Saturday, August 16, 2008

Service with a ......

For the life of me, I can't figure out why some businesses haven't figured out that good customer relations translates into return business and that equals profit. Two well-known companies are, however, driving me nuts with their inability to understand this principle.

We have a neighborhood Wal-Mart close to us. It's not a "super" Wal-Mart, one of those mega-monsters that sells everything from lawn chairs to lingerie, but a nice, blend-into-the-area kind of store that pretty much sells food and health items. It's a great store in nearly every way. Except one. It still uses the same grocery carts that were there when the store opened about five years ago. The problem is the wheels. The wheels are worn out. On many of the carts, the wheels' rubber tires are practically gone. On most of them, the wheels are severely out of line. The result? As one tries to push the cart down the aisle, it has a mind of its own and seems determined to get into the green beans, pulling severely to one side or another as a contrary dog might act toward his master.

I've even tried contacting Wal-Mart headquarters, telling them that I love their store but may have to go elsewhere if they don't do something about the squirrely carts. The answer? "We're working on it." That was six months ago.

Then there is Luby's, a venerable Texas institution. I love Luby's, to the point that my children taunt me mercilessly, as though I were already in the geriactric set. (I'm close, but I still have my teeth.) I love Luby's because healthy food can be had there. And after I've eaten their healthy food, I can destroy my good intentions with pecan pie or carrot cake.

But this week, I happened by a Luby's at lunchtime and it was a nightmare experience. As I parked my car, I noticed a half-dozen of the employees gathered in front of the doors, smoking. Hardly an appetizing thought. It opened at 11 and I was first in line. There I was, ready to slide my tray down the row, and Luby's wasn't ready. 11:05 arrived and much of the food had not even been set out. The servers were mingling about, blissfully ignoring what was now a growing line of hungry customers. Finally, at 11:07, they decided to give it a go. Then, they had no mashed potatoes. I was told it would be three minutes and they would bring me the potatoes. How can you not have mashed potatoes ready?

I walked to a table and had a seat. Immediately, I noticed that the table was not clean. I looked down and saw silverware on the floor beneath an adjacent seat. So already, this place has gotten a failing grade and not much can be done to salvage the meal. But...unfortunately, I was sitting beneath a speaker and now was being assaulted by music that could charitably be described as awful. It sounded like a tasmanian devil mating march. I thought cafeterias piped in gentle, soothing stuff that facilitated conversation and relaxation. Not this Luby's.

I finally straggled to the cashier to pay for this experience. For some reason, I glanced upward and my eyes caught an air-conditioning vent positioned directly over the line of customers who were picking out their vegetables. The vent was covered with filth and obviously hadn't been cleaned since...maybe opening day?

Again, if businesses would just realize what it takes to generate return customers, and how easy it is, their profits would skyrocket accordingly. I don't know whether we're dealing with some sort of corporate laziness that permeates from the top exec all the way to the new hire or if business is so good that customer service gets put on the back burner. But I hate it.

1 comment:

Lynn Leaming said...

There are so few Luby's left, it is sad that one of the few was so yucky. Obviously since they are owned now by employees, those at that location do not care if you come back.