The Customer Always Comes First, Except When He Doesn’t

I had two very bizarre experiences this weekend, which left me really scratching my head.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to Home Depot to buy filters for my HVAC intake vents. I’m not a particularly handy guy, but I’ve always loved Home Depot because they are very customer service oriented, with helpful and knowledgeable employees. So, what happened on Saturday was shocking. I was in a bit of a rush and there were four or five people in each checkout line, each with a lot of stuff in their cart. I finally got close to the front of the line when five Home Depot employees with carts of their own came up to my line and, without saying a single word, cut in line in front of me. All five of them! I couldn’t believe it. I had to stand there another 15 minutes while each one of them checked out. I complained to the cashier when I finally reached the front of the line, but she just shrugged and said, “They only get 15 minutes for their break so we have to take them first.” I was infuriated.

That evening, no less than 3 hours later, I had another bizarre customer service experience. With the kind support of my vegan wife, we went out for our Father’s Day dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse. Not only do you always get a great steak at Morton’s, they also have great customer service and wait staff. That made what happened all the more surprising. My son, daughter, and I all had a hankering for filet mignon. But, when we ordered it, the waiter said they were out of filets. I pushed him a bit, asking “Are you serious? You don’t have a single filet left?” He finally conceded that they were not completely out of filets. To my amazement, he said, “Well, sir, in reality we have about 15 or 20 filets left, but we’re saving them.” “Saving them for whom,” I demanded. His reply left me speechless, “Actually, we’re saving them for the waiters and kitchen staff. After all the customers are gone, we will eat the remaining filets.”

Can you believe that these two things happened to me on the same day??? You shouldn’t because neither one of them happened. Home Depot and Morton’s pride themselves on customer service and would sooner shut their doors than put their staff ahead of their customers.

But, here’s something that really did happen to me this morning and happens to me at least once a week. I arrived at Reagan National Airport at 5:00 AM for my 6:00 AM flight, cutting it close as I do every Monday. I had a first class American Airlines ticket in my hand. There was a bit of a line at security and just as I neared the front, five American Airlines pilots and flight attendants rudely cut in front of me in line. None of them apologized nor said “excuse me. “

One of the nice things about traveling first class is getting something that actually resembles real food on the flight. When I’m leaving the house at 4:30 AM, the last thing I want to worry about is breakfast. Until about six months ago, I got a decent continental breakfast on my weekly to Miami flight. It consisted of a bowl of cereal, some fruit and yogurt, and a muffin or biscuit. In an obvious attempt to save money, AA got rid of everything but the fruit and bread and replaced the biscuit with a bagel that Alexander Ovechkin would love to get his stick on. No cereal and no yogurt. So, the only way to actually satiate your appetite is to eat a disgusting cold bagel. However, I just learned that the pilots still get the good continental breakfast with cereal and yogurt.

Only in the airline business would a service business consistently put the staff ahead of the customers. If the experiences I described at Home Depot and Morton’s had actually happened and, more important, happened every day, nobody would ever shop or eat there. The companies would go out of business. Immediately. Due to the effective route monopolies the airlines have, we have little choice so they treat us like crap. And, were it not for the cyclical intervention of the bankruptcy courts, I guess the airlines wouldn’t be around either. Maybe there’s a customer service lesson to be learned there.  I have several friends who work in the cockpit for AA and I think some of them may even read my blog. I offer them the opportunity to defend these outrageous practices.

About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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