Better to Be Right, in a Service Industry?

in Consumer Advocacy, Opinion, Rant

updated article

This post is not really financial, it is more an open letter to the service industry and those who deal with the public, why do you feel it is so darn important to be right, when all you end up doing is alienating a paying customer? (surprisingly I have found an old post which is similar to this one).

The following is a situation that arose a few years ago at a local grocery store. The store offered a “child watching” service so that parents can go shopping without their kids, and the kids don’t have to get dragged around the store, which I think is a great differentiating service for a smaller grocery store. We had used the service before, and was doing most of our shopping at this store, and all seemed to be working quite well.

My wife went shopping, and the “play area” was pretty darn full, and my son who doesn’t deal with large groups of kids well (but we have warned the folks at the service about this, when we registered him with the service). My son got a little too excited, and there was an altercation about a train. There was a page for my wife to return to the play area.

The young lady who was in charge was explained quietly to my wife what transpired. While embarrassed, my wife, was not upset with this, and was about to collect my son, when the owner’s wife felt that she should come in and add her opinion.

This lady was a victim in this altercation (i.e. she was hit with a train hurled by my son). She felt she should publicly chastise my wife (in front of a group of parents and such) about how badly behaved my son was. She let my wife had it, and my wife slunk away with our son in tow (and left her basket of groceries as well).

While I understand that no one should have to deal with an irate child who hurls trains, there are better ways to deal with it, and ridiculing a regular customer is not (in my opinion) the way to do it. I have no doubt that the owner’s wife feels vindicated. The owner’s wife felt she was correct to ridicule my wife for her badly behaved child, but I must ask, was it worth it?

Conclusions

I went back to see how much we had spent at this grocery store, and it is not an insignificant amount of money, and it was well over 80% of our grocery purchases were there, however, we have decided to shop elsewhere now, since that is our only recourse (i.e. vote with our feet). Is this being childish? Possibly, however, I am the customer here and frankly I think the owner’s wife dealt with this in a less than appropriate manner.

Update: After a while, we relented on our boycott. We have since shopped at the store, but we have moved the majority of our shopping elsewhere. Some very interesting, and odd comments on the original work as well. Can you charge a 5 year old with assault?

{ 22 comments }

  • Money Smarts Blog February 5, 2011, 10:03 AM

    It’s very unprofessional for that person to berate you like that. You are well within your rights to stop going to the store.

    I would also question their child-care facilities. A little boy throws something – is that an unusual/unmanageable scenario?

    Not in our house. 🙂

    I’m surprised you got paged.

    Mike

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 5, 2011, 10:29 AM

      Thanks Mike, not worried about the commenter, gave Mrs. C8j a chance to vent some more. As for the flying trains, yes, if he threw the whole table then maybe, but just a train?!?

      Reply
  • Elizabeth February 2, 2011, 9:15 PM

    @BCW — I’m sorry if my comment made you feel like you had to apologize! I just thought there might be more to the story. No wonder this incident has affected you so much!

    I’m not a parent yet, but as a former teacher I’ve experienced first hand the misconceptions people have about children who have hidden disabilities, especially when behaviour is involved. Some people see it as the parents’ or teachers’ failure to control the child when the cause is actually physical/emotional.

    I hope by telling us about this incident people will be more understanding. Thank you for not being afraid to discuss it.

    Reply
  • Big Cajun wife February 2, 2011, 7:10 PM

    Sorry, I do appologise for my rant to those who supported our decision to vote with our feet.
    Unfortunately, for parents of children with hidden disabilities there are jerks everywhere.

    BCW

    Reply
  • Beth February 2, 2011, 6:31 PM

    Oh the typos! I meant “play judge” and I do know how to use their/there/they’re when I’m not in a hurry 😉

    One thing to add: good luck! I hope you find the resolution you’re seeking.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 2, 2011, 6:43 PM

      I think the rant was aimed at the one and not the group, but I will allow her to comment.

      Reply
  • Beth February 2, 2011, 6:29 PM

    Just to play devil’s advocate here — it’s not okay to be berated in front of other parents and children, but it is okay to be criticized publicly in a blog?

    I don’t agree with how the store owner’s wife dealt with the situation, but why not take it up with her rather than asking people who weren’t their to lay judge? You don’t need our approval. What you do need is some closure so this thing doesn’t keep hurting you.

    Reply
  • Elizabeth February 2, 2011, 6:02 PM

    @BCWife: Other than one jerk, aren’t we agreeing with you here? Why the rant?

    Reply
  • Big Cajun wife February 2, 2011, 12:57 PM

    I am constantly amazed that other parents or worse people who don’t have children think it is their right to pass judgement or tell me (or any parent) how they think I should be parenting in public. They are entitled to their own opinions but it ends there. You don’t know my child, their issues or any other extenuating circumstances.
    In this case, the child care was fully aware of my sons issues and limitations. When someone claims to have a background in child development and education, I will hold them to a higher standard and expect they will treat every child including mine with understanding and respect.
    Did my son throw a train? yup.
    Did I appologize? yes, to my son for putting him in a situation that he wasn’t able to handle.
    Did I deserve to be berated by someone in front of 4 parents, 2 staff, and 10 children? Absolutely NOT.

