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May 22, 2010 04:30 PM

what do you want me to do about it?


there's a service conflict at the dining establishment you're at and rather than keep it all in and rant about it later, you take the effort to speak to the server or manager (not to go over the servers head, but because they are the issue). they agree that you encountered a problem, but all the offer is a curt "what do you want me to do about it?" what do you say?

a product issue is easy, replace it. i don't need freebies but at least fix the food in front of me. how does one "fix" service? what can one actually ask for? i don't need heads to roll and i don't need comps, but i want to feel some sort of satisfaction and asking me what i want puts me on the spot rather than them offering a solution they're comfortable with and i only having to accept it. perhaps they just don't want to provide a solution? what if this response comes after sitting on it for a day and calling in? admittedly this makes it harder for them to provide a solution that isn't a freebie for the next time you come in, but is there another appropriate response?

i can't ding the tip, they've acknowledged the problem (though haven't necessarily adressed it with the staff from what i can tell) and so it would make me feel petty. what if they're the type of establishment that doesn't normally get tips? then monetary compensation isn't as much of a motivating factor anyway.

so tell me, what would you say? what have you said?

and yes, i know, i've still managed to rant about it anyway.

  1. I would say that "doing something about it," i.e. correcting poor service, is the precise job description and number one imperative of the manager. Exactly how they should make it up to the upset customer would depend largely upon the situation, but if you are met with such an apathetic attitude from a server I would without hesitation ask to speak to the manager, and if it is in fact the manager that gave you that reply, it would not be out of line to send a letter to the owner so that they may remove the ineffective individual. Granted, the customer is not always in the right in a service dispute, but any restaurant that allows displeased customers to leave with the impression that the staff doesn't care about their experience will not stay in operation very long.

    1. If someone really answered 'what do you want me to do about it?' I'd find that so hostile, I wouldn't be sure how to answer, save for perhaps first to say that their chosen phrasing doesn't suggest the hostility and resistance to dealing with the issue.

      If you don't have an idea of how to make things right, I wonder if you might turn it back to them. 'I was hoping that you (as the professional and representative of this restaurant) may have some ideas on how to salvage my experience. I could shrug my shoulders and write off this restaurant but I was hoping I could leave feeling good. Any thoughts you might have on how to make this right would mean a lot.'

      Of course, I have no idea what this situation is so who knows?

      1. It depends on the tone of those words as well, whethere this was a sincere "i know it stinks and will do anything to correct tone" or a "screw you I ain't got no power to fill your water glass tone."

        Some suggestions...

        - ask for another table
        - ask for another server
        - ask for the check and leave
        - tell them to take the check and stick it where the sun don't shine and leave
        - ask for a quiet conversation off line with the MOD
        - ask for the name of the owner if the MOD is the offending party

        It is similar to asking how high is depends on the situation, who the offending party was and the level. Was the food delivered wrong and noone was around to address it? Was the water glass not refilled properly? Was the chair wobbly and you asked for a different chair?

        So you need to address a quid pro quo. If the water glass remained empty do you get free meals for life? If the busser dropped a glass, it shattered and cut your wife and they apologized to the table next to you while blood rolled down your wife's leg?

        So it sorta depeneds on the situation and those words could mean diffeent things depending on the situation and the tone.

        1. The OP doesnt mention the specifics of the issue with service - but wouldnt the solution be inherent in the place acknowledging there was a problem. A restaurant that, by this time, can only come up with "what do you want me to do" may not be as customer focussed as one might expect.

          1. thanks for the thoughts so far, i knew the question of specifics would come up since this isn't such a cut and dry topic.

            the exact recent scenario :
            i was at a well respected gelateria in my local town which is a bit out of the way for me so i don't tend to visit frequently. as prone to do at places like this, i wanted to sample a few flavours before picking since they're rotated through frequently and it had been a while. after receiving the first sample, she gave me a leery eye when i asked for a second. and then immediately pressed me to pick a size of container. when i said i hadn't decided and wanted to sample their milk chocolate hazelnut she asked if i knew what nutella tasted like, i said yes and then she cooly put her hand down on the counter and stared me down and said "it's just like that". while i was staring longingly at the milk chocolate hazelnut, in a weird twist she suggested the pistachio as being very good but was still reluctant to hand over a sample and immediately asked again what size container i wanted. the place was deserted. before i had come in she was talking on her cellphone in the back (she was not young if this colours your impression). this place has been known to come up with interesting flavours and to be proud of what they do and encourage people to sample away. i was just baffled. so i didn't press to try more, though i obviously wanted to, and left with a small cup not wanting to confront her and feeling as if it wouldn't have helped the situation anyway. a few hours later to avoid her on the phone, i called in and asked the manager if it was a new policy of theirs to limit the number of samples (this was likely far too abrupt of me) and he said no. i told him that a counter person hadn't wanted to give me more than that and relayed the nutella story. he asked for a description of the person and i gave one. then in a curt tone he said that he wanted to fix the problem, but what did i want him to do? i said i didn't know. he repeated it again, i want to fix it but what did i want him to do? feeling flustered i said again i didn't know and i guess i just wanted to let him know. this seemed to frustrate him more and so he let out a few more words and a "fine" and we hung up. i probably would have been happy enough with a heartfelt sorry (which never came up) and being told he would talk to the counter person. flustered in the moment, i never came up with that. i guess i thought he would have been naturally apologetic.

            i have had similar situations come up but in less aggressive tones with high and low establishments and mentioned it to the management staff (all these not about food threads constantly remind me that the course of my experience is in my hands as much as theirs) with often more satisfying results. but this one really irked me, he made me feel like i was trying to fleece him and that i was being the difficult one. so to satisfy them the next time it comes up, what do i say?

