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Ever wonder what happens when people find fault with a fast-food joint? Kyla Jones considers herself a reasonable person. As someone who has worked in customer service, she knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of an unwarranted phone tirade. Still, after receiving shoddy treatment from a KFC manager in Columbus, Ohio, she didn't hesitate to call the company's hot line to lodge a complaint.
In 2008, Jones and a companion began eating dinner around 8:30 p.m. at a KFC restaurant that closed at 9. Within ten minutes, they were approached brusquely by a manager and asked to leave without being allowed to finish their meals.
"We're closing in ten minutes, you have to go," Jones recalls him saying. "Do you want a box to put it in?" "He was just really abrupt and acting like us being there was a huge inconvenience," the 48-year-old continues. "Nothing like, 'I hope you're enjoying the food, but our employees need to go.' I sat there like a stunned deer in the headlights."
After leaving the restaurant, she called a KFC toll-free number (printed on the receipt) to complain about the treatment. She gave a representative the store name, date, time and a detailed account of exactly what happened. The representative apologized and told her that she should have been treated more courteously. The next day she got a follow-up call from the company with another apology. "The rotten manager was gone within days and I've never had another problem," she says.
Not surprisingly, each and every customer complaint doesn't get resolved. And fast-food employees are just as likely to grumble about poor treatment at the hands of rude customers, as discussed in an earlier Slashfood story. For many unhappy quick-service patrons, customer service can be a misnomer.
Complaining with persistence and tact can help. Matt Dzula, from Baltimore, Maryland says that he frequently complains if "service or food quality doesn't meet what I consider to be standard for a fast-food establishment." His complaints usually relate to botched food orders and employee rudeness.
"Lets face it, it's cheap and the expectations aren't so high," Dzula says.
He sums up his grievance strategy like this: "I am quick with what I have to say. I make sure to mention that I'm not looking for anything free and I don't call during busy lunch or dinner rushes. Those three things really help to make sure that they realize I'm only trying to help. Being a crazy person at the other end of the phone does nothing to help matters."
He praises McDonald's managers for being the most responsive.
A spokeswoman for McDonald's advises customers with easily resolvable complaints like food-order errors to contact a restaurant manager. She says if a complaint cannot be resolved, customers should call the customer satisfaction department.
"Customer satisfaction is a top priority," Ashlee Yingling, a McDonald's spokeswoman told Slashfood.
The customer-is-always-right philosophy isn't always fair to fast-food employees, who sometimes feel belittled and abused.
At an Arby's restaurant in McKean County in Northwestern Pa., extremely rude customers won't be served, according to an employee who asked that she not be identified because she wasn't authorized to discuss store policy. "If you are exceptionally rude, we will take your food, issue a refund, and you're never welcome back," the long-time employee says. "It's a rather small town so it's hard to forget a face."
In one case, a customer came into the restaurant, claiming he got the wrong drive-thru order and screaming obscenities. His bag of food was taken by a store manager and thrown away. The Arby's employee says it's unusual for workers to treat customers rudely, but in one extreme example, a shift manager was fired for swearing at a child. The child had asked for a complimentary glass of water.
For Bob Abner, a former Taco Bell customer from Louisville, Ky., complaining didn't seem to help get him better service or treatment. Abner was a frequent early morning (1 or 2 a.m.) drive-thru customer who recalls that employees often got orders wrong and ignored even simple requests about too much ice in his soda. He believed verbal or written complaints were "pointless and a waste of his time." Instead he has decided to put his money where his mouth is -- at restaurants other than Taco Bell.