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.”


Anonymous said...

Steve, I know the feeling you are describing well.

A couple of years ago I rode my bike to the university football game. Once there, a security guy told me that I could not bring my helmet and bike pump into the stadium because the bag I had them in was too big. It was not bigger than the large purses being carrier by many women being let in and I tried to make that point to the guy.

I got into this huge argument with this fellow and at one point I had to stop arguing and apologize to him for making an embarrassing comment which attacked him, rather than the situation. I felt like a total creep.

Even though I ultimately prevailed in my argument, my enjoyment of the game was tainted by my boorish behavior.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience at a Haagan Daz store not that long ago. They gave me the same excuse, that they couldn't open the cash register. Wow.

The one benefit I can think of from that experience is that I blew off some steam.

Customer service no longer exists in the U.S. - it's part of our fall from being a great empire to being a "second world" country.

Oy vey.

Anonymous said...

Certainly more trouble than you needed over ice cream.
Sorry, about that incident. Did you get the ice cream, and did you like it?

Anonymous said...

i think these chain fast food type places have difficulty getting people to translate special orders from the menu to the registers.

i went to McD's and ordered a "quarter pounder with only ketchup". i got one with cheese. when i told the lady at the register she said you order a quarter pounder not a "quarter ham" as if i should be expected to know the lingo on the register.

so next time i went i tried to simplify it for her with "quarter pounder no cheese, plain with ketchup". same lady at the register, "it's not really plain then". no shit. "ok then i'll have a quarter pounder no cheese, hold everything except ketchup". she was ok with that phrasing.

Anonymous said...

i was pondering a serious and/or heartfelt comment but your other comments have made me laugh.

the perils of fast food ordering....