When Times Get Tough, Laugh


Fiona Robinson, SeaFood Business associate publisher and editor

Published on
August 10, 2008

Restaurants and retailers are on the customer service front lines. They have to be on their game 24/7 to decipher whether the customer is telling them the truth or just feeding them a line to get free product. While many CEOs and managers have likely gone through extensive customer-service training, employees who come face-to-face with customers the most learn these skills on the fly.

I learned the bitter reality of what customers can do while waiting tables at a coastal seafood restaurant in Maine. A meal that topped $100 for a family of six was deducted from my meager paycheck when a table I was serving decided to "dine and ditch." It didn't dawn on me until well after they were gone that they couldn't all fit into the bathroom at once and the hostess should have been alerted to a problem. Live and learn.

Customer-service related stories like this are typically funnier when they happen to someone else. A little closer to the seafood industry, there's the story of the lobster dealer who FedExed a shipment to customers in the Southwest. The customer who opened the package demanded to be reimbursed for the lobsters he discarded that appeared to be dead because they weren't bright red like the lobsters you see in the fancy gourmet magazines.

Last week I ran across a sound file on my computer that I've managed to save for a few years that exemplifies the extreme restraint some folks on the front lines need to have. It was sent to me by a retailer who recorded it from a voicemail inbox. The three-minute long statement demanded that the retailer stop selling a list of 20 or so species that she (incorrectly) claimed were on the endangered species list, including albacore tuna, cod, all crab products, lobster and rainbow trout. The customer ended the message be asking that the retailer "stop hustling or pimping our oceans any longer." I often listen to this message when I need a reminder of how difficult a customer-service oriented business can be.

What are some of the most difficult--or funniest--customer-service stories you have? Have any customers who have tried to steal a bag of frozen shrimp by stuffing it down his or her pants? I've heard that one several times. While you may not learn a lot, I've found comic relief is sometimes required on a Monday. Share your best (or worst) customer-service moments with other SeafoodSource News readers by e-mailing them to [email protected] We'll post them in our Reader Feedback area.

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