Memorable moments in customer service

Pam Frampton
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“Eat here and get gas.” — Sign on a truck stop in Tipton, Indiana

Since my column, “Adventures in tourism,” ran on July 17, I’ve been collecting customer service stories from readers — some horrible, some hilarious.

I’ve seen a few examples of not-so-stellar service myself in the interim, including a restaurant where Server No. 1 took our white wine order and never came back, and Server No. 2 took our white wine order and brought us a bottle of red.

Among the stories I’ve been told is one about a St. John’s fish-and-chip joint, where a local and a mainlander were dining. When the mainlander quizzically picked up a bottle of malt vinegar and asked what it was, the waiter came up and gave her a friendly clout in the back of the head and said, “It’s vinegar, shithead!”

A couple I know went to a restaurant in rural Newfoundland and inquired about the winelist. They were pleased to be offered a selection — brands A, B and C. When they ordered a bottle of B, the waitress was aghast. “Oh, I don’t think we’ve got a whole bottle!”

Some like it hot

Then there was the patron who asked for some hot mustard on the side, and was given a dish of French’s yellow mustard, piping hot from the microwave.

One reader had two bad experiences with fast food in the capital city.

In one instance, she ordered a hamburger and it was served to her ice cold, so she sent it back.

“The server asked if I wanted a refund and I said, ‘No, I am a diabetic and I have to eat.’ She actually took the burger and put it in the microwave — lettuce and all. It was so hot, and the lettuce and the tomato was a melted blob. I had to throw away the bread and cut up the meat — minus the lettuce and tomato — in order to eat it.”

She later called to complain about the service and the restaurant replaced the meal.

In the second instance, she ordered a Hawaiian wrap at another restaurant and got an argument instead.

“The one I got was not what I ordered, and I pointed it out to the server, who said, ‘Sure, it’s the same thing.’ And I said, ‘No it’s not. I ordered a Hawaiian. This doesn’t even have pineapple!’ Then she said again it was the same thing and she didn’t have time to make another.”

Some like it cold

Another reader sent along this anecdote:

“My father-in-law, from London, U.K., loved visiting our province … (and) dearly loved wild salmon.

“On his first visit (1970) we picked him up from Gander Airport (there were no direct flights to St. John’s then) and stopped at an eatery along the highway where there was a large sign advertising fresh salmon. We all sat expectantly at the table and after a long wait were approached by a friendly-looking, smiling young woman.

“We ordered the salmon, of course. My father-in-law wanted his cold so he asked the woman if he could have his salmon cold instead of hot.

“‘Hang on,’ she said, ‘and I’ll ask the cook.’

“She reappeared shortly and offered the following statement: ‘I’m really sorry sir,’ she said, ‘but we only haves hot salmon.’”

A reader from Happy Adventure told me two stories he swears are true.

“My wife worked with the Coast Guard and her boss, a Scotsman, travelled extensively in Newfoundland and Labrador. Once, on a trip to the northern part of the province, he was told where there was a small restaurant. When he reached the restaurant at lunchtime, there was a sign on the door, ‘Closed for lunch.’

 “My sister, who is now 95, visited Fogo Island approximately 35 years ago. They stayed at the motel overnight and, during breakfast, the proprietor and owner was parading through the kitchen (topless) — not exactly proper etiquette.”

I was able to determine that the proprietor in question was male.

The last word goes to a reader who’d like to see the “service” put back in service stations.

“‘The brush is over there,’ barked the attendant while pointing to a tattered and torn former windshield cleaning tool, ‘and there should be some water in that container.’ (This was) in response to my request that I needed my windshield cleaned. That was in the day when you pulled up to the pumps, tooted the horn and waited for someone to come out and serve you …

“Not much has changed. Now you do it all yourself … but the brushes and containers of (windshield) washer are all still the same. The brushes are still tattered and torn, and as you dip them in the container of brown murky liquid mixed in with garbage, you hesitate — for all of two seconds — before you decide that you don’t need your windshield washed after all.

“I have seen every kind of garbage in these containers, from a used french safe to a Pamper. But, ever the optimist, I take consolation in the fact that the guy who threw in the used french safe won’t be throwing in a used Pamper next year.”

Thanks for sharing your stories, and feel free to keep them coming.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s

story editor. She can be reached by e-mail


Organizations: Gander Airport, Coast Guard

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, London, Fogo Island

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Recent comments

  • Sea-Dog
    August 30, 2010 - 14:00

    Well done Pam------You certainly tell it like it is. I once visited a coffee shop and asked for a sandwich to go, the server promptly gave me the menu, every time i selected a sandwich her reply was sorry sir we dont "ave "any left, untill i exhausted the whole sandwich menu. I then asked her why she offered me the menu ? To which she replied " Well Sir you said you wanted a sandwich" Thank you I replied

  • doug
    August 30, 2010 - 10:56

    I don't doubt these stories at all, customer service here in central nl is almost nonexistant, long waits in store line ups, long waits at certain coffee shops (these said coffee shops would not succeed on the mainland). How many times have I gone to a restaurant and be told that that dish is not available, go to the hardware store for a common part and am told "just sold my last one"!. Ever try to find a restaurant that uses non frozen seafood?.