Treating your customers with disrespect? That’s something that should never happen in any business.
Yes, sometimes customers can get unruly, but the owner (or whoever’s in charge) needs to keep their cool the best they can. More often than not, those types of customers are more of a one-off than anything.
And this should also hold true for New Jersey. As tempting as it might be to throw it back at a customer’s face, it’s best to stay calm and handle any hostile situation firmly while maintaining control of the situation.
The same goes for if you’re a business owner and are frustrated or are having a bad day. It’s just never a good idea to take it out on a customer.
And although the customer is from New Jersey, the following example did not occur here. But the lessons from this exchange should be heard loud and clear for all small business owners in The Garden State.
This particular establishment is located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It’s along the main highway and sells pizza, ice cream, and some other food menu items.
Pizza is the main item we’ll focus on since that’s what this issue was over. Oh, and the customer the business owner was fighting with? Yeah, they were from Jersey.
So to paint the picture, this incident I witnessed wasn’t a one-off, as we learned after the fact. The bottom line is that the person running this place has a lot to learn about customer service and proper staffing.
With that said, here’s what happened. It was an August evening and we were just starting our vacation.
We took our family to this place for dinner since the kids wanted pizza. Up in that area, your places to choose from that have pizza on the menu are somewhat limited.
When you arrive, you place your order at the counter inside and pay in advance, along with a tip (which, in my opinion, tips should always be after you get your food or eat, not before). So we did that and grabbed a table outside.
One of the staffers came out to the table with water and then told us the pizza might be up to a half-hour wait. Although the kids were hungry we figured that wouldn’t be too bad.
Fast forward to almost an hour, and still nothing. Nobody even came to check on us at our table, so I went inside to check.
The person at the register apologized and said they were working on it now. I then went back to our table to let everyone else know.
Now we’re about an hour and 10 minutes in and still nothing. And once again the person said they were working on it.
We were getting impatient at this point and ready to leave. The only problem is, we had already paid.
So I go in one last time to see if I can cancel our order. But this time, there was quite a heated discussion going on. Another customer was being yelled at by some woman behind the counter.
When that woman walked away I asked this gentleman what that was about. He said he’d been waiting over an hour for his pizza, and the owner was yelling at him. Yes, that woman was the owner.
Apparently, the owner got mad at him for not being patient, which is backward. He was upset, but I didn’t see him yelling back at the owner.
He just wanted to know what the heck was taking so long and she got defensive. The woman eventually walked back toward the front, and he tried calling her again to get a refund.
She then continued to explode on him, followed by walking away and ignoring him. It was very heated, to say the least.
All eyes were staring since she was very loud and there were a lot of people there. Honestly, this wait for pizza was ridiculous and I couldn’t blame him for getting frustrated.
And what was the owner doing? She was the one cooking the pizzas. Yes, she was the very reason none of the pizzas were getting finished when they were supposed to.
So while this customer moved to the register for his refund, I noticed a bunch of other people waiting there. Turns out, they had orders placed online that were supposed to be ready around a half hour to an hour earlier.
This was a major backlog and the owner was just nasty about it. I then found out that my order had never started yet, despite being told multiple times that it was being worked on.
The guy ahead of us paid cash but still had to wait at the register because the owner needed to put in an override and approve the cancellation. She eventually came back and did it for him.
He then told her that this isn’t how you run a business, and she snapped back at him saying she’s been in business for over 25 years and said not to tell her how to run a business.
It was ugly. And prior to this customer getting a refund, I did learn from talking to him that he was a business owner himself in Jackson, NJ. I don’t remember what kind of business he said he ran, but it wasn’t food-related.
Once he wrapped up, I then requested a refund myself before she could disappear again. At this point, it’s been around an hour and 20 minutes and we were all getting impatient waiting.
So after some back and forth with me (and again, her getting loud and defensive), she finally ran a receipt stating the pizzas weren’t charged. Then she went right back to that pizza oven.
I never accused her of not knowing what she was doing like the Jerseyan ahead of me did as I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she was short-staffed that day and was reaching her breaking point.
Well, we looked into reviews of this place after we went somewhere else for food, and it became clear that this wasn’t a random event. Bad reviews going years back popped up over similar situations.
And, the pizza wait was by far the primary issue. People complained that it took hours, despite being told it would be ready much, much sooner.
That same woman was also described as being the only one making them, and the only one who got aggressive. It seemed as if she was the only person making the pizzas going years back.
Again, this was based on what we could tell from past reviews. This particular owner took over that business around five years ago and perhaps wanted full control over the pizza oven.
So based on that, I agree with that other customer from New Jersey when he said she didn’t know how to run a business. If you’re going to be the owner, you need to be ready to handle any situations that come your way.
And if you’re the lone person cooking pizza, then you need to hire more staff so you can be ready to handle problems when they arise. Especially at a busy establishment like that.
Speaking of which, if the place has gotten so bad with service, how does it stay afloat? From what we can tell, it’s a more seasonal business that relies on vacationers and not locals.
Pizza isn’t at every corner up there like it is in New Jersey so that could also be a reason why business remains. As mentioned earlier, this place also sold ice cream which seemed to be quite popular, but without the wait.
I’m just glad this didn’t happen in New Jersey. In fact, I don’t think any business owner here would treat a customer like that or not try to hire the necessary staff to function properly.
Yes, sometimes owners must dive in due to light staffing or long delays. It happens unfortunately.
But never belittle a customer just because they grew upset over waiting longer than they were told. If they were told 20 minutes, they shouldn’t be waiting over an hour later with no reason whatsoever.
At the bare minimum, at least apologize for the inconvenience. There’s a good chance that customers will be understanding as long as you don’t scream back at them.
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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.