Sunday, June 28, 2009

From the sublime to the ridiculous

The last two days have seen me witness dramatic opposites in the field of customer service.

Starting with the sublime; Ordered a new phone (the Nokia N97 - review in the next couple of days; Early tests are promising but with a few annoying quirks) from (the online department for the carphone warehouse). Ordered it by lunchtime on Friday but had a few questions about it and the new Orange contract I was taking - all queries were promptly and efficiently answered by their staff, emails informed me of every step of the ordering and dispatch process, and the phone arrived via Royal Mail at 7 a.m. the morning after. It's unfortunate that it's the examples of good customer service stand out when it should be unusual to get bad service, but all kudos to for an incredibly enjoyable and efficient ordering experience. Unlike my bad experiences with o2, for example, for whom the term 'customer service' is a foul and dirty phrase not to be used in polite company.

And then to the ridiculous; Yesterday evening saw Tara and I meeting up to celebrate our friend Ruths 30th birthday. We were meeting for a meal at Singers Bar & Bistro at the Ricoh arena which would then be followed by spending the rest of the evening at the nearby Isle Casino. After having a few drinks at the bar, we sat down to eat. We were presented with a disappointly brief one page food menu (which, I note from the link above where a .pdf file of one can be viewed is completely different to the options we had last night).

I ordered garlic mushrooms on toast as a starter, followed by pan fried saffron marinated chicken in a chorizo and bean cassoulet for main.

As the starters began filtering out to the table, nobody had even come to the table asking us what drinks we wanted. Members of the party had to scour the place looking for the wine menu - It was only when we asked a waitress to do so that they actually asked us what drinks we wanted; By now, we'd been making our own way to the bar to buy our own thus making her requests redundant at this stage.

The starter? Garlic mushrooms were nice, but so I'd expect for six quid for a small plate of fungi. Unfortunately they didn't provide me with a steak knife, so I'm unable to comment on the stale piece of toast that accompanied it - no way was my measly dinner knife cutting through this hardened beast. Complaints were made; Waiter told us there was no more toast so came back with a small of plate of croutons - by which time, all of us with the same starter had finished all the mushrooms (We'd waited for so long for the starters to arrive, we were all half starved at this stage), so they were quite unnecessary.

The main courses began arriving on tables - well, some of them, at any rate. Steaks were delivered cooked to the wrong requirements with the wrong sauce or no sauce at all (or in the case of our friend Hannah, the sauce arrived in a small espresso cup but the steak sadly didn't arrive for another hour, and even then at the end of the evening when we were all ready to leave - and to add insult to injury, her well done steak was quite, quite rare). Our friend Chandra had a fly in her lamb; "Don't say it out loud or everyone will want one".

My pan-fried Chicken in Cassoulet? The chicken was overcooked and dry, and the heat varied in the cassoulet depending on which quarter of it I approached. Tepid, cold or just right. The Cassoulet was dotted with evil bullets of rock hard chorizo which must have been hardening on a shelf in the sun for six months. Many of our party had been regularly complaining to the staff - we were now at the stage when half of us had finished our meals and meals still hadn't arrived - or had arrived and had been sent back. The menu only had eight options on it, for Christs sake, and none of these were what you could term complex dishes - how easier could it be to get them all out on time?

In the end we only paid what we thought the meal was worth. They gave us free champagne - small consolation - and we all walked out almost four hours after we'd gone in confident that we wouldn't darken their doorstep again. Awful, awful place. The small consolation is the hard worked staff were all a great bunch - odd how the management vanished though the second our complaints became more vocal.

"Our opening times are as follows and booking is recommended for dinner to avoid disappointment"? More like "Our opening times are as follows and we recommending avoiding dinner to avoid disappointment".

As for the Casino? I'm not a gambling man, but people watching is always fun. Watched some guy lose around 600 quid on the roulette tables. Wesley Snipes gave him a bad tip. Gambling idiot.

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