step to be knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating. Making a mistake twice with a regular customer is -frankly- inexcusable. However, I also feel that apologizing should not be an exercise in complete humility. We should deal with complaints with class and grace, yes, but not by groveling.
This was an instance where a person did not surprise me with humanity. It was very frustrating (as are most angry customer complaints in all industries). It’s a good thing that I could think of Winston and be reminded that people can be good.