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The Reality of Customer Service in America and Best Efforts in Franchising, We Can Do Better

Yesterday I went to buy a sandwich at a franchised outlet. I thought while driving up would the owner be there to help out and save some money on labor, knowing a holiday weekend is hard to get labor. As I drove up to the place a man driving an SUV made by Lexus, nice too, cut me off stealing my parking spot? He parked crooked and blocked part of the stall I wanted and part of the handicap stall, next to it.

Everyone thought he was rich? The customers and employees of the shop, I could tell by their gawking of the vehicle. He did not attempt to play down that observation, careful to glance at his Rolex watch and hit the alarm and walk with a tint of arrogance. Everyone was staring at his Lexus with all the bells and whistles. A Lexus built in Japan, and part of the reason for displaced autoworkers and auto parts manufactures in America, not to mention the closing of the plant in the next city. It was five minutes to closing, he drives up and I drive up. He cuts me off so I could not get into the parking space while I was initiating my final turn. So I backed up and found another one. Apparently he had come just before closing like me to get a sandwich. Then I see him get into the cash register. Then I realized he was the owner of the place. And go behind a wall to I assume get the money out of the safe too. He comes back and shoves the money into his pocket. Maybe to deposit or take out the cash or to make sure the employee did not take it? Then he puts the cash in one pocket and the checks in one of those zipper bags and ignores me, I being a customer now in front of the register, he glances at his watch and asks "Can I help you?" Not as if what would you like to order, but "Why are you here?" I said yes I would like the "King Club Combo" (Name Changed not to convict a very worthy franchise chain and one of my favorite franchise systems).

One, which started out quite small with a story of perseverance and hard work. The founder I had met personally about five years back at an International Franchise Association Meeting in 1997. Also had been top of the food chain literally in many Franchise Surveys in highly read magazines on Entrepreneurship. Apparently the owner of this franchise must not have been screened properly. With a Bumper Sticker which said; "live better, work union" he had obviously been laid off by probably the same auto plant nearby and probably all the things he hated and cursed as an employee he in fact was now the epitome of that former nemesis of the over paid corporate exec, except without the high paycheck. The treatment of employees was literally non-existent, not good or bad, as if the employees were irrelevant, and his look at me as if I was irrelevant which in the scheme of his over all business I probably was. He looked up and said, we are closed. I said "Oh, but it is five minutes to closing still?" He said "well, I guess we can take your order? But how are you paying?" I said by cash or ATM card? He said "Well, we can do the ATM transaction, but not the cash I have closed out the register unless you have exact change?" I was a little taken a back but hungry. So we did the ATM credit card swipe and I ask him how business was? He said I cannot get any "God Damn employees worth a crap?"

Hmm, I said. Again thinking well, you just told your employee who you pushed aside that they sucked, by your cursing, but did not want to get into it, all I wanted is my sandwich. Then a lady pops in to and asks are you "Mark?" He said Yah, why do you want to know? She, said well my boys are in the 'such and such group' and we were wondering if you have a gift certificate you can donate to our Event on 'such and such' date?.for the 'such and such' group?.which will help your business and will be attended by many 'so in so' potential customers for your sandwich shop?. Yet, he probably did not even listen to a word she said.

Meanwhile my sandwich was almost ready being slopped together as the employee probably did not care after being told in a round about way that she was a "God Damn" employee, not worth a damn? I was a little upset, but the sloppy sandwich was not so important, I want to stay on my Atkins Diet and they make it with the right ingredients. He basically told the lady, no not interested. He then turned to me and said "I cannot believe all these groups coming in and wanting me to give them something?" I told him it is a sign of the times as the economy was still in rebound and the money is flowing out of the country the wrong way. He said "Yah, business has slowed down too, I cannot pay all these groups, then they stomp off when I say no?" He then started blaming the franchisor for the cost of food, shipping, fees, the President of the US, the Congressmen and said he was thinking of getting out of the business, maybe selling? The employee was told to clean up quick, and I was ushered out as he took in the tables out front and blocked another customer from getting into the store, "we are closed" as he flipped the sign around.

The guy was quite upset having a list of four sandwiches with various toppings for I am presuming his family. He was upset as he looked at the clock in the store showing three minutes left. He couldn't help it and mentioned it. So the owner of the store said; "Well, it is a holiday weekend, we are closed tomorrow and we really got to get out of here" As he moved the tables in, knocking them into the doorway and chipping the paint. He called out to his employee and said "hurry up!" Then he said, let's go, we can clean it up on Monday.

I am still standing their trying to eat my sandwich standing up knowing that it was made way to messy and sloppily to eat in my car. And half of me wanting to see what would happen next. I am thinking well, they did not clean up the store, so much for rules of food safety and cockroaches, I did notice a "Level 3" store cleanliness level, which did not make me feel comfortable anyway, while waiting for my sandwich. They employee says starts to walk out and says, wait my purse, the guy says, oh for Pete's sake, hurraaaaayy uuuuppp!!!" She grabs her purse and runs out. He locks the door, sets some kind of alarm and walks to his car. Leaving the back light on in which I could see, so having fun I said "You left the light on" He does not answer just flips his hand up in a disgust attitude, your basic 'so what' hand gesture signal. Jumps in his SUV and drives off making the worker jump back and wait to cross the parking lot in front of him (she walks over afterwards and gets into an old barely running rusted old Ford Fajita ? Orange and Bondo color) and he speeds out of the parking lot. So, guess what?

Well, being a franchisor, I did pick up a 'Customer Satisfaction Survey' from the counter while waiting, of course no one noticed this. As he sped out of the parking lot is was almost exactly one minute to closing. WOW? Now then. There was not community support, this guy complained about the franchisor, Buys a foreign car but complains about the economy, Former Union guessing by the bumper sticker, yet treats employees like hell when he is in charge. He is disrespectful to handicapped people. He is not trying to save costs on his energy by leaving the lights on. Complains about business but turns away 4 sandwiches, which could have been $20.00 in the last five minutes of business. $20 times 29 days per month which is $580.00 per month yet is seemingly worried that business has slowed down. Complains about fees from the franchisor yet, $580 times 12 months is nearly $7,000 per year. Selling such a business could get you 10-24 times monthly gross income. Meaning $5,800 to about $14,000 to his appraisal price when listing his business with a business broker. A handicap person seeing this event would never patronize that store again. The lady who came for a donation, was treated badly, she will not be back ever. The guy with the four sandwiches order will most likely not be back for 10 visits. Ray Kroc use to tell his managers trained at Hamburger University in Oak Brook, IL that a dissatisfied customer will most likely go somewhere else 10 times if upset and tell up to 20 people causing negative word of mouth. So let's think what else?

Well, I will send in my survey? Now my question to the audience is, should this franchisee be allowed to hold that brand name? Should he be able to sue the franchisor after his "Best Efforts" were less than a meteoritic attempt at good service? Should this franchise be complaining at all? Economy? US President? Labor? Franchisor? I offer this latest experience, because it is apparent to me that there is a lot more to franchising than a franchise agreement, a web site about franchising, a regulatory enforcement agency, A few Franchise Associations and a bunch of lawyers who purport a specialty in knowledge about franchising. Look in the mirror? Before anyone complains, talks out of line, look in the mirror. Treating customers, employees and community badly?

Well, I must say: Silly Humans Franchised Businesses or Any Small Business Does not Work Like That. Any comments, pro or con. Hate mail or kudos always glad to hear it. Please no regulators or lawyers, you have done enough to ruin the franchising model in America. A lot more so than the renegade franchisees like the guy mentioned here, if you can believe that.

"Lance Winslow" - If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs

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