A good chunk of my frustration in witnessing others’ ineptitude as they work is based on my frustration in landing interviews or – not to be greedy – even getting a job. Still, beneath that unusual and temporary layer of frustration is the normal level of service level expectations that aren’t being met by these seemingly over-employed folks that keep catapulting themselves into my path.
Phew. Still with me?
So, I’m gonna do some therapeutic writing. But I want to get a disclaimer out there up front: this all didn’t just happen this morning. I’m not that “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” type that encounters a slight inconvenience and demands to speak to the manager.
Sidebar: OMG, they made a musical out of this camp classic movie!
Nor am I a “Sleeping With The Enemy” type customer who lets his own OCD overwhelm transactional encounters in my life.
That said…I probably need this tee shirt
Hey, I know my shit.
I felt my usual simmering frustrations starting to boil a couple weeks back, hell…maybe even a month ago when I wrote about Penzey’s Spices and then my trip to Darcelle’s after that.
Darcelle’s and Penzey’s are two businesses that are worried about more than just their bottom line. Actually, maybe it’s that their bottom line is people instead of dollars. I’ve always believed that in a service industry, if you put people first – be them customers or your employees – that the dollars will come.
So, there…a couple of disclaimers before I rail against some companies that should just. do. better. to demonstrate that I know what good service and business looks like and that I know I’m just a grump sometimes.
Anyway, I tried to recycle my cans this morning and everything went to hell.
This should be pretty simple, right? I live in a state that has a bottle and can deposit. I always recycled and I was fine paying a nickel a can for my entire life as an Oregonian without redeeming my recyclables for my nickel…back. I figured it was an income stream for industrious homeless people. But, when we triggered a deposit increase to a dime a can…I started redeeming those aluminum and glass bastards myself.
I hated it.
The reverse vending machines that grocery stores use to refund bottle deposits were dependably gross, crowded and usually broke down. It was a hassle. So when some industrious individual came up with the idea to lease the machines to grocery stores while also offering the service extension of a concierge type recycling program, I was in.
Welcome to the show, BottleDrop!
Ok, well, first I grumbled about the fact that it was gonna cost me a penny per can to drop my recyclables off and have someone else count them, because: grumpy. Then I came around.
But in contracting with a company to drop off a bag of recyclables in a secure area, have them counted for me and then have my redemption refund credited to my account within five days, well I had expectations that BottleDrop would fulfill their service commitment.
See? That’s not really too much to expect, right?
It started off small, little inconveniences like the drop area not being open when I tried to drop off my bag on my way to work. That’s on me for not knowing the hours of operation. That evolved into their 3-5 day credit window becoming a 3-5 – no, just 5 – day window before my dropped bag was acknowledged as received and then another 3-5 days before my deposit refund was credited. Then drop off centers started opening erratically or being closed because both the reverse vending recycling machines and the secure bag drop doors were broken…it’s a door.
Still, I was surprisingly ok.
Then a bag went missing.
I emailed their customer service and a few days later got a response apologizing and letting me know that they credited my account for my Average Bag Value.
That seemed pretty fair and still convenient, so I felt whole and cared for as a customer.
Then my next bag went missing. It was disturbing because my first six months with them, no issues. Suddenly, two consecutive bags from the same drop location disappear.
They credited me once again for my ABV – which sadly is not Alcohol By Volume. My next bag was credited as expected, so I chalked my two missing bags up to weird coincidence.
Flash forward to August and I can say that out of the 12 bags I’ve dropped this year – don’t look at me like that, a lot of the cans are La Croix or Diet Coke – only four have been credited as expected. I’m beginning to wonder what consistently receiving my ABV versus the actual value of my redeemables does to my ABV. Something in the back of my mind keeps reminding me that averaging averages is bad math.
I began debating just using the reverse vending machines and doing it myself. At this point in my relationship with BottleDrop, they weren’t earning their keep. So I head out with that in mind this morning.
I walk a quarter mile to the Safeway: there’s a sign posted saying the drop center is opening at 9 instead of the usual 7.
The struggle is real…annoying.
It’s only a little more than 30 minutes away. I consider going across the street to Nossa for a coffee but there’s already a line of dirty dudes with shopping carts so it’ll be a 30 minute plus a significant chunk of time while these recycling professionals make it look hard. Plus, as I told the Silver Fox afterward, I didn’t want everyone at Nossa feeling bad because I was rocking the Recycle Fabulous look with my green bag of cans while they sat there with their engineered pooches or in their clip in cycling shoes looking lame by comparison…
Instead, I set off on the alleged half mile to Freddy’s, still not sure whether I’ll drop the bag or recycle it manually. Turns out, it’s 8/10 of a mile. Close, Google…but no cigar.
