Thursday, March 19, 2009

Customer Service Madness

My co-worker, Buck Buck*, is a huge sports fan. I am a moderate sports fan, but the NCAA Tournament is fun to watch. So, I am willing to be a team player and head out for a long lunch and watch a game. After all, the daytime tournament games only happen on two days per year.

So, we left the office in search of a place that would have all of the games on via satellite. We settled on a spacious, non-smoking restaurant I had been to a few times. I recalled it having a zillion TVs in the bar-area.

"Oh yes, of course, we are showing all the tournament games," said our server as we followed her to an empty table. "What can I get you to drink?"

Looking up, sure enough, there were a zillion TVs gleaming in brilliant high-definition. And, all of them were tuned to a version of ESPN: ESPN 2, ESPN U, ESPN News, ESPN Kitchen Sink! (For the uninitiated, CBS has covered the NCAA Tournament since 1982.)

"So, are you guys going to switch these?" Buck Buck asked when she returned with his Diet Coke. "Because the LSU game is already three minutes in," he said looking at his iPhone "and the Memphis game is starting." (Did I mention that he's a huge sports fan?)

"I'll check on that. I don't know what's going on."

While we waited on her return we perused the menu, knowing that we'd pay for the sodas and head to the next restaurant down the street if the TVs weren't switched soon. I could have saved the cash and used the office microwave; watching a game was the whole point.

I glanced around the place. A number of other customers were getting antsy. Fifteen minutes go by (and much apologizing from the server) and one television in a corner finally switched channels. Very few customers could see it from their tables. "I asked the manager what was going on and he kicked me out of the office," the waitress explained.

Politely getting up, we deduced that the manager was experiencing some technical difficulties. I understand; it happens. Still, if you have a zillion expensive TVs and your restaurant is in a bustling shopping district and you hang a giant banner reading "Watch All 64 Tournament Games Here!" shouldn't you be checking your technology a hour earlier?

I know it's not surgery. I know it's not life or death. But, it's customer service, dagnabit! And it seems epidemic. When did we consumers lose all of our power? Or am I just being cranky?

(Oh, and don't get me started on my duels with the cable company!)

*As always, for the sake of privacy, real names are substituted.

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