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Articles & Press Releases > Article 70

Smile, You're on Candid Camera!

I don’t usually eat dairy and rarely have it at home. I really enjoy ice cream, however, and occasionally will go to a good ice cream store for their high quality treats. In the western suburbs of Chicago there is a dairy run by a family that has several stores, and more recently they’ve expanded into other suburbs and into Chicago. When I stopped at one of their stores recently, I asked for a sundae with a little chocolate sauce, a little caramel sauce, and a little marshmallow topping.  

The girl behind the counter looked at the cash register/computer with a furrowed brow as she tried to figure out how to take my order. Next, she conferred with two other teenage employees who were behind her making sundaes and other ice cream concoctions. There was much whispering. After about 30 seconds she returned to the counter and said to me, “We can’t do that. Our computer won’t let us.”  

Your computer won’t let you?  

“Yeah,” she replied. “We can make a chocolate sundae or a caramel sundae or a marshmallow sundae. But not a mixture. The computer doesn’t know how to do that. Unless you want to be charged for extra topping.”  

I don’t want extra. I just want a little of each; say, 1/3 of a serving of each.  

(By now I realized they needed a little help solving their customer service problem, and since they were kids, I thought it would be fun.)  

Why don’t you just ring it up as a chocolate sundae but then give me 1/3 of each of those toppings?  

She thought for a moment and said, “Just a minute,” and then conferred with a third teenage boy. This boy came out from behind the back counter to personally verify what I wanted, and then said he would do it. He added, “If the other manager was here today, I’d get chewed out for making your special request, though.”  

I took that opportunity with him (and the teenage girl taking my order) to say that their employer should not make it difficult for them to serve customers and to fulfill a simple
special request. I acknowledged that I understood the computer stood in their way and the systems in place were sometimes a stumbling block (even though the systems were intended to help). They both seemed relieved that I was not taking it out on them.  

The young man commented that stores like theirs were set up to charge customers more money for extra anything. I told him that charging extra for extra is fine. In my
case, though, I didn’t want extra. He then had an “a-ha!” moment and replied, “Right! You want the equivalent of one serving coming from 3 toppings.”  So I got my chocolate, caramel, & marshmallow sundae. Then they waited on all the other people who were lined up behind me.  

The dairy computer got in the way of these employees so much that they could not problem-solve until I helped them do it.  

The funny thing is that I remember watching a Candid Camera show about three or four years ago that took place in one of these dairy’s stores. In the bit, the Candid Camera actress worked behind the counter with dairy employees telling customers that all they had at the store that day was vanilla:  vanilla with vanilla with vanilla. She totally messed with the customers. She didn’t need a computer to tell her anything. Once the bit was exposed, they gave the customers anything they wanted.  

If the dairy could be so creative as to work with Candid Camera on some customer shtick, surely they can be more creative when it comes to simple requests from customers, right?  

For any business, the bottom line is that if your employees feel that they cannot serve your customers because your systems will not allow them to do so, you may lose customers.  

Therefore, set up systems that are relatively easy for your employees to run (especially if you have young employees). In addition, make it easy for your employees to serve your customers by creating systems that are reasonably flexible.  

Meanwhile, you never know when I might show up and make a special request. Could your system handle it? Could your employees work around your systems to provide it?  

When it’s least expected  

You’re elected  

You’re the star today 

Smile, Glory’s at your business 

With a hocus pocus  

You’re in focus  

It’s your lucky day!  

Smile, Glory’s at your business!


Glory Borgeson, President
2008 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

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