Today’s Object Lesson: Terra Nova Four Seasons Pizzeria

Today’s object lesson in how to lose a potential customer comes from Terra Nova Four Seasons Pizzeria in Kingston. Apparently under new ownership (at least that’s what it looked like when I was next-door on Friday), this place has been around a while. Since it was under new ownership, I grabbed a delivery menu while I was in the area the other day, with the intent of giving them a try.
I had intended to do it yesterday, but we went to see Borat instead, so I’d pretty much been jonesin’ for good pizza since Friday night when I picked up the menu. So this afternoon, after skipping lunch, I call them up for an early dinner order. I place the original order around 4:30 p.m., give or take, maybe closer to 4:45. In fact, let’s call it 4:45, just for simplicity’s sake, but understand that it was probably a little earlier than that. They tell me “20-30 minutes.” Excellent.
At 5:43 p.m., still waiting for my order, I call them up. The woman who answers the phone explains that “there was a problem with the pizza, and they had to remake it. It should be out there in about 15 minutes.” Excellent, I say, and hang up. I understand mistakes, believe me. I’ve worked at several pizza places in my past. OK, they should have proactively called me to inform me of the delay, but hey, it happens.
Around 6ish, I get a call from some teen-aged sounding girl, explaining that “there was a problem of some sort with my pizza, and they had re-made it, and were finishing up the sides now, and it would be out soon.” OK, she didn’t “get the memo.” No worries.
About 6:30, D is starting to grouse about how hungry she is. To put it perspective, when I first ordered the pizza, her plan was to “not hold me up since I was hungry, but she’d just re-heat the leftovers.” Now D is starving. Say, where is that pizza anyway?
At 6:45 I call them up, and a cook answers. I ask him “where my pizza is that I ordered two hours ago?” He tells me that “The ticket isn’t up on the oven, and the order isn’t in the waiting area, so the driver must have it.” I ask him if he’s sure, because I’ve been waiting for two hours and have been told twice that it’s “on its way” with no pizza in sight. He says he’s only just come on, and that he doesn’t know.
I ask him, “Since I’ve been waiting for two hours, how about you ask someone who’s been on for a little longer for certain?” He puts me on hold, and then comes back to assure me, “Yes, it’s on its way, it left a little while ago.”
I then ask, “How much of a discount did I get for waiting two hours for a twenty minute pizza?” He tells me, “Well, we can do something on your next pizza.” Now, at this stage of the game, I’m not certain there’s going to be a next pizza. We were ordering from them as a test of a new place, so we don’t know the quality of the pizza, and the quality of the service certainly leaves a little to be desired. I ask him if he’s certain he can’t do anything for me on this pizza — and a person with astute customer-service skills would be picking up on the tone of voice being used here — to which he replies, “No.”
OK, I said, cancel the pizza, don’t charge my card, and when the driver gets here, I’ll send him back. If two hours of waiting doesn’t warrant some sort of discount, then we’ll see if they like getting “zero” for their pizza instead of “some discounted figure”. The employee takes it in stride and the call ends.
About twenty minutes later, the driver knocks on the door. Poor kid. He’s basically the only guy doing deliveries, they’ve overcommitted their delivery area — if you’ve only got one driver, you certainly shouldn’t be sending drivers to houses fifteen minutes away. The rule of thumb I always heard was seven minutes. The limit of your delivery area should be a seven minute drive from the restaurant. I explain to the driver that it’s not his fault, but that the guys back at the shop had screwed the pooch big time on this one. He comments that “they do this shit all the time.”
Of that I have no doubt.
UPDATED: Apparently, the bastards decided to charge my American Express card anyway. Unfortunately for them, I reported it to Amex as a fraudulent charge — they never had my signature, and they completely failed to deliver the product they charged me for in the fashion in which they claimed they would — 20 to 30 minutes. So, not only does their customer service suck, but they’re willing to commit fraud to charge people when they’re not supposed to.

