A few years ago, I dropped in on the dry cleaners my family had patronized for several years and asked if they could press the dress shirt my son was required to wear at St. Rita High School on the days that Mass was celebrated.
The shirt was badly wrinkled but also needed to be cleaned. The trouble was, my son needed the shirt the following day, and there was no time for dry cleaning. I asked if it simply could be pressed so it would look presentable. The owner of the dry cleaners flatly refused, saying it had to be cleaned as well.
I walked out of the business after telling the owner that there were several other dry cleaners in Oak Lawn. I’ve never returned, choosing instead to bring our regular cleaning business to a competitor a few miles away.
On another occasion, we ordered food for my son’s graduation party from an Oak Lawn restaurant. On the day of the party, I watched a family member place a piece of chicken on his plate that had a bone and deep-fried skin. There was no meat.
We laughed about it, but it was an embarrassing moment. I complained to the restaurant owner a few days later, but he merely shrugged his shoulders and said there was nothing he could do. I was more than a little surprised, as we routinely ordered dinners and pizzas from the restaurant for years prior to the party.
I recount these examples of poor customer service after receiving something unexpected in the mail this week.
Our family Christmas Eve party was catered by Barraco’s Restaurant, which has locations in Evergreen Park, Burbank and Crestwood. I spotted a coupon for their holiday catering offer and decided to give them a try.
On the night of the party, my wife waited for more than 30 minutes at the restaurant to pick up the food. It was an inconvenience, to be sure, but we quickly forgot about it when the food was served. Fried chicken—with meat on the bone, by the way—mostaccioli, tossed salad and rolls had all of our guests raving and returning to the table for seconds. My son went beyond seconds—always a good gauge for measuring quality food.
More than one week later, I got a phone call from Barraco’s asking about the holiday order. I told the woman on the phone that the food was great, and then, reluctantly, I mentioned my wife’s long wait. I added that it was understandable because Christmas Eve is a busy night. The woman apologized and told me the owners would be notified. I appreciated the call and forgot about it.
Then, last week, an envelope arrived from Barraco’s containing a $65 gift certificate. I was more than a little surprised. “Have a meal on us,” the restaurant was saying, “we appreciate your business.” This was a great example of excellent customer service—something that’s become all too infrequent these days.
Of course, the move makes good business sense as well. There’s no doubt we’ll go back to Barraco’s for future parties or dinner. And, I’m bound to tell people about the gift certificate (as I’m doing in this space), something that can only benefit the restaurant. I look forward to a coming night when we have a meal at Barraco’s.
Community leaders often remind us to shop local, support area businesses and keep your dollars in town. That’s a good idea. Small business owners rely on us for their success. But we also have the right to good customer service and to vote with our wallets.
When you’re unhappy with a product or service, tell the proprietor. Ditto when you’ve had a great experience.
A smart business owner will respond appropriately.
— Bob Rakow is a news reporter for The Reporter