Patron Happiness Requires More Than Great Beer

Boasting no fewer than seven microbreweries1, Fort Collins, Colorado, is a craft beer connoisseur’s paradise. Most of these breweries not only offer tours of their facilities. They also feature on-site tasting rooms and restaurants. One of these, the Fort Collins Brewery, is home to the fabulous Fort Collins Internet Professionals meetup.

After our January geek get-together, a few of us had dinner at the brewery’s “Gravity 1020” restaurant. The drinks were great, the food was great, and although our waiter got some orders wrong, he was so friendly and courteous overall, that we were pretty happy with the service, too.

Unfortunately, the restaurant overcharged my credit card by more than $10. And the way they handled this issue was, alas, not great at all.

A credit card charge that’s off by more than 60%

My part of the dinner bill had come in at $20.14: $16.64 plus $3.50 tip. The credit card receipt I had signed shows that very amount. The credit card statement, however, listed a charge of $32.49.

During our February meetup, I talked to the restaurant manager and asked her to please look into this. After she did, she showed me what looked like a copy of the original receipt, pointed to the tip field, and said something like, “Yes, you’re correct. We, umh… — the waiter had entered a wrong amount into the tip field. We will, of course, reimburse you. Do you want us to change the invoice to just the food and drinks, or do you still want to include the tip, as well?”

I decided to give our waiter the benefit of the doubt and did leave the tip in there. But that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that something’s missing from that conversation: an apology for their mistake!

To be honest, I don’t recall her exact words, and maybe she did slip in a cursory “sorry”. I did not, however, get to hear any real, sincere apology.

You screw up, you apologize. Simple as that.

If you make a mistake like this, it’s a given that I can expect you to fix it. But that’s not enough. The very least I should be able to expect beyond the fix, is a sincere apology. Especially if you work in the hospitality business.

Even better yet, all it takes to quickly move most unhappy customers from a sulking “meh” to a thoroughly pleased “wow! thanks!”, is just a small gesture of atonement that comes naturally. And what could come more naturally in a brewery than offering a pint on the house?

Not so at the Fort Collins Brewery: They screwed up pretty badly; I had to tackle the hassles to make them fix it; and all I got was the promise that they would do just that, or rather, “just that”.

The effects of customer frustration

Imagine, just for kicks, what this article would have sounded like if the manager had said: “You’re correct. We screwed up. We’re truly sorry, so we’ll just cover the entire tab for you. You should have the full amount back within a few days.”

Because I don’t know whether Fort Collins Brewery has a policy in place that defines how employees must handle situations like this, I hesitate to put the blame on the restaurant manager alone.

I do know, however, that, while I will still enjoy the odd pint during our meetups there, I will avoid their restaurant and skip their products at the liquor store from now on. But I’m really lucky: Thanks to so many amazing alternatives in this town, that won’t be hard to do at all.

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