Bad Business


Bad Business

What a horrible dessert can tell you about running a good business

After a recent sushi dinner, my wife and I decided we wanted to grab a little dessert… something other than green tea or mochi ice cream.

We chose a new branch of an iconic LA eatery known for good pancakes, pies, etc.

It did not turn out as we had hoped.

But from the ashes of this nasty experience rose some truths about customer service and quality products.

The Dessert Debacle

The place looked empty when we walked in. It was a large space, and nobody was seated near the front windows. There was no obvious signage or indication how to get a table, so we wandered further in.

Customers were seated in the back of the restaurant, and there seemed to be lots of waiters rushing about… but nobody there to greet us. We had several pass by and tell us they’d be with us in a minute. Finally someone told us we could sit “there” (pointing). No menus. No drink order. Nada.

Eventually we got menus and asked for 2 waters and a decaf. “The decaf isn’t ready, but I’ll brew a fresh pot.” More waiting. Eventually we got some water and our order taken. All we wanted was a brownie sundae with extra nuts. Easy, right? Any preschooler could make one.

Decaf finally came. More waiting. Out comes… the wrong dessert. Just a sundae in a glass. No apology. They just took it back and said “We’ll get you the right one.” Like it was our fault.

It’d been so long that my wife had finished her decaf, and flagged down a waiter to get a refill. Guess what? “The decaf isn’t ready, but I’ll brew a fresh pot.”

More waiting. Out comes… *something* in a bowl with whipped cream. It’s dropped off at the table and the waiter hurries back to the kitchen. WTF?!?!? It’s like a bowl of brownie batter with a scoop of ice cream in the middle! Disgusting!

My wife has to flag down the manager. He comes over and tries to tell us it’s ok – that’s just icing. WTF?!?!? (again). My wife scoops up a bunch of the goop and shows him. He takes it and says “We’ll get you the right one.” Again, no apology.

So – enough is enough. My wife stood up and walked out. I followed. Needless to say we won’t ever go back. And we’ll probably warn others away as well.

Lessons Learned:

  • Make it easy for your customers to find you and find out about what you offer.
  • Anticipate client needs and fulfill them promptly.
  • Show off a little – let people know the things you’re most proud of.
  • Customer service is key, and training and manners are important. Treat people how you would want to be treated.
  • Attention to details matters. Make sure it’s right before it leaves the door.
  • Apologize when you make a mistake. Then correct it.
  • If you can’t do something, refer it to someone who can.
  • Don’t let anyone work for you who doesn’t care or will not take ownership of what needs to be done.
  • Consider purchases or monthly expenses carefully. Don’t buy what you don’t really need.

Have you ever gotten some great lessons from a bad experience with a business?

Let me know in the comments below!


All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at:



10 thoughts on “Bad Business

  1. My motto is, “Everybody makes mistakes. It’s what you do next that counts.”

    That’s not to mean that what you do before a mistake is pointless. Mistakes are easier to accept or even overlook if the customer is having a wonderful experience—or, better, had a series of wonderful experiences. I call it setting yourself up for failure.

    And, yes. I used to be a Boy Scout.

    • I think law enforcement might follow a slightly different set of rules on “customer service”… But you’re welcome to try it!

  2. Poor service, lack of communication, a bad product and an indifferent attitude can kill your business. The take away from your lessons learned are spot on.

  3. This was a great article. I’d also add that if you as an employee do not like working with people then stay out of a customer-oriented business or field. Politeness, caring, great listening and communication skills, and customer service mean everything and can make or break a business.

    • Thanks, Eugenia… You’re right: customer interaction is not for everyone. Some jobs require it, some don’t. Best to choose what you’re good at 😉

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