Good Help Is Hard To Find – Especially In The Bronx

According to this page, my season tickets should have shipped either 3/27 or 3/28. It’s 3/30 now, and they still don’t appear in the UPS system yet. So I decide to call the Yankees ticket office, to find out “what’s what”…
CSR: Yankees Ticket Office.
Me: I want to check on the status of my season ticket package shipment.
CSR: What kind?
Me: Full season.
CSR: Those were shipped out two or three days ago, on the 27th and 28th.
Me: Right, that’s what the web page said, except mine aren’t in UPS’ system yet.
CSR: Then they don’t have a tracking number assigned to them yet.
Me: If they don’t have a tracking number assigned to them yet, then they haven’t been shipped, because the shipping label you put on a package has the tracking number on it, it’s assigned then. It has a tracking number before the UPS guy even touches his hand to it.
CSR: Well, then you would have to wait for it to be in that system. They’re being shipped out UPS 2-day delivery, so if you didn’t get it yesterday, you should get it today.
Me: And yet, UPS has no record of the package whatsoever, so I find it unlikely I’ll get it today.
CSR: It probably just hasn’t been assigned a tracking number yet.
Me: **boggle** If it was shipped, then it does have a tracking number, by definition, believe me. What I’m looking at is that everything I read tells me it should have shipped already, and yet the carrier who’s allegedly carrying it knows nothing about it, so maybe, just maybe you haven’t actually shipped it yet, and that’s what I’m sort of trying to check on. You know, to see if it slipped through the cracks or something.
CSR: They all went out on the 28th.
Me: Can you, you know, check my account to see when mine shipped, and perhaps see if there’s a tracking number associated with it?
CSR: I couldn’t do that.
Me: Is there anyone who can?
CSR: No.
Me: So let me get this straight — the web page is useless because, if you’re telling the truth, the UPS system is updating data so slowly that it’ll have arrived before their system even publishes data about it. You don’t actually keep track of the tracking number you printed on the package before it went out the door, so if I wanted to force UPS to scan their system for it, I couldn’t do that, and you’ve got no means of actually verifying that the tickets were even sent, let alone tell me a specific date or anything. Does that about sum it up?
CSR: errrrrr, ummmmm
Me: Right, so this was twenty minutes of my life I’m not getting back.
… man I’m glad I never had to give them my account number. *grin*

Today’s Asshole Manufacturer Award Goes To: Kohler

Yesterday, our new dishwasher arrived. While we wait for a plumber who can hardwire it in (it’s a portable), I decided to use it “as designed” and just hook it up to the faucet and clear out some dishes. I removed the aerator from the faucet, and went to thread the adapter up inside the faucet’s spigot.
I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t catch the thread. While I had them sitting on the table next to each other (the old aerator and the new adapter) I realized that the diameter of the two was radically different (well, not that radical, but at least a 1/8″, maybe). The adapter simply wouldn’t fit in the faucet.
So, I called Kohler to ask them “what to do”. After all, there’s a standard diameter for faucet spigots. That’s how this whole thing works, and their faucet’s diameter is non-standard, so surely they must know how to proceed.
Their official response: “We don’t support you hooking up other devices to the faucet, and so we do not offer any adapter to convert that to a standard size.”
Are you fucking kidding me? I explain to them that I love their faucet and all, but if I have to choose between my $500 standards-compliant dishwasher and their $150 wacky-off-standard faucet, their faucet was destined to lose. She completely didn’t care.
So now I’m off in search of an adapter at a local plumbing supply store. This should be fun. Not.
Update: As an FYI for any who come behind me, here are two adapters I purchased, one of which was the right one, the other wasn’t. But they were like $3.00 each. The p/n’s are the ACE Hardware part numbers on the packaging.

p/n 44346 – Adapter Dual Thread – 13/16″x27 THD x 55/64″x27 THD
p/n 43593 – Small Male Adapter – 13/16″x27 THD for Female Aerator

Amazon Gold Box? More Like “Shit Box”

Every so often, while browsing on Amazon, I’m tempted to click on my special “Gold Box Offers” button, just to see what crap is in there.
Today, I saw something that makes me want to offer up a suggestion to Amazon: Wire your head and ass together.
So, first off, it offered me up a copy of Iron Maiden: The Early Days, Part 1, a DVD that I’d been thinking about getting for a while:

But then I decided to click the link, and take a look at “what exactly was included on that DVD. So I literally clicked the link that Amazon provided me for the product:

So… if I ignore the Amazon “Special Gold Box Price” and just buy it at their regular discounted price, I save myself $1.10. Now, we’ve all known, and it’s well-documented, that Amazon changes their prices regularly, depending on who you are, where are you, what time of day it is, etc., etc., etc. BUT, you’d think that they’d have the entire system knowing about the various prices… For instance, you’d think that the “main item page” might know that I’m coming from a Gold Box ad, and display the “undiscounted” price (or, better, the Gold Box pricing since it’s the currently active Gold Box item). You might conclude instead that the Gold Box pricing “for me” should be lower than the “regularly discounted price”, i.e., if I can normally get it for $15.98 with no special deals, that my Gold Box price should be lower than that.
Instead, though, it’s the worst of all worlds… If I ignore the “special sale”, I save money. Which means that — after I notice this sort of thing — the Gold Box loses even the “occasional click-thru” value it had, because I know that going there is no bargain of any sort (and is, in fact, a means of getting you to pay more for stuff than you ordinarily would.

