What is it with small towns and franchise businesses? I just don’t get it. Maybe living in Orlando for years has me spoiled as to what to expect as far as service is concerned. Whatever the reason, last night was the LAST NIGHT I’ll be ordering from Firehouse Subs in Vero Beach, Florida (and, most likely, any Firehouse Subs.)
Here’s what happened:
My wife is a finicky eater. You think going out to dinner with “your friend the vegan” can be a challenge? That’s nothing compared to Shannon. Because of this, she and I have become very adept at placing custom orders clearly and repeating orders to make sure they are done correctly.
Last night, I was neck deep in coding websites for Green Mustard Entertainment, and I didn’t feel like stopping for food. Shannon suggested ordering something for takeout and she’d run to get it while I kept working. We opted to order from this Firehouse Subs:
Your standard, small town franchise in a strip mall.
Here’s where things get interesting… Shannon wanted me to call ahead to order the subs. Knowing that she orders off menu, I tend to suggest she order it when she gets there instead (so she can watch them make it.) Time was a concern overall, though, so I made the call.
If you know me in real life, you know I have one of those deep, clear, radio style voices when I enunciate. I made the call to place an order. I spelled out exactly what SHOULD and SHOULDN’T be on Shannon’s sub. (It’s really simple, actually: pepperoni, onions, provolone, and oregano… that’s it! Nothing else.) I repeated it back to the guy on the phone and he informed me that he had it – and Shannon left to get it as I continued work.
She got home about half an hour later and I stopped work to take a break, watch TV, and eat dinner. She opened her sub and saw that they got it completely wrong. There was ham and lettuce and tomatoes and…
Well. I was pissed.
I was REALLY pissed because I walked the person through the order twice on the phone. Clearly. It would take a special act of not paying attention to mess this up. I was pissed because now this Firehouse Subs was about to waste the one thing I hold most valuable: time.
I got in the car and drove (with Shannon) back to the Firehouse Subs. I asked to speak to a manager, and the guy behind the counter told me that there wasn’t one there. Let me repeat: there was no manager on duty.
I then told him how upset I was and that I wanted a refund for the whole order. I explained that the purpose of calling in an order ahead of time was to save time – not waste it like I was doing having to come in. He gave the usual talk off – “I understand” – and started going through the order.
“You don’t want the other sandwich?” he asked, referring to mine.
“Why? So I can eat it in front of my wife who’s order you got wrong?”
“You don’t want these cookies either?” he then asked. He was going through item by item – shocked that I wanted a refund for all the untouched food.
It was ludicrous.
I then pointed out that either he or someone else had to have taken the order. Another guy showed up and said he was the one who did it. Ignoring the fact that there was lettuce and tomato on it (which wasn’t supposed to be there) he went straight for “you know it normally comes with ham, too.”
“I know,” I responded. “I told you NO ham. No ham. No salami. Nothing else except the pepperoni, cheese, onions, and oregano. I was on your website reading the ingredients off the menu when I was ordering, hence making sure to mention everything to remove from the order.”
“I guess I didn’t hear your. Sorry,” he said back.
Since no manager was available, I asked for the franchise owner’s card. They got it for me and, luckily, it included the guy’s cell phone.
After getting our money back, we walked out and started deciding on where to get dinner. Before doing so, though, I took Shannon’s cell (mine was at home) and called the number on the business card. After a few rings, a man picked up.
“Hello,” I asked. “Is Doug Hummel there?”
“This is him, who’s this?” the guy replied.
I proceeded to tell Doug the entire circumstance and let him know that I was standing out front of his Firehouse Subs while calling. After listening to my rant – Doug replied with these few words: “Okay. Well, I’ll let the manager know” and then ended the call.
Wow. Thanks, man.
So should the folks from that Firehouse ever read this, here’s the simple answer to the problem that NO ONE on your team – all the way to the Franchise Owner – never did.
NO ONE OFFERED TO MAKE THE CORRECT SUB. No one. I got excuses from the counter guy…
“The manager isn’t here.”
I got excuses from the order taker…
“I didn’t hear you say no ham.”
I even got a talk off from the owner…
“I’ll let the manager know.”
NO ONE OFFERED TO FIX THE PROBLEM. NO ONE. That, boy and girls, is what is called “service.” It’s how a company thrives in a recessive market. It’s also something that, when lacking, loses business.
And as of now, I have no plans to ever return to a Firehouse Subs.