    BCWife and Mother.

    Reply
  • Rob Peterson February 1, 2011, 7:38 PM

    Your son assaulted another person. And now you are bragging about it on a blog? You should be happy that you didn’t get a civil lawsuit. I’m unsubscribing.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 1, 2011, 8:21 PM

      Interesting interpretation, can a 5 year old be charged with assault with a train? Hmmm…

      See ya!

      Reply
  • Elizabeth February 1, 2011, 11:18 AM

    @ Rab — you have a good point! So much can change: a business can get bought, staff come and go all the time, people have bad days. I’ve worked retail and grocery stores during Christmas — it isn’t pretty!

    That being said, it’s hard to return to a business to which you have a strong, negative emotional reaction. In my case, having worked in customer service I’m willing to allow businesses a fair amount of leeway. However, berating a customer in front or others (or making false accusations, in my case) goes above and beyond poor customer service.

    I don’t regret not giving that company my business –I did give them a second chance a year later and quote was still ridiculous. My regret was that I didn’t stick up for myself.

    Keep us posted! I’m curious to see how this turns out.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 1, 2011, 11:21 AM

      Stand up for yourself first and foremost is an important lesson to be learned by all of us.

      Reply
  • Echo February 1, 2011, 11:05 AM

    Maybe you can just take your son with you around that store from now on and let him hurl objects at store employees?

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 1, 2011, 11:12 AM

      OK Joker Man, you try to be some kind of Jokester? Mr. Jokey Joke man? (always wanted to answer a comment that way).

      Think I’ll pass on the ingenious, if not cruel idea.

      Reply
  • rab February 1, 2011, 8:51 AM

    Should she have reacted as she did? Probably not. (Though I must confess that having a child hurl a toy train at me might cause me to have a bit of an emotional reaction, as well.) But even in the service industry, people have bad days. The real question might be should we pull our support from a store over a single incident. It might be better, in these situations, for us to allow a little grace into the equation and give the shop owner the benefit of the doubt. If the service has been otherwise good, we might want to exercise a bit of forgiveness and let it go. Save voting with your feet for the moment when you realize that you are consistently unhappy with the service. And remember, she was the one who was injured first.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 1, 2011, 9:58 AM

      Point taken, we may soften our hearts in a while, and I agree we are having an equally emotional reaction, so we shall see, but I support my wife in however she wishes to proceed in the situation.

      Reply
  • Sustainable PF February 1, 2011, 8:46 AM

    Not at all unreasonable. I walk away from companies and businesses all the time. Bell, check. Cogeco, check. Our local utility company (on the to-do list for this week). Numerous restaurants, check.

    While you have spoken with your feet, I would also write a polite but frank letter to the OWNER (not his wife) explaining why you will no longer use his store (his wife’s behaviour) and remind him that one dissatisfied customer will 10 of their friends/family/colleagues while a happy customer MAY tell one other person. And let him know you blog and could drop his business name in written word online which has a much farther reach.

    Reply
  • Money Beagle February 1, 2011, 8:40 AM

    Wow. I would definitely let them know how you feel. It sounded like your wife felt bad about the situation, and hopefully apologized for what had happened, in which case the owner’s wife should have taken a deep breath and moved on. I’d send them a letter or something, again saying that you were sorry for what happened, but that you felt the response was uncalled for, and explain that as a result, you feel that your business would better be handled elsewhere. They should know that, if they’re going to offer a service like that involving child care, things are going to happen, and as long as your wife wasn’t one of those parents that would either deny that it had happened or try to defend the kid’s outburst, then they should have no reason to handle the situation with such poor taste.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman February 1, 2011, 8:44 AM

      Wow, two fantastic replies, I am sure Mrs. C8j is reading as well, and I will allow her to respond to them.

      As a note, the shopping at a different store has not been a great hardship, if anything it is causing us to think about shopping and how we do it (the stores are the same distance away), so that may be the silver lining too.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth February 1, 2011, 8:36 AM

    I would feel embarrassed and angry too, and I agree the store owner’s wife was out of line. However, sometimes we have to ask who we’re really hurting here. The wife probably doesn’t notice or care that you’re not shopping in the store any longer. On the other hand, you keep reliving the situation by changing your shopping habits. I’m not sure if this is more inconvenient or if you’re missing out on deals, but emotionally you’re chained to the situation.

    When I got my first care, I called the insurance company that offers discounts to my alumni association. When I told them their quote was much higher than the others I received ( it was, but about 40%), the salesperson accused me of lying to the other companies. I was so angry that I swore I would never deal with that company again.

    Years later I realized what I should have done was asked to speak to this person’s supervisor and told the supervisor exactly why I wasn’t dealing with their company. I would also have let the supervisor know that my next phone call was going to be to my alumni associations. (I belonged to two). Then I would have let the supervisor address the situation. I think even a simple apology would allowed me let go of this nonsense.

    Whether you shop at the grocery store or not, might I suggest telling them why? That way you will have said your piece and you will feel you have had some recourse. Businesses often don’t notice when people go missing, but they do notice when someone takes the effort to complain.

    Good luck!

    Reply

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