It’s almost impossible to “shoplift” a pizza at our restaurant, although we have had numerous people open a tab and walk out before.
And we did have this one guy, extremely eccentric and gregarious, who walked out without paying for his pizza.
He kept a steady dialogue with everyone at the counter and so each of us assumed that he had paid someone during his numerous anecdotes. But as far as stealing from a restaurant, well, the only way to do that is to complain about something (or be a dishonest employee, but we’ll save that for another time).
A valid complaint is something of a lose–win–win situation. We lose initially because we screwed up. Oddly enough, we win when we are told about the problem, because then we can learn from the mistake and do our best not to replicate it in the future. And lastly, we win when the customer is satisfied and returns again to patronize our restaurant.
A bogus complaint has a lose–lose–lose–win factor. We lose initially because there was nothing wrong in the first place. We lose again because we are forced to “fix” the supposed problem at our own cost. And then we lose because typically the bogus complainer wasn’t planning on being a repeat customer (usually someone from out of town) or they complain again on their next visit or delivery. That’s where the win comes in.
Our point-of-sale system has been very helpful in keeping track of those customers who have a complaint. In most instances, it’s a handy reminder of “doesn’t like a charred crust – blanco, please!” or “called to complain that they didn’t get enough sauce“. BOOM! We can mention it on the phone, relay it to the kitchen, and then make a perfect meal. We’re the heroes.
And then there’s the other side.
In the past, some of the lifters have been dumb to a fault. There was the gal that called and said her pizza was burnt the night before, and that she had called and talked to the owner (me) and been promised a new pizza the next day. I didn’t have the time or energy to call of the staff from the night before to verify it, so I handed over a free pizza to some 10-year-old kid who came in to claim it while his mommy waited in the car. I did, however, add her phone number to our database with a note saying such, so when she called again to use the same story I called her on it. I was irritated that she got away with it the first time, and also angry.
We have also had multiple customers complain that their pizza was “burnt”. Some would bring it back, I’d lift its skirt (look under the pizza) and shake my head. It’s perfect, I’d bemoan from behind the scenes… but the customer is always right.
I finally changed our menu to say:
Of course, we certainly can’t point to the FINE PRINT and tell them that we won’t remake their pizza. I just hope it catches their attention and if they know they don’t like a charred crust, they’ll speak up ahead of time.