Tag Archive for customer service

McDonald’s Will Kill Us All

When the Superflu comes, McDonald’s will be the vector.

I let the kids talk me into McDonald’s for lunch because it’s one of the few places we can get something to eat and then I can get some work done while they stay occupied on the indoor playground. I always end up regretting it, but today my regret went to a whole new level. Check out the photo below of their service counter, shot in the middle of the lunch rush.

McDonald's will be the death of us

Not pictured: the Grim Reaper and the circling buzzards

Looks like any typical day at a McDonald’s, which most of you have seen before, right? Right. Now let’s take a closer look at these people, from left to right.

The boy in the black baseball cap is probably nine or ten years old. He walked up to the counter, and he rested both elbows on somebody else’s tray.

The old lady in the obnoxious shirt has set her purse on someone else’s tray. The manager in the black shirt is not bothered by this in the slightest as she sets food on the trays around it.

On the other side of the counter, you can just make out a shorter employee in a yellow cap. Just a moment ago she exchanged cash with a customer, directly over someone else’s uncovered french fries and a chicken sandwich. Her arm passed within an inch of the fries, and do I need to remind anyone how filthy cash is? I may have just become a germophobe. Also, minutes after this photo was taken, I told her I still needed my daughter’s chocolate milk. See the cooler on the right in the background? She couldn’t reach into the back, so she knelt on a stack of trays and used it as a step stool. The same trays which are about to go onto the counter for customers’ food.

On to the lady in the blue t-shirt. She had the sense to push a tray back a bit to set down her purse, as the tray had food on it already. However, she then leaned over the tray to speak to the cashier. Had it been my food, I would have asked them to take it away and make me some food that other people hadn’t breathed on. Or potentially spat on if she ordered something with a lot of P sounds.

So what’s the lesson here? Order everything to go so it’s in a bag while it’s sitting on the counter? No, the lesson is to stay the fuck out of McDonald’s until they fix their horrible line management and customer order practices.

This ordering system is a mess in general. People are forced to negotiate their own spot in line and nobody seems to know when it’s their turn to order. Then there’s nowhere for them to stand after they’ve placed their order, so there’s constantly someone in the way. This is compounded by groups of people—usually parents with small children—who don’t have the sense to have some of their group sit and wait at a table rather than near the counter. Having to watch total strangers breathe on, lean on, and handle cash over food is injury on top of insult.

The drink station is just as bad. People jam their way around it, cut in line, stand there for ten minutes while their kids decide what they want, allow their kids to attempt to fill their own cups and make a mess, stand in the way while they wrestle with lids and straws, and generally do their best to create a traffic jam. Once again, this is compounded by groups, especially parents who keep their swarms of children around them while they fill drinks. They ran out of lids, they later ran out of tea, and because the ketchup is at the same station, you have to wait for all the drink jerks to get out of the way so you can get your ketchup.

I have to assume McDonald’s went to this new setup to speed things up. It’s got to be faster than the single line through a corral, right? Apparently not. It’s like the toll plazas all around Chicago: they added a whole bunch of booths, and now the traffic jam occurs after the booth, when people have to fight their way back into fewer lanes, rather than before the booth, when they’re stacked up to pay.

News flash, McDonald’s: the food doesn’t cook any faster. Now you just have to try to fill ten orders at a time instead of two or three.

“Welcome to McDonald’s! If our food doesn’t kill you, our horrible line management practices will.”

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

On Customer Service

Customer service is simple: make it as easy for customers to hand you money as possible, and make them happy to do it so they keep coming back.

A local bike shop doesn’t seem to understand that. I bought my helmet there, happened to see Lenore at the same time, and bought her about the same time. Those were a matter of convenience and luck, respectively, and by the time I added new tires and saddlebags to Lenore, I dropped a good buck there. Return visits have been for simple things, but asking simple questions about those simple things appeared to be an inconvenience for the owner.

This week I cracked open Lenore and decided I need to replace the air filter. I called the same local shop, asked if they have them in stock, and got a quick negative and the guy started to hang up. I asked if he could order it. An impatient yes. I said I’d stop down and order it, and the answer was pretty much “Okay, *click*.”

Alright, then. Time to find someone actually interested in my money.

I called Grayboy on Prospect in Peoria Heights, got their parts department. I told the guy what I needed. He asked if I needed any other parts, then checked their stock. When he returned he politely informed me it was out of stock but he could have it in three or four business days. I asked if he could order it right away, and he said I could order it over the phone. They even had my name in their system already from when I bought some gloves a few years ago.

Now I’ll be stopping in there on Tuesday to pick up an air filter and spend even more money on oil, an oil filter, and an oil filter wrench.

That wasn’t so difficult, was it? I don’t need my ass kissed, but I’m more than willing to hand over money to someone who’s willing to find a way to take it.

