After three years I think we've had just two or three grouches in the café who made a show of complaining about something (not counting the one or two regular local yocals who just seem to live to complain about life in general). Today there was some Bike Across Wisconsin thing going on and a lot of cyclists were coming through town. We had a group of nine come in, which was really two groups, one of three guys and one of six women, though they all came in at the same time. They ordered pizzas and paninis. The women sat in the back and the guys sat up front.
Now many of you know that we make artisan pizzas and other menu items that are not your average run-of-the-mill food items. These are things that we take some pride in and that are hopefully a cut above what you might find elsewhere. We also are a small operation, with a small oven and small kitchen. Presently we can only bake four of these small pizzas at a time, but we work as efficiently as we can to get things done as quickly as possible. Most people understand that they're not going to get their food in 10 minutes (usually it takes around 20 minutes, but if we're real busy it might take 30 minutes or so...four at a time, remember).
Anyway, after about 20 minutes one of the guys up front started complaining a bit about the wait. He felt he'd been waiting "30 minutes already" and was upset that things were taking longer than he wanted. I explained to him just what I indicated above, that we're not Dominos Pizza, this isn't "fast food," but that their pizza would be done shortly and would be well worth the wait. He just sat there shaking his head and grumbling to his two buddies, who seemed a bit embarrassed by his behavior.Five minutes later he complained again, saying that they had been "waiting for 45 minutes" (it was actually around 25-30 minutes...I asked the gals in back what time they had all come in and they gave me the time, so I knew how long it really was). Again, I apologized to the guy and asked him "What can I do to make you happy?" He said "How about a refund! This is ridiculous!" Now I was a bit ticked. Having to wait 20 to 30 minutes for any pizza is no big deal, let alone an artisan pizza where everything is sliced and prepared fresh as it's being made, and this guy could see that Kim was working her ass off in the kitchen. Not cool.
A couple minutes more and I delivered his pizza to his table, to more of his eye rolling and head shaking and grumbling. After a few minutes I walked over and said "How is it? Good, isn't it, and worth the wait." The other two guys said yes and that they liked it. Grumpypants cocked his head and replied dismissively, "It's ok." Now I went from being irritated with him to being amused. He was clearly more interested in acting like a jerk and making himself feel important than having a legitimate complaint. I replied, "Oh come on now, that's delicious and you know it. You need to relax and enjoy this beautiful day." He replied "This will give us something to talk about today." I said, "You're out riding your bike along the lake, and the weather is beautiful. Stop being such a sourpuss and enjoy yourself." He said "We will, as soon as we put this behind us." I laughed and thought "I doubt you enjoy much of anything pal." I ended with "You have a wonderful day now" as he walked out the door and said something forgettable, leaving his friends sitting at the table. They both looked pretty embarrassed.
I apologized again to the two guys for them having to wait longer than they thought they might. They both said no biggie and "he's just grouchy today" about their buddy. I said no big deal too, and "would you guys like a chocolate walnut cookie to take on your ride?" They said yes, so I gave them each one along with a third and told them to give it to "Mr. Grumpypants. Maybe it'll cheer him up a little" (though I doubted it).
I was a little dubious about how I handled that guy. I didn't want to make a bad situation worse, although I said to myself that I wasn't going to let his crummy attitude become mine too. But I did feel bad for the two guys who were with him, they seemed like genuinely good blokes. So I wondered a little if I should have just not said anything at all to the guy. But as I walked to the back our friend Jerry, who had been sitting at an adjacent table said "You sure handled that well. I would've been cussing and everything." And our friend Bob, who was at the counter at the time, came in a little while ago and said the same thing to me. That made me feel good.
Anyway, the gals in the back had to wait just as long (30 or so minutes) as the grouchy guy in the front. They seemed to have a lovely time. They were all very complimentary and loved everything. The guy up front basically ruined the visit for himself and his friends. The moral of the story is that I could have bent over for the guy and said "Oh yessir, I'm so sorry that you had to wait 10 minutes too long. Here's your refund." Some might say, and with some validity, that the customer is always right and that is what I should have done. Not gonna happen here folks. The customer ain't always right (you know that) and we don't need or want that kind of customer.
Don't get me wrong. We really, really want everyone to have a wonderful experience at the Stump, and we'll do what we can to make that happen. But this is an exclusive club of fun-loving, thoughtful and friendly people. Boors and sourpusses need not apply. My friend Gloria who runs the great salon (GJ's) next door once told me, "You know, you have the right to fire certain customers too." If someone acts like that, they're fired, and they don't get to join the club.
That guy was a boor. He's fired.