Is It Wrong To Give Customers What They Want?

Hot beer  “Please give me sausage and peppers, but hold the sausage.” This is what I cheerily asked the server behind the counter at the Villa Fresh Italian Restaurant at the Albany International Airport.

“If you want peppers you will have to have the sausage with the peppers," she replies.

“Well, you can save the sausage for someone else," I say, "I know sausage is more expensive so you’re actually making money.” I thought it was a great argument. "Furthermore," I continue, "I’ve gotten just the peppers before, your boss makes it for me."

It didn’t seem to faze her because she repeated again; you have to take the sausage. This time she added, that’s the rules; I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.

I wasn’t trying to be obstinate; I just didn’t want the sausage. Actually I wanted the peppers, sauce, onions without the sausage. I thought the argument was logical, keep the sausage. I suggested she break the rules.

She went on to continue with her own interesting argument. If someone saw her giving me the peppers, they might want the same thing which would leave her short peppers for the next customer. The next person might want just sausage and then she would eventually be short sausage. Of course this is a problem for her but the customers would love it. It’s called personalization; customers want what they want.

Then I began to wonder; would she be fired for pleasing the customers and not following the rules? A friend of mine said he and his wife had been the last ones in a restaurant when the wait staff started vacuuming around them. This is an old trick used by mothers, who want their kids to get out of bed, and wait staff who want their customers to leave. My friend asked if she might stop a minute so they could finish eating, although he realized it was late and they were the last customers. The wait staff said she would ask the boss if it was okay to stop vacuuming. When she returned she said the boss said it was okay. Did he not trust her enough to decide when she should and should not vacuum? It’s sounding like my pepper story.

Would my server be fired for dishing out too many peppers? Maybe that’s why she said no. Would she run out of peppers and now have another problem?

Now we have another issue; should you listen to your customers? Will they send you on a wild goose chase? Should you change your menu because the customers says so? Maybe you don’t have enough room for all the new dishes.

Starbucks had an issue years ago about the addition of skim milk lattés. The owner, Shultz, did not believe Starbucks should be serving skim milk lattés, no matter how many suggestions he received from his store managers. In his mind it just wasn’t right. Until he witnessed a customer leaving the store because she couldn’t get a skim milk latté did he change the rules.

Listening to your customers may lead to ideas for new products. If it doesn’t require a lot of preparation or money, why not please them?

I used to go to McDonald's to order a burger, but "hold the burger." This used to cause the server anxiety—what did I really want and how much should they charge? Since then McDonalds has changed the menu, they call it a ‘veggie.’ I’m still having trouble getting my onions, relish, sauerkraut, hold the hot dog, but this is more of a language problem.

I guess I’m just spoiled; the franchise owner of the Villa always gave me my ‘just peppers.’ His answer, if you just want peppers you should have peppers. Makes sense to me.

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