Seriously, I take customer complaints VERY seriously and I'm very quick to offer comps, refunds, empathy, apologies, whatever it takes to rectify a situation in which a customer is less than fully satisfied. I've become very good at handling these kind of situations and turning an unsatisfied customer into someone who feels that, although they weren't given what they should've been, the situation was handled by someone who genuinely cared about making it right.
So today, when a guy called me and told me that the burgers he got on Wednesday contained "foreign matter", I got my initial horrified reaction under control and started asking some questions to get to the bottom of the situation, and, more importantly, what did he want me to do to fix it.
Turns out, this person, who identified himself as "David" was claiming that the burgers had "gristle and bone" in them. He claimed that once he or one of his friends (for whom he bought lunch) got a bite with whatever it was in it, they just threw away the rest of the food and ordered a pizza.
He also claimed that he called back that day and was told that the manager "wasn't available."
So now I start to wonder what's up. First off, I grind the beef myself every single day. No one else does it. Ever. The large pieces of chuck that I get in are boneless and they're trimmed well before being ground. I eat the burgers every day and have never had anything even vaguely resembling a hard gristly piece, and have never received this complaint before.
Second, I'm the only one that answers the phone here. If the phone rings and I'm not able to answer for some reason, my employees don't pick it up.
So as soon as David told me that these two occurrences that never occur both happened to him on the same day, some red flags went up. That said, I wanted the opportunity to talk to him in person, so I told him to come in when it was convenient for him and we'd talk about it.
Of course, he showed up today, towards the end of the day, and was basically demanding his money back. He claimed he was owed forty bucks, but when I asked him how many burgers he had, he said "four", which doesn't compute.
It's always a delicate situation, this kind of thing. You don't want to just come out and call the person who's standing in front of you a liar, you want to somehow reach an amicable solution, but, also, no one wants to be taken advantage of by some scammer making up a story to try and extort money.
So I basically tried to just keep him talking. I asked him if he had a receipt and he said that he had "just thrown it away this morning" after talking to me on the phone, since I didn't tell him to bring it, he said he figured he wouldn't need it.
Ding, ding, ding! My scam artist alarm bells just went off again there. If you managed to actually save the receipt for two days, why wouldn't you then bring it with you? And, even more damning--I generally don't give the customers receipts. We use them in the kitchen and, while I can print a copy of the receipt if the customer requests one, almost no one ever does.
I didn't tell David that, though. I just acted incredulous about the fact that he expected me to hand him a cash refund without a receipt, and asked him if any other store/restaurant would ever do that.
That's when he started getting confrontational and loud. He made some thinly-veiled threat about how he didn't want to have to talk loudly about this and have my customers hear, since I might be embarrassed and I told him that I wasn't worried about that, and to go ahead and talk as loudly as he wanted. Then he asked me flat-out if I was "calling him a liar" and even though I thought he was lying, I didn't want to escalate the whole thing, so I just said something about how his story contained way too many unlikely coincidences for me to believe it to the point that I'd hand him forty bucks out of my register.
Then, he started going off about how we're doing well, have lots of customers in here, and could afford it, to which my response was "what the fuck does THAT have to do with anything?", and then I started getting nervous, wondering how long he's been watching me and/or this place.
Finally, I just came out and told him that there was no way that I was going to give him any cash, but if he wanted me to give him a re-make of his lunch, I'd do that. With that, he stormed out, but he went out the back door, rather than the front. I followed him to make sure he wasn't going to trash my bathroom or something, and after I listened to make sure he was just washing his hands, he returned into the restaurant and said that, yes, he would just take the free food.
But now I was so certain that he was a shake down artist, that I didn't want to give him the free food, at least not without making him work some more for it, so I kept at him, telling him that his story seemed really fishy, and first he didn't want the food, but now he was going to take it, and what's up with that? Finally, I just said to him, "look, if I give you a bunch of free burgers, are you just going to go away and not come back again with this kind of crap?" He said yes, so I wrote a ticket and had the burgers made, but while he was waiting, he must've gotten cold feet or something, so he said he needed to go do something and he'd come back in a few minutes, but he never returned.
The whole thing was just so upsetting. The guy looked like a fairly nice, normal person, and it goes against my nature to be suspicious of people anyway, but especially in a customer-service type of situation. After he showed his hand, I felt like such a moron for even giving him the time of day in the first place, and then I started getting paranoid, thinking he was going to try and come back and beat me up, or jump me when I went to the bank or something. I even took a different route when I walked to the bank to make the deposit.
It's been a couple hours, but I'm still shaken up. I hate the nervous, freaky feeling that this encounter has left me with, and I hate even more the prospect of dealing with any future unsatisfied customer with this looming in the back of my head, coloring my perception of the next person, whose complaint might be perfectly legitimate.
Fuck you, asshole scammer shakedown artist. Stay the fuck away from my store!