Bad Customer Service Weekend, Part Two

[UPDATE 6/24/2006 : It’s really important to note here, before you read this, that this — for Krause’s — is an extremely isolated event, heck, pretty much the only time in my entire 35 years of partaking of Krause’s candies. The only reason I keep it here, is because it tells a “segment” of a story in which we couldn’t, for the life of us, get good customer service and damned near anywhere over the course of a single weekend. I love Krause’s, they’re good people, with a good product, and 99.99% of the time, great customer service. I just bought a couple pounds of chocolate there the other day. Don’t read this and think that this is a “pattern” for them, it’s not.]
Hot off the heels of my crappy experience at Boston Market, D and I decided to stop at Krause’s Chocolates on our way back from Saugerties on Sunday afternoon.
Now, I stop at Krause’s all the time. I feel it’s only fair to point out that in my 34 years of life, this is the first and only time I can remember being so pissed off at Krause’s that I walked out without buying anything. It’s also a good background reference point that the way Krause’s “works” is that you wait in line over by the showcase, where they pick your candies for you, and then walk over to the register area and pay. The only time you don’t stand in line over at the showcase is if you’re just buying stuff from the “store” area, in which case you stand there, and they’ll ring you up after they finish dealing with one of the boxed-candy customers. Because you’re a quick transaction with no real effort, nobody in the candy line complains, and life is good. That’s how it’s worked for as long as I can ever remember there being a Krause’s Candys shop.
So I’m keeping track of the whole “who was here before me” thing, in the candy line. There’s one woman in front of us, and one guy with a stack of stuff at the cashier’s counter to pay for.
The two girls who are behind the counter are moving really slow today, but ordinarily, I can accept that. I overhear them wondering aloud about what happened to their third co-worker, who was apparently on break.
Ah, the woman ahead of us is being cashed out. Excellent. So we’ll be handled shortly, and this insufferable wait (about 10 minutes at this point) will be finally over.
The girl turns her attention to the guy with the pre-packaged stuff. She rings that up. He then says, “and I’d also like a pound box of chocolate.”
Now, there are a number of proper responses to this:

  • “I’m sorry, sir, if you want boxed chocolate, you’ll have to go wait in that line over there.”
  • “Right behind you are an assortment of pre-chosen boxes of chocolate, pick up one of the one-pound boxes, and we’ll be good to go.”

… or variations on that theme.
The proper response is not to walk over to the empty boxes saying, “What would you like in that?”
D explodes (rightfully so, I’m about 3 seconds from exploding), saying “Uhhh, excuse me, we’ve been waiting in line over here??!!” in an incredulous voice, completely amazed that the girl has this low of a level of customer service.
Hot off the heels of the Boston Market episode — as well as having an hour earlier dealt with fresh-off-the-boat-and-not-speaking-english waitpersons in two different restaurants in a rather frustrating situation where one of our friends needed a bathroom and the wait-staff didn’t speak enough english to direct them to the bathroom — my pain-threshold for “shitty service” is at an all time low. This will be the fourth place in thirty-six hours that D and I have walked out of.
I throw my hands up in the air, and I’m like “Screw it, forget it, I’m outta here.” D is still railing on the cashier, but I seriously can’t hear her because my blood is boiling. Fifteen minutes in Krause’s smelling the chocolate and I wanted nothing more in life at that point than to down a couple chocolate creams, but my inner hatred of crappy customer service has trumped that and told me I can’t have any. About thirty seconds later, D follows me out. Clearly she had more to say to the girl that I never heard. Too bad. D’s a really funny person, I bet she got a lot better quips in than “Screw it, I’m outta here.”

