Update and Zipps’ Response to Being Kicked Out of the Bar

in Customer Service

With any business, making mistakes with customers is inevitable. Every good customer service training program or expert will agree that the key to minimizing damage and maintaining customer goodwill is in the proactive steps the business takes to recover.

Here is an update to my situation, and some observations.

Todd Goldman, one of the managing partners of Zipps, posted a message to “Customer and Inquisitors” on my blog on Wednesday. You can read it yourself in the Comments section in the original post and form your own opinions. I was not personally contacted  prior to that posting on my blog.

Mr. Goldman did send me a personal email of apology later that evening. He has asked that I keep the gist of that communication between us, and I will honor that. 

I replied, and also explained that for over 28 years my focus has been on helping businesses, not trying to tear them down. As I reiterated, I said in the article I was a fan, and a big customer of Zipps and Goldies. And I had never done anything like this before. Because I had never experienced anything before so outrageous, that was such an egregious example of customer mistreatment. I explained I did have some issues with what was said in the apology email. I also provided my office and cell numbers.  

I quickly received another thoughtful reply, via email, again apologizing, promising everyone involved on their end had been dealt with, and that they will certainly use this as a learning experience. He seems like a very good guy, and I believe that lessons have been learned and actions have been taken. They obviously are a successful business, and are doing a lot of things right.

He also invited me to contact them if I’d like to talk to them .  

In conclusion, do I have a warm and fuzzy feeling about them now and will I be going back?

Probably not in the short term. They are very steadfast in defending their Split Policy, as you can see in their response. Just as it is their right– or my right, or anyone’s right who owns a business– to charge whatever they choose, however they choose, it is a customer’s right to not patronize a business. I have a fundamental problem with a quota being placed on the number of items customers must order lest they be assessed a fee, regardless of whether any additional value is provided. Despite their assertion that this is an "absolute standard in the industry," in my experience it is not. Or perhaps the hundreds of places I’ve been in, or the restaurant owners and service workers I’ve talked to over the past few days are not part of the standard. I think split charges are a bargain when the customer agrees to and wants the added value if provided, but I resent a mandated “Sharing” charge, just like I resent a “Resort Fee” at a hotel when I don’t use any other service besides the room, or the hundreds of ticky tac charges assessed on cable and phone bills.

And maybe I’m naive, but I’m shocked at some of the comments that were attempted at the blog. More than a few started out with, “I wasn’t there, but…”, “I’d don’t know for sure what happened there, but”, and then they went on to describe how hostile and out of control I acted. They said they “heard” this from the other customers who were there. Actually, there were THREE other people at the bar. The guy at the far end whom I described and had asked me about the situation, and the woman next to me and her friend, whom I also mentioned as sharing her horror story with me. There were a few others scattered in booths away from the area who couldn’t have possibly heard anything. And by the way it was mid-afternoon, not night time, as one person described, since he was in there “minutes after Art left that evening.”  

And after all of this with the apology,  one more surprising thing was just was brought to my attention moments ago: Ironic how on Zipps own Facebook page they have just posted how I am deleting comments on MY blog from their supporters. Remember, I was asked to leave their place for talking to customers.  The unfortunate event last Saturday happened exactly as I described it, and I refute any insinuation that I acted any way other than described, and certainly won’t allow any speculation to the contrary be posted on my forum.

I am now officially worn out from this entire episode. I have a business to run, and need to find a place to have a burger–maybe a whole one– and a beer.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Bitely December 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm

It seems like the valuable lesson they need to learn is to treat every customer like they had thousands of friends a few keystrokes away, and quit focusing your policies and culture on a few bad customers. Just about every business loses money due to unscrupulous customers. If they have to charge 25 cents more per burger to make up for it (instead of having harassing policies), you probably would still be going there and would’ve never batted an eye at the higher price.

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kim December 17, 2011 at 1:43 am
Eric December 17, 2011 at 6:08 am

I enjoyed reading your story. As a former frequent traveller, I had my share of horror stories, till one day I decided not to bother any more (maybe it was just after yoga class?)
If I feel I am not well treated, I just walk out, don’t go back unless management and/or policies have changed and communicate on everything to everybody with my comments.
Life’s too short to talk to robots and dumb people, they don’t understand reasoning.
This being said let me just tell me that I enjoy your communications very much, I have learned tons with your newsletter and advice. Keep the good things coming and by the way: Have a great 2012!