What’s more, it will give me a chance to drool on a 2010 Honda Shadow Phantom:

I have no reason to upgrade yet, but I kinda dig that blacked-out look. I’m just reserving judgment until I see it in person.

Word is they have the Fury in stock, too. The faux-custom thing doesn’t do much for me — I prefer a beefy cruiser to the stripped-down chopper — but it might be fun to kick the tires.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Buyer Beware: Bricks in the Box

There’s a problem in retail circles known as the Brick-in-the-box return. The scam involves taking a legitimate item out of a package and replacing it with something else to fill out the package. The scam then works in one of two ways:

  1. The scammer relies on employee oversight/negligence and re-packs and re-tapes the box so it looks unopened, and returns the item to the retailer by saying they didn’t need it or something similar.
  2. The scammer relies on a con game and tells the customer service agent that he opened the box and found the wrong stuff.

Most famously, this involved bricks replacing VCR’s many, many years ago. This was common enough that a retailer I worked for had a Standard Operating Procedure called “Brick-in-the-Box Returns” that outlined how to handle such situations. It boiled down to one thing: any customer requesting a return because they got the wrong item was denied.

I bring this up because a guy ran afoul of this very scam at Best Buy. You can read all about it at Consumerist, but the nutshell is he bought a hard drive, opened it up, and found six ceramic tiles in the box instead of a hard drive. Classic brick-in-the-box scam.

I think he’s screwed. Every retailer, be it Best Buy, Circuit City, or Toys R Us, has the same policy, and they’re going to assume he’s not the victim but the scammer. Yes, it sucks that someone okayed his return and then a manager overturned it, but that second manager was in the right (by store policy if not general human decency) and if the return had been completed the first employees would have been disciplined. The customer might even be dealing with Best Buy loss prevention and possibly the police if he’d been given his money back, depending upon how far Best Buy would want to take things.

I’ve had three direct experiences with bricks in the box, and these are exactly why the policy is in place.

In the first instance, an elderly man purchased a laptop. When I handed it to him, he asked me to verify if it came with a modem (this was back around ’94, when such things weren’t a given). We opened it up and instead of his shiny new laptop we found an old model that had been painted gray and glued shut. Further investigation of the package revealed the scammer had opened the bottom of the box, did the replacement, then taped the bottom shut and fastened the original tape over the new tape to make it look brand new. Because the unit never left the store and I even opened it for him, we gave him another one. He asked me what would have happened if he had taken it home, and the honest answer was he would be out of luck. I managed to find a return on the same serial number, turned the case over to loss prevention, and had to discipline the employee who accepted the return.

In the second instance, a man purchased a 20″ television. He then returned it an hour later, claiming he didn’t need it. As the warehouse associates unloaded it from his car, the bottom of the box fell apart. There was a different television inside. We found the box had been glued shut, and the glue hadn’t dried yet. We went round and round with this guy for two hours, and it was ultimately turned over to loss prevention. Someone along the line must have put a scare into him, because the next day he picked up the old television and I had to ring up a sale (I forget if he kept the television or had to pay a restocking fee). I was to take the cash and then refund his original credit card, and he asked if the transactions would show up on the credit card statement. I told him of course — he’d see a purchase and a refund. He grunted and walked out. We speculated that meant his wife would find out about it.

In the third instance, a man purchased a video camera. I just happened to be there when he purchased it and happened to be the one to hand it over at the customer service counter. An hour later he returned, claiming it had the wrong item in the box. The camera in the box, however, was much older and much bigger, and didn’t even fit in the packaging. He didn’t repack it, he just demanded a refund. He screamed and yelled and made vague threats, and there was even an elderly woman in earshot telling us we were mean and we should give him his money back. The store manager and I held our ground because I was sure he was full of it. He took the box and went home, and we put a comment on his ticket in our system to warn other stores of the situation. The next morning, someone called claiming to be the guy’s lawyer and threatened lawsuits against me personally and against the store. I referred him to our corporate office. I happened to be working open to close that day, and that evening I got a call from another of our stores. The guy was there trying to return a product, the customer service associate saw the comment on the receipt, and the manager called me. She was confused because the camera she found in the box matched the packaging, and the serial numbers on the box and in the system (entered at checkout) matched the camera. She described the camera, and it was definitely not the one he’d tried to return to us. She went ahead and accepted the return (with a 15% restocking fee) and told him “hi” for me.

In the first case the store lost, in the second two we prevented a loss. All three cases are exactly why the policy exists, and exactly why I think this guy’s going to eat $300. Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the guy and I have no reason to not believe him. I’ll just be surprised if he gets his money back.

If you’re buying a high-dollar item this Christmas, I strongly recommend you open the box and inspect the contents before you leave the store. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is an ideal time for these scams to go down because employees will be less likely to take the time to inspect returned packages.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.