Bad Customer Service Weekend, Part One

Saturday evening I decided, “Hey, I’d like some Boston Market”. I should have learned my lesson a long time ago.
First, we go to the drive-through, because there’s a long-ass line inside. Turns out the drive-thru is closed. Grrr. OK, I go in.
As I am walking in, one woman says to me, “Better hurry, they’re selling out of things.”
So I stand in line. And wait. And wait. And wait. I see someone walk out with Roast Sirloin. Cool. That’s what I want. So I know they’ve not yet run out of sirloin.
Along the way a school bus shows up and gets in line behind us. The manager(?) sees the line triple in length, runs and does an inventory and says to the crowd, “I’ve got no meat loaf, and I’ve got no turkey.”
“Cool,” I think. There’s only one person in line ahead of me. It becomes my turn to order, and manager-dude asks me what I’d like
“I’d like the a la carte sirloin, some mac and cheese and…”
… and I drift off because he’s just walked away from the register and can’t hear a word I say now. No “Let me check something.” No “One second please, sir.” Just walk away and ignore the customer you’re taking an order for.
He wanders back about three minutes later and says, “I don’t have enough for that. I only have a single five ounce serving left. Sirloin will be ready in 15-20 minutes.”
“So that leaves you with just Ham and Chicken in your inventory?” I ask incredulously.
“Actually, she just got the last of the Ham.”
At this point, I explode. I can’t fathom the depths of incompetence that this must require.
“Did FEMA come in here in the last half hour and suddenly requisition your entire inventory for use in New Orleans? How the hell do you manage to be so completely incompetent at planning that you have like next-to-no food available to sell at 6:30 on a Saturday night?”
“I can have them for you 15 minutes.”
“Forget it, it’s just not worth it.”
At which point I stormed out, got in the car, and went to Wendy’s.
Seriously… how the fuck can you underestimate your sales by that much?