            16 Replies
            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Thanks. I agree with you - realistically, all one is going to expect here is an apology.

              You will know the tone of voice that was used - but it seems possible that he was wanting you to "make more of it" so he had evidence with which to confront what might have been a generally troublesome employee. A rant from you demanding the employee be fired might have been exactly what he hoped for - (if so, fortunately you didnt oblige him)*

              * phrase in brackets added to original post

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                Rule #1...never make that phone call unless you (global, not specific) have an answer to that question, and never say "i'm never coming back."

                in this case jfood would never recommend "fire her." just be reasonable, "I was not able to make a good decision and enjoy your great gelato and was hoping you might offer a cup of x scoops in the future for me."

                1. re: jfood

                  hmm, not sure I totally agree Jfood, sometimes you just want to call the management and tell them that their staff's attitude isn't great when he or another manager is out of the store. I think feedback is good, but the decision of what management does about it is up to management.

                  I guess the OP could have said that he doesn't specifically want anything other than to give the information to the management. If I ran a business I would want to know if my staff had behaved poorly or inappropriately. If the complaints keep on coming in about one specific worker then I would either speak to that worker or fire him/her if the attitude did not change. OTOH some customers will complain about anything and everything. Management have to weigh up the complaints, the frequency and the severity.

                  1. re: smartie

                    slight nuance, but you then the answer to the question, smartie. you want nothing and jfood has made that call as well. sometimes it is just an information-only call. but you always need to have at least some idea if you are looking for comp or not. makes the call more productive.

                    1. re: jfood

                      and sometimes you just want to tell them it was fab. Yesterday, after a really good lunch at The Office (new to Delray) with 2 of my offsprung, I went back in after paying to say what great food and great service.

                      1. re: smartie

                        absolutely...gotta do both ways

                    2. re: smartie

                      I agree with you. It is not up to the customer to tell the manager how to manage the store, but merely to provide feedback. In fact, the tone and incompetence of the manager in handling the OP's phone call to me suggested why the employees of the store likely lack good customer service skills - no one there to teach or guide them!

                      Very good response!

                      1. re: smartie

                        and this is the tone in which i was calling. i wasn't looking for a comp, i just wanted to let them know in case she was turning off other customers. i agree with jfood that i should have been completely prepared in understanding what i wanted, but really all it was was a sincere and minor apology and the understanding that it wouldn't happen again to anyone else. it didn't seem like something that requires quid pro quo calculation, just a bare minimum response. that i was being told that i had to ask for that baffled me.

                        edit: i should also mention, since it has come up twice, i didn't ever bring up "never coming back". it's over the top.

                      2. re: jfood

                        "What do you want me to do about it?"

                        "I want you to make sure your staff are trained properly, so that I don't have this problem on my next visit. Can you promise me that all your staff will be told what your sample policy is, and that they won't pressure me to decide on the size of my purchase before I've even decided what flavour I want?"

                        If he says "Yes", good. Thank him, ask for his name, and tell him you'll let him know how successful he was after your next visit.

                        If he says "No", and it's a chain, tell him "Thank you", but you're going to go up the ladder. If it's locally owned (and you suspect he's the owner or the owner's brother), tell him you're sorry, but you won't be able to patronize his establishment any longer, and that you're going to tell all your friends about his attitude to customer service. This is the the only weapon customers have - our feet - and if he provides a "No", this is the time to deploy it.

                        1. re: Marge

                          maybe it was larry in disguise scooping the gelato!

                        2. re: pinstripeprincess

                          Sounds like a story that should be titled 'A Tale of Two Idiots'...... the clerk AND the manager.

                          Assuming you don't come in frequently and ask for a dozen samples each time (with a long line of people waiting behind you), this is a simple case of clerk attitude and/or lack of training. And.... a manager who doesn't have the sense to admit that and simply say he'll speak with her about it. That said, I'm a bit mystified as to why you continued to play the Manager's game and didn't just tell him he should look into that clerk's behavior as it had alienated you and could lose them your business as well as that of others.

                          1. re: Midlife

                            i was in shock. i'm not sure how much more i can express that in this thread. i reported the incident and quickly was met with agreement yet hostility. it was dead silent after the "what do you want me to do about it" lines because i just didn't know what the heck to say, it was very awkward. i would assume that looking into it would be the natural thing for him to do but he never mentioned it. it seemed odd for me to tell him how to run his operation. next time something similar happened i will be much more prepared, but this time around i didn't want to be on the phone with him any longer.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              Understood. Everyone reacts differently to things. I guess my shocked reaction would be a sarcastic retort of some kind, rather than silence. But, then, that sort of thing does get me in trouble sometimes.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                I will be honest. When I stumbled onto this thread I honestly thought it was a joke. I have finally realized it isn't. Please people, step back. We are talking about someone who perceived an attitude when she asked for another small spoonful of ice cream! The final straw of the thread, to me, is above where the original poster says she was "in shock" when speaking to the manager. Really? Even giving huge leeway for hyperbole, come on. The answer to the question, if you really were offended, is "fix it". Don't tell the manager how to do his job, just give him your complaint and either go back or don't.

                                1. re: bhoward

                                  i'm sorry if i wasn't expecting to get attitude for feedback about rudeness. it threw me off guard. i told hiim the issue and that was all i really wanted to do. he still seemed miffed, so i wanted to know if there was a better way to go about it. it's not a complicated issue and it was never meant to be.