When I arrive, there’s three employees standing around talking. I think two BottleDrop and one Freddy’s, based on polo colors. They’re talking about hot flashes. Specifically, the male is talking about how uncomfortable it is to sleep with his wife when it’s “80 degrees at 11 o’clock and my wife has a hot flash in bed” – a fact neither of his two female coworkers need to be told.
The two recycling machines are propped open slightly. Even though they’ve been open almost two hours, I assume they are still just being prepared for the days recycling. Feeling like I won the lottery – since there are no ne’er do well millionaires in line – I ask if I can be the first.
“Oh, we don’t do that anymore! But if you have an account, you can just drop your bag right through that door!”
I don’t know if the BottleDrop lady’s enthusiasm is because she’s new on the job and showing her pride or if she’s just that happy to get away from her basic white guy coworker. I do know that I’ve kinda had it at this point as she keeps yammering away. When I open the door, it’s packed with green bags of recyclables.
Ok, BottleDrop…I’m gonna give you credit: you created jobs with your business. Ostensibly – based strictly off the two employees I saw today where normally there would be one – you’ve doubled your work force by eliminating the self-serve recycling machines.
Both of your employees were standing around like they were waiting for the valet to fetch their Maserati when I arrived. They were looking fresh while I – after walking about a mile and a half in my thwarted recycling attempt – was dripping sweat.
To me, it looks like you’re wasting payroll. Not to mention my time…I want my penny back.
So, BottleDrop has a pretty big shitshow on their hands. It’s like the great idea was primarily a money grab and instead of having operational processes in place to ensure good service, they just throw money at the problem – be it in ABV credits or added payroll – to make it go away.
I’ve had two interactions with other companies this year that seemed to want to do better. That’s great, knowing your limits is admirable – like me avoiding large groups of people…it’s just not something I’m armed for and willing to deal with. Maybe I should acknowledge that using a weapons analogy when discussing large groups of people was a bad idea there…oops.
“Where self-hating coffee lovers go for coffee” is my unofficial slogan for them.
Outside of their Reserve Roastery that opened a few blocks from my place in Seattle, I can count the number of times I’ve been in a Charbucks in the last decade on one hand. Even if I’d had a fireworks accident as a child.
However, earlier this year – February, to be precise – I’d been forced by circumstance into one of their cafes. It was at the height of the second harassment allegation against my co-worker at my last job.
By the way, pretty sure that my last employer – Paradies – exists solely to make companies like BottleDrop look effective.
Anyway, I was on my way in to work on the day that two of the senior field managers were in town to conduct a formal investigation. I was fully expecting my peer to be terminated and was feeling a strange brew of empathy and relief for him and dread about the void his position’s vacancy would create in our operation because my boss absolutely sucked at people development…meaning their was a lot of shit only he knew how to do. So I was stressed.
But, speaking of shit…my stress manifested as an urgent liquification – Why is that not a word? – of my insides while I was heading into work. Seriously, I left the house feeling 100% ready to face the day. Twenty minutes later and two stops into my commute, I was running off the train looking for a bathroom.
Yup, Charbucks was the only place.
Now, being somewhat responsible and understanding that businesses do not have restrooms just to provide their employees with cleaning tasks during downtime, I resigned myself to buying a drink to fulfill my end of the “restrooms are for customer use” contract.
However, I had to go.
Unfortunately, I had entered from one door while an elderly couple was entering from another door, closer to the counter. We were the only customers in the store.
There were three employees behind the counter. One was making something against the rear counter with her back toward me. The other two were intently focused on this older couple as said couple stared at the menu above the counter.
I stood at the register, being ignored, clenching so hard that I was sweating.
“Let me know if I can answer any questions for you!” the cashier says to the couple.
“Can I order while they decide?” I ask, getting an “I’ll be with you in a moment” from the cashier. Her coworker is standing on the other side of her grinning at this old couple like they’re…I. Don’t. Know.
Optimistic and desperate, I go check the bathrooms. Locked.
I go back to the counter and ask too-happy-guy for the code, emanating distress.
“The code will be on your receipt!”, cheerily.
“Can I order now?”, I ask as the old couple asks something about whether they can get their breakfast sandwich open-faced. I’m afraid I’m about to make a gravy for their open-faced sandwich.
The too-happy-guy pries his attention away from the look-how-cute-they-are-ordering-sandwiches couple to tell me the cashier will be right with me.
But, having finally ordered my 16 ounce cold brew, I’m seeing a light at the end of my <ahem> tunnel.
“Did you want the nitro cold brew?”
“And we don’t have 16 ounce cups, do you want a Tall or a Grande?”
Ok, lady…I don’t have the time to educate you on the fact that the entire world outside your cafe doors has 16 ounce cups and that they are just magically transformed into Talls and et als once they cross your threshold.
I pay and tip and then she starts to spin on her heel to walk away. “Hold on, can I get my receipt, please!”