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Doug December 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Art,
Thanks for sharing this all too common experience. It amazes me how frequently business leaders teach their employees to protect them from their customers. It’s impossible to build a positive, long term relationship with me (or other customers) if you assume from the start that I’m out to rip you off. Here’s a contrast. My wife and I just went to “Luke” In New Orleans. We asked to split a burger in this excellent restaurant, owned by John Besh, famous chef. Without blinking an eye, our server brought us two beautiful “half servings” of their tremendous Luke Burger, each on it’s own serving board with a complete serving of their special fries and condiments. I won’t visit Zipps, but I definitely will go back to Luke. It’s funny how this word of mouth thing works, isn’t it. See our blog at WCW Partners for other thoughts on providing excellent service. Have a great 2012

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Sandy Rhodes December 21, 2011 at 8:50 am

Most Americans enjoying eating, often to the point of overdoing it, at least occasionally.
If a couple of individuals want to split an order, it usually isn’t due to being cheap or wanting to cheat the restaurant. It is because neither are truly hungry and don’t see the logic in wasting good food as well as money.

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Joey Neal December 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

Amazing how those that are not present try to cause trouble.

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Sandra December 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I am baffled by your experience at this restaurant. I frequent Buffalo Wild Wings and always “split” the meal with my daughter. I have never once been treated poorly or asked to pay a SPLIT check fee. If restaurants continue to do this, they are asking to lose customers and business. Shame on business owners and Management who allow employees to handle these situations so poorly. Obviously this restaurant has no clue how to handle complaints or promote goodwill. Another shocker is you provided your phone numbers and Mr G choose to e-mail you instead of speaking with you personally. WOW!
I appreciate all you do to support GREAT customer service and sales. Wishing you the best in 2012.

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Robert Mullen December 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I appreciate you sharing this. I think it is really sad that ultimately, it seems no valuable lessons were learned here, at least not on the restaurant chain end. I have a very solid understanding of the long term value of a loyal customer, and find this sort of policy creeping into many chains sad.

I think what it really does is annoy and repel the most valuable potential customers.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of great business out there that do believe in good old fashioned customer service, and we can vote this behavior away with our wallets.

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Adam Luckeroth December 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Nice work Art. I can relate. It’s amazing how many times I think to myself these days, “wait, aren’t I the customer? Why am I being treated like an inconvenience?”

At my chain health club recently I notified the front desk that the basketball court was dusty and thus slippery when playing on it. I said it could be hazardous. Instead of being thanked the person wanted to argue with me saying, “well, I don’t see how that could be.”

Happy Holidays Art! I look forward to another year reading your stuff.

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Ted Pawlikowski December 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Art – Here is a link to an article about Southwest Airlines, whose customer service is the exact opposite of what you experienced at Zips. Southwest Airlines, si. Zips, no!

http://noahstjohn.com/blog/what-southwest-airlines-can-teach-us-about-saying-thank-you

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Steve Mitchell December 23, 2011 at 11:29 am

I applaud you Art.
That kind of service is absurd and should not be tolerated by anyone. I know of people that actually put up with it and have almost accepted it as part of doing business. Are you kidding?!

I used to visit a local Applebees and had some service issues. I made them aware of the issues and they compensated with free meals and then gave more poor service. They did this to me 3 times in a row. Well, the third time’s the charm I guess because I decided that I would no longer go to any Applebees restaurants, ever. It has been nearly 15 years and I have been successfully finding other establishments that were happy to give me the service that Applebees was not. By the way, I am not that hard to please, a beer and a burger kind of guy is a pretty easy keep, don’t you think?

I got the feeling from your writing that you just might consider re-visiting again some day in the future…DON’T DO IT! Stick to your principles. I guarantee you that there are other burger and beer joints out there that would love your business and the business of your friends.

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New Reader December 27, 2011 at 1:40 am

Hello Art. Your blog post surprised me. One could argue that sooner or later each of us as consumers will experience what we perceive to be poor customer service. Your experience qualifies as poor customer service in my mind however it was not your experience but your response that surprised me; I perceive it as vengeful and unprofessional. I am confident that certain readers will vote with their checkbooks and take their business elsewhere. I know I would.

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Sales Professional December 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Word of mouth travels fast and far. Given the success Zipps has experienced in the area I would suggest that the service you received is not indicative of what a patron could reasonably expect to receive but instead an unfortunate experience that runs counter to most people’s experience at that location and Zipp’s vision, policy and procedure.

Let’s not through the baby out with the bath water.

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