U-Haul: The New Bane Of My Existence

OK, yes, I procrastinated, but not that bad.
Dateline: Tuesday Afternoon
On Tuesday afternoon I go to U-Haul’s web site, and reserve myself a 17′ truck for my upcoming move. I put in on the form that I will pick it up on Friday, 9/23, and will reserve it for 24 hours. I get a note back a short time later saying basically “reservations are not confirmations, you should hear back from us within 24 hours to confirm. If you don’t hear from us, call our regional office and we’ll sort it out.”
Dateline: Wednesday Afternoon
I still haven’t heard from U-Haul, so I call the regional office. They’re closed. They open at 7. I’ll call them tomorrow.
Dateline: Thursday 9:00 a.m.
I call the 800 # to the regional office. Give them my confirmation number. They pull up my reservation. Yup, there it is, pick up on Friday, for 24 hours. All I have to do is call the local pickup site to arrange what time.
Dateline: Thursday 10:00 a.m.
Call the local office. They can’t find my reservation. He’s having some computer problems. “Let me find the reservation and call you right back.”
2:30 p.m.
Still no word from the U-Haul site, so I call them back.
Me: You were going to call me back about my truck reservation. How late can I come by to pick up the truck tomorrow night?
U-Haul Dweeb: Well, you have the truck reserved for tomorrow morning, you can pick it up at 7:30 in the morning, and bring it back in the afternoon.
Me: Ummmm, no. I reserved it for 24 hours, with the intent of picking it up tomorrow night, starting the loading process, and then having a group of people help with more stuff on Saturday, and bring it back to you when I’m done.
U-Haul Dweeb: We don’t rent in-town trucks for 24 hours on weekends, we only have them for six hour time slots.
Me: Well, that’s not what I reserved, I reserved 24.
U-Haul Dweeb: Who did you talk to?
Me: I didn’t talk to anyone. I went to “uhaul-dot-com” and made a reservation there.
U-Haul Dweeb: Well, you have the truck from 7:30 tomorrow morning until tomorrow afternoon.
Me: Except, of course, that that time frame is completely useless to me, and not at all what I asked for or needed. Meanwhile, with roughly twenty-four hours to go, you’ve completely screwed me by leaving me in the lurch now with no truck when I actually do need it.
U-Haul Dweeb: On-line reservations aren’t confirmations. Nothing was guaranteed.
Me: Did you call me within 24 hours like you were supposed to?
U-Haul Dweeb: Excuse me?
Me: The reservation. It said you, the local site, were going to call me within 24 hours to confirm. Did you call me at all yesterday, to perhaps tell me that you couldn’t provide what I reserved?
U-Haul Dweeb: Sir, reservations aren’t confirmations.
Me: Right, but if you had called me yesterday then I could have told you that what you had was completely useless to me, and I’d have had an entire extra day to line up a replacement truck. Instead, you’re screwing me over in the eleventh hour.
U-Haul Dweeb: If you want to look at it like that, sir.
Me: How else could I look at it? Should I take it as a personal favor that you happen to have a truck at a time that’s completely un-useful to me?
U-Haul Dweeb: If that’s how you want to see it.
Me: What would you suggest that I do? I asked for something from you guys, nobody called me to tell me there was a problem, and I only find out about it because I’m literally chasing you down to get the info. I have people coming over Saturday to help me move, and I need a 17′ truck. Exactly what should I do at this stage of the game? What is U-Haul going to do for their customer?
U-Haul Dweeb: There’s nothing I can do for you, sir, other than give you the truck tomorrow morning. The only other possibility is to contact the Regional Traffic Office, they’re the ones who put trucks where they’re needed, perhaps they could do something.
Me: What’s their number?
U-Haul Dweeb: ####
Me: *scribble scribble* Thanks.
*dial dial dial*
Regional Dude: U-Haul Regional Traffic.
Me: Yeah, I need to sort out what’s going on with my reservation? (insert info here)
RD: OK, yeah, I see that you’re scheduled for tomorrow pickup for 24 hours.
Me: Right, except that the truck that the local site is willing to give me is only available tomorrow morning for 6, not tomorrow evening for 24 like I asked for. It’s pretty much useless.
RD: Yeah, I see that.
Me: So what am I supposed to do?
RD: Well, reservations aren’t confirmations.
Me: Right, but here’s the deal. I made this reservation on Tuesday… the site was supposed to contact me before the end of Wednesday, but never did. I called somewhere – I think this office – this morning just like I was supposed to, which told me to call the local site. I did that. They said they’d call me back. They didn’t. I called them back a couple hours later at which point they completely blew me off. I think I’ve pretty much done everything a customer can be expected to do except jump backflips. Near as I can tell, the uhaul-dot-com web site dropped the ball by letting me reserve – and achieve a modicum of expectation for – a 24 hour period. The local site dropped the ball by not calling to confirm anything with me — heck they didn’t even SEE my reservation this morning.
RD: Well, you could try speaking to the site manager.
Me: I did. The guy I spoke to was the manager and he was completely non-sympathetic. In fact, almost a complete dick. Who does he report to?
RD: He reports to $NAME and $PHONE.
Me: Sweet. Thank you.
RD: There is one possibility. Maybe there’s a chance that there would be some one-way equipment we could redirect into the right place. Can I put you on hold?
Me: Absolutely.
Hold… Hold… Hold… Hold… Five Minutes .. Hold .. Hold. … Disconnect.
Me: dammit.
(As I’m doing this next call, I’m already instant-messaging D who is looking for local “guys with trucks” companies in the Woodstock Times, as well as surfing through Budget’s web site and making a new reservation with them. They can apparently supply one for me. D has also located a “guy with truck” who is our fallback option. D has also floated the idea of “going renegade” … just rent the truck tomorrow morning, return it hella late, and deal with the penalties).
*dial dial dial*
Me: Yeah, so I was on-hold with someone who was trying to find a one-way truck to use to fill my 24-hour reservation request?
U-Haul Chick: One sec.
U-Haul Chick: I can get you a truck, you’d have to pick it up in Poughkeepsie instead of Kingston, though.
Me: Would there be any free miles included with that rental?
U-Haul Chick: Free miles?
Me: You know, to account for the fact that you charge $1.39 a mile and that’s about 40 additional miles round-trip?
U-Haul Chick: No, sir, you would be responsible for all miles.
Me: I couldn’t just get you to relocate it to the Kingston location on your own dime and then I’d be responsible for everything just like I expected?
U-Haul Chick: No.
*click “Submit” on the Budget rent-a-truck rental reservation
Me: Let me call you right back?
U-Haul Chick: OK.
*dial dial dial*
BudgetGuy: Budget Truck Rental.
Me: I just made an online reservation and I wanted to confirm it?
BudgetGuy: I won’t see that for an hour in my system here. What’d you ask for?
Me: 16′ truck, pick up tomorrow night, keep it til Saturday night.
BudgetGuy: Yeah, I can do that. It might be tight if someone returns late, but I could just upgrade you to a bigger truck at the same charge, if that happened.
Me: Sweet. Thanks!!
BudgetGuy: No problem. See you tomorrow.
Me: This is Derek
CSR: Hi, this is Bubbles [or some other meaningless name] from U-Haul, calling you to confirm your reservation
Me: Are you fucking kidding me?
CSR: Sir?
Me: The only reason you’re calling me to confirm is because I’ve been rocking the boat and that’s finally kicked loose whatever hole my reservation fell into.
CSR: Ah, I see. Well, I have you down for 7:30 tomorrow morning until mid-afternoon.
Me: (deciding to have some fun) What if I return it late?
CSR: You can’t return it late, it’s going back out tomorrow night on a one-way to New Jersey.
Me: But, you know, speculate, if I was to come back late, what are the penalties?
CSR: You can’t come back late. The truck is going elsewhere.
Me: If say I was to have a heart attack and didn’t bring the truck back on time or something, what would the penalty be?
CSR: You have to bring the truck back on time.
Me: Right. You can go ahead and just cancel the entire reservation, because frankly you guys are pretty much useless.
CSR: Are you sure, sir?
Me: Yep. I’ve already reserved a new truck with a better company.
CSR: All set, sir. Have a great day.
Me: Blah.
So the lessons we learned: