Last weekend my wife, Sue, and I were victims of terrible customer service.

We ate at an upscale restaurant and were seated outside on their patio.  Shortly after we placed our order, it started to pour rain.

Not sprinkle.  Not a light mist.  It was pouring rain.  My Arizona friends called it a monsoon.  Those native to the Midwest call them thunderstorms.  Accuweather™ called it an “aerial flood.” The patio was covered, but rain doesn’t always come straight down.

I was getting wet, so I moved seats to another table.  I was still next to Sue but not at the same table.  When the two of us go out to eat, we like to sit at the same table.  Busboys, hostesses, wait staff, and others continued working but doing nothing about the rain and repositioning the 20 or so people getting wet.

I went to the hostess stand and asked if I could get a seat where it wasn’t raining.  She told me they had a long waiting list, so she didn’t know if they would be able to help us.

Our server came with our food.  We told her we wanted seats at the same table while we ate.  She left (with our food), and somebody came to the patio to move the table to allow people to get out of the rain.

What we experienced is a situation of people not taking the initiative to act or speak up when something is wrong.  I understand people might think it isn’t their job or responsibility to act, but everything that happens within your place of business is a reflection on each of the people who work there.  If somebody has a bad experience, they blame all the employees who don’t act.  It is true at a restaurant, retail store, or electrical contractor.

I mention this poor customer service not because I want to call out a particular restaurant or industry.

In this case, what could be happening in the restaurant more important than getting people out of the rain?  It seems to happen all the time in nearly every industry.

A few days later, I stopped in New Mexico for gas as I drove across the American West.  I started filling my car with gas and headed to the restroom.  A lady smoking a cigarette on the side hollered “I will be to help you in a minute”.  I ignored her comment because I pay at the pump and nearly never pay inside a C store.

When I got inside, I noticed the place was a dump.  There was toilet paper on the floor the entire 25 feet between the main door and the door to the restroom.  Inside the restroom, I could see the last person to use it had urinated on the seat.  The soap dispenser was empty.  (I’ll concede the last item to the clerk not knowing, it is reasonable to assume the person who urinated on the seat didn’t stop to wash their hands).

These are isolated cases in my life.  I come across bad customer service all the time.

I often go someplace to check in, but while I stand there waiting to talk to somebody, I see a stream of employees who ignore me.

If you want to work at a business with happy customers (and who doesn’t), you need to be a part of excellent customer service. If you want to work at a business where people don’t get hurt (and who doesn’t), you need to warn people about unsafe conditions.

The disappointing part is typically when you receive poor service, you can identify it with a specific person.  In this restaurant’s case, it was the entire business.  They have a cultural problem.  The food was great, but how likely are people to return to a place that didn’t care their table was in the rain?

Maybe being in the center of the hippest neighborhoods in one of the country’s hippest cities will keep you in business.  But I could throw a baseball and hit about ten other restaurants, so they, like every other business, need to worry about competition.

Surprisingly, terrible customer service is generally associated with places that don’t have to compete for our business.

Can you imagine owning a restaurant and reading a review that said, “loved the food and the atmosphere was on par with the post office?”  Or “the place looked great and had a fun vibe until I sat down, and then I got treated like I was at the DMV?”

Both the fancy restaurant and the gross convenience store reminded me of the adage, “Customer service is not a department; it’s everyone’s job.”