This past Saturday morning I took my 16 year-old son Noah to a restaurant, Max’s Deli, in Highland Park, IL I had told Noah about the breakfast burritos at Max’s, and he was excited to order one. However, I didn’t see the breakfast burrito on the menu.
“Don’t you have breakfast burritos?” I asked the waitress when she arrived at our table.
“Only Monday through Friday.”
“Do you think they could make one on a Saturday?” I asked.
“I’ll ask.” she replied.
“What’s in the breakfast burrito?” asked Noah. “There are certain things I don’t like.”
“I don’t know what’s in it.” she said, somewhat curtly. “It’s just what they put in the breakfast burrito.”
“Can you ask what’s in it, and then I’ll tell you what I want in my burrito?” Noah continued.
Now, here’s the kicker: The waitress replied: “You can’t change it. It’s already prepared.”
What? They haven’t served a breakfast burrito since yesterday, and “it’s already prepared?”
The only thing that was “already prepared” was the waitress’s pre-fab, scripted, impersonal, customer-insensitive response. I am a big enemy of scripting in service situations; when service employees are taught to spout policies and pre-written statements they are liable to come up with insipid gems like this one.
Here’s what happened next. The waitress relented, and Noah ordered what he wanted, which amounted to a tortilla with scrambled eggs and onions in it. In the end, her rotten, transactional, canned, scripted response was totally unnecessary.
What causes companies, and their employees, to think that customers are so dumb that it’s possible to tell them really stupid things? What causes companies, and their employees, to forget the most basic elements of human communication and human relationships when they interact with customers?