BJ’s Restaurant and the maladroit manager

Once a week or so I have lunch at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, a restaurant near my home.  Overall it’s a decent place to get a meal: quick service, a friendly staff and decent food.  I enjoy going there, or at least I did until today.

BJ’s offers you a frequent diner card, which they punch every visit, and after 7 meals, they give you a ten dollar gift card, which is about equal to a lunch and beverage. Very affordable pricing. For some reason I don’t cash these cards in as I earn them.  Instead, I put them in my wallet or in my change dish and forget about them.

 So today I ordered this new dish “Chicken Cacciatore.” Now I know chicken cacciatore because I like to cook and I know what it’s supposed to be.  But this dish had almost no chicken in it.  It was basically a few small chicken chunks in a tomato and vegetable sauce, served over a portion of fettuccine.  Overall, the dish was tasty, although not quite as the menu described it.

 For some reason I decided to use one of my gift cards to settle my check and gave it to my server with some cash.  And while I’m thinking about this and that, out comes the floor manager who says, “You look as if you have some concerns.”

 “Are you the manager?” He says that he is.

 I explain that while the meal was tasty, it isn’t what I would describe as chicken cacciatore and we talked a bit about the quality of the meal and the choice of menu description. I thought it was considerate of him to chat with me.  But then he got to the real point of his visit.

 “This gift card that you presented?  We’re not showing that it has any value on it. Perhaps it wasn’t validated when we gave it to you, or you used up the entire balance. Do you remember when you got this card?”

 I explained that I have a few of these cards, that I have no idea when I got them, but that I never partially use a card, nor has anyone ever given me back the card once redeemed.  “You probably have some internal operational problem that you should address,” I offered.

Now here’s the clincher.  The guy says, “Well, I’m going to go ahead and honor this card anyway, even though it doesn’t show any balance, because we know you are a frequent customer.”

I suggested to the man various alternatives as to why I had a card with a zero balance, none of which included the likelihood that I was trying to foist a valueless card on the restaurant.  He agreed with all my hypotheses, and acknowledged that they must have some internal problem, but that he was hoping I could help him, since this situation has happened “a few times before,” and then he reminded me that he was “going to go ahead and honor this card anyway.”

This was just about the most inept customer conversation I’ve ever heard, and to help the poor guy out, I told him that I clearly expected him to honor the card, and that his choice of words suggested that while he was certain I was a thief, he was going to overlook it this time.

“You really need to think carefully about how you position a conversation like this to the customer,” I explained. He thanked me for my feedback, but I’m still not sure he knows how to…

 Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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