“Oh, sure…I’m so used to it being in people’s app! I don’t think I’ve ever printed one!”
“That’s ok, I just really need it for the bathroom code!”
She takes a piece of scrap paper off the printer and then stamps it with the bathroom code.
Really? I’m disgusted by the unwillingness of too-happy-guy to stamp a fucking piece of paper to help a customer, but I don’t have time to go into that with him now.
I frantically make my way to the bathroom, unclenching as few muscles as possible to still be able to walk. Pretty sure that it’s just four muscles, legs are locked up and arms are contorted into claws as I do a zombie style shit stumble to the door.
You know, it could have been worse. Even success at that point would have cost 100% of my dignity, based on how desperate I surely looked trying to wait out the petty toilet tyrants working at Charbucks that day. Let’s just call the near-success Nicklecrap, since that was really all the evidence of my failure that left the cafe with me. It’s also a great riff of the way most people feel about Nickleback as a band.
I promise, that’s my last Nickleback joke.
I walked out of the cafe, briefly considering grabbing my tip back from the tip jar and leaving my coffee on the counter. I actually did try to leave my order there, but the third employee suddenly decided to be – pardon the entendres – worth a shit and reminded me not to forget. I took my drink, smiled and went home to change.
Of course, I tried the coffee before throwing it away.
Less than two months later, I’ve quit my shit company and the whole Starbucks Bathroom Debacle unfolds and I’m just sitting there reading about it and thinking, “Really, Charbucks? Really?!?”
I have some time to kill on my way home and then back to work.
I invest that time in distracting myself from the stressful day ahead by emailing my complaint to Charbucks. It’s a…sanitized version of what I just wrote. By the time I’m headed back to work, they’ve responded.
Ok, this is kind of impressive.
They are – of course – sorry. Not as sorry as they’ll end up being a couple months later. They want to give me a $15 gift card. Since I don’t have a rewards card with them – the only one they found for my email address hasn’t been used in years – so can they get my mailing address and they’ll just send a physical card.
That’s really nice of them, but really, just let the district manager know so that the bathroom Nazis at this store can be addressed.
I give them my address and ask if they can send three $5 cards so I can use them as incentives for my employees, pointing out that my rewards account hasn’t been used in years.
The response was that they were super sorry, but the order had already been put through.
Ok, now that’s a fucked up reply. My request came through with my mailing address, so how could the order be “put through” before getting the information needed for the putting through?!?
You know what?
I let it lie and just say thank you. I’m not going to bitch about a company doing something nice for me.
You just thought to yourself, “Yet here he is, bitching about it”, didn’t you?
It’s okay. The same thought would have popped into my head, too.
But you know what else?
The cards never came.
Swing and a miss, SBUX.
My last story is similar yet hopefully quicker. I’m including it in the Grumpopotamus Diaries because this company did something over the top different in their pursuit of good customer service and good PR.
I was using my Kuhn Rikon peppermill to add pepper to my lunch back in June when the grinding mechanism dropped completely out of the bottom, adding not only whole peppercorns to my lunch but also some gears, springs and washers.
Ok. It was probably six years old. It had a good life. Ironically, I had a back up. I like the spicier peppercorns, which is what was in my now dead peppermill. My spare had regular tellicherry peppercorns in it for when I had company.
Basically, it’s lightly used.
Still, I’m a considerate enough host, right?
I take a self-congratulatory pic and post it to Instagram, pleased with myself for having a back up. I’m a regular boy scout in the kitchen.
Here’s the impressive part: Kuhn Rikon actually has a PR company that looks out for crap like this on social media. They reached out to me that day to offer a replacement.
I mean, I’m no fool…I said hell, yes!
They told me they would set it up and get me a new grinder. This was happening over a weekend, too!
Yup, never came.
It’s been two months. That’s probably a reasonable timeframe to expect fulfillment, right?
Here’s the deal, though. I’m pretty whole as far as this pepper grinder situation goes. I had my back up – which, truth be told, I got for free back when I worked for Sur la Table. I’m good.
What rubs me the wrong way is the overpromise/underdeliver aspect of this – and SBUX – customer service. I think any company worth a crap wants their customer experience to be the exact opposite. They want to overdeliver on customer expectations.
If they know enough to say that they need to farm these extraordinary types of customer service out so they don’t drop the ball, great! Do it! But don’t go snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to follow through once your customer service team or your agency has made a commitment.
You lose all the points.
And then some bitter crank bitches about it in his blog.
Luckily, I don’t work for Bon Appetit or Business Insider, so no real jeopardy of my experiences going viral here…but if you know someone who does, feel free to let them know that I can write without cursing. J/S. End shameless plug.
Nope, wait…don’t forget to like and/or share! Now, end shameless plug.
Also, if you’re ever bored, google Bon Appetit Memes. So…disappointingly hilarious.