Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We Don't Go To Ravenholm Taco Bell Anymore

Taco Bell is the most anti-customer service corporation it has ever been my displeasure to visit. Consistency requires effort and Taco Bell must place high emphasis on delivering terrible customer service. At first, I thought my difficulty was limited to the restaurant located in Stillwater, OK but tonight I discovered that the negative experience is apparently a corporate mandate.

Let me take you back a few years. It's lunchtime and we decide to visit Taco Bell in Stillwater. We walk in and we're third in line. Curiously, nobody was manning the front counter. This did not surprise me as there are several reasons someone might step away from the counter to assist a customer. The only problem was that all of us were standing there for several minutes before the attendant returned to take the order of the person at the head of the line. Once the order was placed, the attendant disappeared for several more minutes with no explanation.

After another couple of minutes, the line had grown by two or three more groups and I had grown impatient. Loud enough for the employees to hear me, I wondered why no one was attending the front counter at lunch time and when we might expect to have someone take our order. I was met with a rather angry reply from behind the counter that the system would not allow them to process more than a few orders at a time or it would crash. I observed that the drive through seemed to be operating smoothly and was informed that they were different systems. At which time I suggested that our orders be handled at the drive through register. This was met with another excuse and our group, as well as a couple of others, decided to make our exit. I have returned to the Taco Bell in Stillwater only once in the six years since this incident.

Tonight, we decided on Taco Bell for dinner so we visited the location on Broadway Avenue in Boise, ID. I entered the drive-through and sat for five minutes before the line moved forward. I then sat for another five minutes before the vehicle at the window drove off. Curiously, the vehicle in front of me at the menu board did not move. I watched for another three minutes while the vehicle sat at the menu board but did not appear to have ordered. Eventually, she moved forward to the window and I pulled up to the speaker... there was silence. I continued my observation of the vehicle in front of me which eventually drove away.

I waited at the speaker another minute or so with no acknowledgment, then pulled to the window as the previous vehicle had done. When no one acknowledged my presence, I honked the horn... and was met with blank stares. I continued to honk but no one came to the window. I finally drove around, parked and entered the restaurant.

When someone finally came to the register, I asked if she was the manager. She answered in the affirmative so I asked, calmly, if she could explain why I waited in the drive through line for twenty minutes without being acknowledged? She mentioned something about changing out cash drawers, a $50 order at the front, and some other nonsense that I frankly didn't care about because there is no excuse for ignoring customers.


At this point, I asked her if she had a comment card or a customer service number that I could call. She walked away, as if dismissing me, and hollered toward the back, "Donna (not her real name), would you come deal with this guy?"

As I waited for "Donna," I noticed that right on the front of the registers was a customer service number. What would have been so hard about pointing that out to me? Anyway, the general manager finally appeared and gave me a similar story about what had happened but offered little in the way of an apology. I told her that she should, perhaps, re-examine the processes they follow in order to ensure that this doesn't happen again. She informed me that she is unable to change how the exchange of cash drawers is handled because the process is a function of software in the register. She missed my point and we had a two minute discussion on how the cash drawer switch requires "only a couple of minutes" to complete. It was then that I started going through her excuses point-by-point. Finally, she acquiesced that someone should have at least acknowledged me (and the other person who drove off) and she would find out why that happened. At no point during the conversation did she inquire as to whether or not I still wanted to place an order.

Don't ask me to go to Taco Bell with you. My answer is no.

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