Choose Your Own Customer Service Adventure

cyoabox2backJust like Jeremy says in his post from earlier this week, The Awesome Things People Share With Me, one of the greatest parts of being a customer service blogger is that people tell you stories. You get to hear the good, the bad and the super bad tales of customer experiences.

Last week, a story of customer service failure was shared with me. Now, I share it with you to analyze and learn:

A young couple, parents of a toddler, who haven’t had a night out to themselves in months, finally get their chance. They find a baby sitter and head out for the evening, happy as can be. The young woman had won a gift card at work for a local dinner movie theater and their plan was to use that to help cover the costs of the date night.

They arrive at the theater, are seated and order their meal. The couple enjoys the meal and film together and relish every minute of their child free time. Toward the end of the movie, the waiter approaches and slides the check onto the table. The gift card is placed on the tray and the waiter carries it away to the register. A few moments later, he arrives back at the table, whispering to the couple that their gift card payment system is down and they will need to pay with another method. The couple explain that they didn’t bring one as the night was to be on the gift card. They really did have a credit card with them but they want to avoid using it. The waiter leaves the table to go see what he can do. The couple returns to watching the end of the movie and as they do, the waiter and a manager appear at the table. He says, “We cannot take this form of payment. Our system is down. You’ll need to pay with another method.” The couple explains again that this is their only form of payment for the evening and suggest calling the number on the back of the gift card to confirm the amount on the card then running it later when the system is back up. The manager, now seeming very impatient and angry, says they will not do that and they must pay using another method of payment. After lots of back and forth, the couple finally gives in and puts the payment on their credit card. There is no “thank you” from the manager or apology whatsoever. Their payment is taken, they missed the end of the movie and now they are stuck with a gift card to a place they will most likely never return to. They return home to relieve the baby sitter and go to bed. 

Systems go down. That’s unavoidable. And clearly, the manager was frustrated due to this and probably receiving many other angry customer complaints. However, this situation could have been handled quite differently. The night didn’t have to be ruined!

Do you recall those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories from back in the day? With a situation like this, what would YOU have chosen to do differently? How could you have made this couple’s child free night even better, despite the circumstances of a payment system outage?

I’m not going to tell you what I would have done just yet…because I want to hear YOUR side first.

Share with me in the comments section of this post!



Jenny Dempsey is currently the the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for She has worked at tech startups since 2005. She's the co-founder and regular contributor over at She's a certified health coach, but not the kind that forces you to only eat cardboard and deprive yourself of ice cream., the company she started, was designed to bring a new type of wellness into the workplace, one that gives you permission to look deeper into yourself, rather than just on the healthy snacks in the break room. She is the mother to a toothless rescue cat named Chompers. Avocados and veggie tacos are the way to her heart. She's also a Hanson fan for life.

One comment

  • Wow! Great, sad story, Jenny. This sure feels like an “unfortunately” doesn’t it? As customer service pros we should be scratching, even clawing at any options we have in our arsenal to side with the customer.

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