When You’ve Screwed Up

Photo © 2010 Elyce Feliz CC 2.0 BY NC ND

Some time ago, I was on the receiving end of a massive screw-up at one of my previously favorite restaurants and WiFi hotspots, Panera Bread in Chelmsford, MA. I have not been back.

Ironically, the screw-up itself hasn’t kept me away, because we all screw up sometimes, because we’re all only human. I can’t hold an honest mistake against someone. But how the organization handled the mistake demonstrated that it probably learned nothing from it. So why go back? I might just experience the same sort of foul up again. And then I realized that this is a dysfunction of US society, including the way we educate our kids and the way we run our businesses.

Here’s what happened: I walked into the restaurant, my laptop in one hand, as I frequently do. Waiting in line, I chose a salad from the menu. A very friendly employee then told me she could take my order, which she did. She then asked if I had a MyPanera card, which I did not. But of late, I’d been eating more frequently at the restaurant chain, so I asked if it was a simple process. Indeed, it was. She asked me my name, scanned in a new card, and explained that I could go online to register the card in order to get bonuses and discounts. Kewl! She then gave me my receipt and a pager, which would buzz when my food was ready so that I could get it at the pick-up counter.

I thanked her and found a table to sit at. I opened my laptop and immediately went online to register my new MyPanera card. Then I promptly became distracted by Facebook or something or other. Next thing I knew, 20 minutes had passed, and the pager had not yet gone off. This is not fast food, really, but it rarely takes them even 5 minutes to process an order, much less 20. But it was quite busy at the time, so I thought, maybe they were backed-up. However, I needed to leave in 20 more minutes, to pick up my Firstborn from school, and so this delay was a problem.

I looked at my receipt–and good thing I had kept it–and noticed that neither my name nor pager number appeared in the slot for “Name/Pager #.” Hmm… But they surely have procedures to deal with situations like this, which must happen from time to time.

Apparently not. When the guy preparing the food looked at my receipt, he said, “I remember that order.” Then he added, as he was preparing it again for me, “She didn’t put your name or pager on there.”

I said nothing. Merely stood there with a stupid look on my face, thinking, You gotta be kidding, right?

I took my salad, sat down, ate it. I made it on time to pick up my Firstborn. But somehow, my food tasted just a little more bland than I had originally thought it would.