Not all fast food places are equal

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On this past Sunday evening, I learned a harsh lesson on the fast food and order food via mobile apps. It’s not the 1st time I waited a loooooooong time for the food. During pandemic I recalled once I waited probably one hour at the Panda Express not far from where I live, when I was using the Uber Eats app. I learned lesson and didn’t go back there for a loooooooong time. After the embargo period, I only go there via drive through, or sometimes when their door is open, I will go inside and order food.

I also often go to Chick-fil-A (CFA), Culver’s and Panera (St. Louis Bread Co., or just Bread Co here). I never had issues at all 3. All are fairly friendly places. Using mobile apps ordering food is quite ubiquitous nowadays. This may be get more popular during pandemic and this change seems kept intact post pandemic – the other day I saw a bunch of people wait for food (online order) at Noodles Co, and I recall before pandemic during dinner time, there were usually quite a few diners eating there. Personally I use the restaurants app / website such as CFA, Corner 17, Five Guys, McDonald’s, Noodles Co, Panera, Pot Belly’s, Pickle-man, Raising Cane’s, Shake Shack, Taco Bell, Taike, etc., and sometimes the food delivery app / website (I mainly do pickup though) such as Chowbus (Asian ethnic foods) (Grub-hub (Seamless) and Uber Eats. In very few cases I would run into issues. And I don’t really care much if the restaurants miss one or two items: I think mostly are honest mistakes and we all make mistakes as we are humans.

But on last Sunday the fast food place Popeyes gave me a lesson on this again: not all fast food places are equal. We ordered food from the mobile app (first time I used their app). And we planned to dine in the restaurant. I waited quite patiently. After a few customers and probably 20 to 30 minutes, the staff told me they don’t have couple items, and asked me to do something inside the app. I don’t see an option to update the order in the app. And because the kids already waited for a while, I asked them if they can give the items they have or give replacement (in my impression giving replacement is a quite common practice in some restaurants). They would not do any of those. I did the reporting in the app and we went to the nearby McDonalds’s in stead. I setup an email alert for the post of the charge, and couple days later I started dispute once I received the email message. Did the email again to the merchant customer service department also. || Update (07-26-2023 pm) It looks like after I replay back to the Zendesk (they use Zendesk for customer service) email yesterday, the merchant did refund.

Later on I did a bit more google search, and it seems this (customer service issue) is a quite well know issue at the mentioned chain restaurant: google review, trip advisor, delish and reddit. So I would stay away from them for now.

Customer Service is a tough job in general. As my 13 year old told me from time to time, (probably from her own observations), human beings are messy, and she doesn’t want to be a people manager when she grows up. Me neither. My customer service experience is limited, but once I did spent 2 hours (maybe more) to fix an issue when I was working for the credit card company (loyalty and rewards program), and basically I was trying to issue about 13 cents (yes $0.13) worth of points to a bank customer, because that customer (an old gentleman) would call the customer service line every day to complain about the issue.

I do understand in the case of many fast food restaurants, they are short staffed, and sometimes customers are not that reasonable (I don’t believe customers are always right, btw). But on the other hand, many fast food restaurants don’t provide something (food or drink) that’s only available at their shop, and customers always have a choices. I think this can be expanded to things such as banks, internet services and grocery stores, etc. too.

Something came to my mind (modified from a fairly well known saying): one may never remember what food they eat, but they will always remember how they are being treated at the restaurant (or some other establishment). Another example is in the old days, I recall there were beggars who asked for food at my village, and we wouldn’t or should not say anything like: 嗟来食. And recently I heard sometimes the police would be crazy at the homeless person who ate at restaurant too. Last but not least, a topic on homeless customer (too big a topic and I would not expand it here).

PS: I recall many years ago when I was in the graduate school, one of the fellow graduate students an American friend told me in general Americans can wait about 5 minutes for the food at McDonald’s (he meant people could use more patience, which I agree). I think I probably can wait for 15 to 20 minutes at a fast food / fast casual place nowadays. || Also, yesterday I noticed the CFA is coming to Creve Coeur, they will take over the place at the former TGIF place at Tempo Drive and Olive Road. There will be another CFA place next to the U City Costco too.

PS 2: I came across this one, which is a bit extreme. Again really there is no need to fight over something like this. I think the best way is to go to another place, e.g., McDonald’s, Chick fil A, Raising Cane’s, or Culver’s, in this case 🙂

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