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Terrible PR created by negative customer service

My husband and I dared to go camping a couple of weeks ago with our three year old and one year old.  It took a couple of hours to put the tent up (I wasn’t much help), it rained most of the weekend and on the second and final night I think I was more scared than my toddler as the wind howled so loudly, the rain was incessant and I thought we were either going to drown in mud or be blown away.

With much relief we (okay, he!) packed up the tent and we ventured off to Nelson’s Bay for breakfast.  It was wonderful to sit in a dry room and have our food served instead of attempting to create a tasty cook up in the rain and then spend double the time washing everything up.  We ordered a big breakfast to share with the kids and when it arrived we asked for another plate so that we could all share in the spoils.  To my surprise and disgust, I was told that the extra plate would cost $4.  Can you believe it!  I told them they could hold onto their plate and didn’t stop my daughter from creating her finger painting masterpiece on the tablecloth with baked beans.  We left the restaurant with a feeling of contempt and it goes without saying that we will not be returning.

I told this story to my colleagues and was bombarded with their own stories about where they felt they had either received terrible customer service or had come head to head with a ridiculous policy that left their head spinning.

One of my colleagues recently went out to dinner with her husband for her birthday.  It was going to be a real treat, a babysitter was organised and off they went.  When they arrived at the restaurant they found that a quite, romantic meal was impossible as the fire alarm kept ringing on and off.  Nobody from the restaurant told the customers what was going on one by one the customers began to leave.  Finally my colleague and her husband had enough and half way through their main meal they decided it was not worth sticking around.  They tried to get a discount but were refused.  Eventually a slight discount on their meal was reluctantly given.

I simply do not understand this way of thinking.  If the customers were apologised to and offered a discount before they had to haggle, this negative event would not have ended up being a PR disaster.

Have you had a negative customer service experience that you’ve let the world know about or are you a business owner who has created policies to avoid such negative PR pitfalls?  I’d love to hear about it.