Complaints and How They Can Go Ballistic

Screenshot 2016-06-16 15.42.27
Note the wires in the photo next to the map

Ozzie’s Premium Frozen Yogurt and Gelato is an ice cream shop in Santa Maria, CA that has recently changed hands. And also recently managed to attract both bad reviews and press around the issue.

The press handled their situation with equanimity but the reviewer, feeling scorned, did not.

Who knows the actual facts (like why didn’t the reviewer complain when it happened? and why did the ex-owner chime in at Yelp?) but we do know what they are saying. And its bound to have a negative impact.

First from The Sun Biz spotlight article on June 15th:

A similar review from what appeared to be the same person emerged on Facebook around the same time and was shared many times, Tina said.

The postings stem from an incident on May 28. Tina was working at the restaurant that night when two female customers came in and ordered frozen yogurt and boba tea. They both dined inside the restaurant for a little while before leaving. Later that night, Tina remembers getting a phone call from one of the customers complaining they found two pieces of thin metal inside the boba tea. The pictures posted to Yelp showed two bent pieces of metal—each about the size of a finger—that looked like they came from a wire brush.

This is impossible, Tina said, because a loud rattling noise coming from inside the blender would’ve been apparent. Also, Tina had made the tea herself.

The next evening, Tina said the woman who placed the call returned to the store with another woman, and a heated argument ensued. Tina said that while one woman was arguing, the other appeared to be recording with her smartphone.

Tina believes they were trying to bait her into doing something she didn’t want to do.

“She never gave us a chance to explain anything,” Tina said. “She wouldn’t let me or my husband explain.”

The police were called and things got smoothed out. But Tina claims the negative review impacted her business.

And this extracted from the review at Yelp:

The female employee welcomed me and recognized me from last night. I greeted her probably much more calmly and nicely than most people in this given situation would have. I told her I needed to speak to her about an issue with the drink I ordered last night. When I showed her the wires in the baggy and told her they came out of my boba tea, she blew up on me. She denied everything I was saying, called me a liar and attempted to take the baggy out of my hand to throw it away. She called out the male employee from the back and told him that I put the wires in my drink and that I was just looking to get them in trouble. They both began to yell at me in front of my young sister and they immediately called the police on me, which I was fine with. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong apart from just walking in there and expressing my concern over their negligence.

I reacted calmly in this situation and with respect for them and their business, whereas I believe most people would have reacted much worse than I. All I wanted was to express myself and my experience that I had with going into their shop for the first time last night, and maybe have them apologize to me for having gone through it; maybe even have them take responsibility for it. But I can understand why they’re wary and didnt apologize or take responsibility for it. To them, I could have manipulated the situation. But I know that the honest truth is from my side of this. I received metal wires in my boba tea that I purchased from this business. They could have damaged my teeth or gums had I chewed them, or if swallowed, could have caused internal bleeding for sure.

As you may (or may not know) I am writing a series about complaints at GetFiveStars. A topic I was hoping to write about was how to “resolve” the “unresolvable” complaint. Any and all good ideas on the topic will be liberally (that’s code for a link) credited.

Whether fact or fiction, this situation of the wire in the tea clearly falls into that area of unsolvable complaints. There was not an easy solution but what transpired, apparently triggered by the owner’s fear, seems to have been the worst of all possible outcomes.

If you were the owner, behind that counter and you were feeling the pain of this complaint, what would you have done to attempt to resolve this? How would you have tried to respond to this customer?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Complaints and How They Can Go Ballistic by

5 thoughts on “Complaints and How They Can Go Ballistic”

  1. I would have apologized to the customer for the situation but strongly feel the wire did not come from any utensil used at the shop. I would explain that without seeing the wire in the tea personally there is no way to know for sure. I would bring the utensils from the back and let her inspect what was used, if in fact the wire didn’t actually come from the shop. I would offer a refund of her entire ticket and switch to silicone tools.

  2. I don’t even know what Boba tea is. I live in rural Texas where coffee, iced tea and Dr. Pepper are what you drink during the day!

    If your business serves food, you can expect complaints about foreign objects in food, which are then shared to social media. Employees should be trained to offer a free replacement, offer a private meeting with the manager, and they should not speculate about how a foreign object could or could not have gotten into the food. The counter person might say something like, “I’m sorry you weren’t happy with your order,” and then offer to call the manager.

    The manager would offer a private meeting, would reject a public showdown, would re-offer a replacement meal, and if the private meeting is refused, offer the phone number of the restaurant’s attorney.

    If the business has been collecting online reviews for some time, a foreign object complaint will appear as an oddity. It might even motivate the restaurant’s loyal customers to respond in defense. It’s another reason why you shouldn’t wait for a crisis to start collecting reviews!

    I wonder if Boba tea is legal in Texas.

    1. Paul thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree that it should have been taken privately as soon as the issue surfaced and a polite request made to shut off the video camera.

      Obviously the goal is to extricate the business from the issue but the pile on at Yelp and the participation of the previous owner were weird to say the least.

      If concealed firearms at universities are legal in Texas I am almost positive that Boba is.

  3. LOL Mike. We advise the HEAT model, and I haven’t been able to find the source of it, but it’s explained here – https://brentfinnamore.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/apply-h-e-a-t-with-angry-customers/ – with a good set-up.

    The HEAT steps to customer service:

    First, manage the person.
    -H ear the angry customer out
    -E mpathize with their situation

    Second, manage the situation. Go to steps above if needed.
    -A sk more questions to learn and show you understand
    -T ake action to make the customer satisfied

    I know one of the most successful brick-and-mortar retailers uses this model to great effect.

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