Thursday, September 13, 2007
Hell's Kitchen, Sept. 2007
Proving that there’s a bit of the beast in all of us, I had an interesting experience with “customer service rage” the other day.
I went to Dunkin Donuts for a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone. On the menu, it said double cones were $3.49, with waffle cones an extra 60 cents. So I ordered a waffle cone, two scoops, and paid with a twenty.
Only when my change came back did I realize I’d been overcharged -- the bill came to $6.50 or something. I pointed out the problem, but the counterman said I’d ordered two scoops, which is apparently NOT the same as ordering a double. He charged me for two single cones, plus an extra dollar (?) for the waffle cone.
I tried to argue my case -- that the menu was deceptive, that $6.50 was way too much to pay for an ice cream cone, that waffle cones were only 60 cents. Finally, I just told him I wanted my money back. He said he couldn’t open the register.
Throughout all of this I got more and more frustrated, because he also didn’t speak English very well. I could tell that as I was trying to firmly and rationally make my case, he didn’t understand a good part of what I said. He just had a sort of blank expression.
“Look, in ENGLISH, ‘two’ and ‘double’ are the SAME THING,” I finally said. And as the words came out, I suddenly realized that I was being a complete jerk. I was arguing over a couple of bucks with a guy who probably made that much in an hour, and by impugning his knowledge of English I was perilously close to making an ethnic or cultural slur.
All of which was quite illuminating. Zen teaches us that there are no divisions, that all our “us-and-them” ways of looking at the world are utter falsehoods. I saw that within me, at least at that moment, there was an “other” -- an angry man, maybe even a racist. I was also making an “other” out of the guy at the counter.
I don't think I was wrong in the dispute, but the whole episode was still embarrassing. I doubt I'll go back to that Dunkin Donuts any time soon. And if I do, I’m ordering a “double.”