Another One Bit the Dust

Our local International House Of Pancakes is closed. It was no surprise, that a business poorly managed, with dismal customer service went out of business.

Victim of modern times and tastes? Hardly–more a cautionary tale of how not to run a business.

Five years ago, the place was tip-top. It was sad to be disappointed over-and-over with poor service.

On my last visit, customers waited to be seated; tables weren’t cleared; trash cluttered the floors. A member of the wait staff grumbled about making change for a twenty at the front check out.  Wasn’t that why he was there?

When they were opened twenty-four hours, shift workers, could grab a cup of coffee at two in the morning. One morning, at four AM, they were out of regular coffee. There was plenty of decaf. I didn’t want decaf.  Decaf wasn’t going to keep me awake at that early hour.  The manager claimed to have failed to reorder.

Other than “Business Closed” signs, the bad memories came back. Especially, the certificate for a free breakfast, offered after my poor customer service complaint to their 800#.  I used it in my local restaurant.  They charged me double price.

Restaurants come and go.  This restaurant previously housed an Outback steakhouse franchise.  We could use another decent breakfast restaurant–especially one with a buffet.


Signs, Signs–Everywhere Signs

Early Sunday morning at a familiar chain restaurant famous for pancakes.

Signs were there–everywhere. This place had changed since our last visit.

Half the floor space had been partitioned off. A new entrance added, with a for lease sign in the front window.

There weren’t many diners in the place. Yet, it looked like some had left in a hurry. Tables hadn’t been cleared. Trashed littered the floor. Where were the worker bees?

The waiter/manager/greeter was in a snit over making change for the customer in front of us in line. Had he been given a large denomination bill?

“He’d left his wallet at home, and thank goodness, his brother worked there–otherwise making change would have been impossible.”

Other customers lined up behind us.  Grumbling began among the ranks.  Why was it taking so long?  Were we waiting to pay or to get in?

How could a restaurant, that offered good service in the past, go downhill so quickly?

Last summer, with a group of visitors, service had been slow–otherwise not too bad.

There was the morning when this same restaurant ran out of coffee.  Plenty of the de-caffeinated variety; per the manager stock hadn’t been reordered.

That time, after complaining on their website, we were given a certificate for a free breakfast.  I’m not complaining this time–because I don’t intend to ever come back.

The “signs” suggested, detour; avoid this place; go elsewhere.


Editor’s Note:  My fingers fumbled and published this prematurely.  I should have added, that I  had no qualms about visiting other restaurants in this franchise.  The local one was the problem.

Sorry–No Selfies

The same young man was behind the counter last evening. With so much pent-up energy, he bounced up-and-down while taking customer orders.  My faithful favorite burger franchise, decorated with orange and white stripes was about to let me down.

I should have known something was up last time, when my favorite burger with grilled peppers and onions wasn’t on the menu. “Did they still have it?” I inquired. “Yes, ‘Mr. Bounceabout’ answered.”

What a let down. My favorite burger had been discontinued since my last visit. The bouncing counter attendant announced with cold finality.

Disappointed? Yes, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. Why did menu favorites come and go?  An acceptable substitute found, and a chance to explore new menu options.

More Caveat Emptor

“Revenge of Independent Hardware Stores.”  Independent hardware retailers are giving the big chains a run for their money.  These stores excel at giving friendly, knowledgeable, customer service.  Prices, aren’t necessarily cheaper.

We all know the requiem for retail stores in the twenty-first century.  Big-box megastores killed off the mom-and-pops.  Amazon and e-commerce crushed brick-and-mortar.  By the time the great recession hit, traditional retail was already toast–and the drop in consumer spending that came with the crisis burned it to a crisp.

Independent home-improvement retailers stand apart.  …Make up 50% of the market.  They are not just surviving.  They are thriving by offering products for local needs.  …Personal customer service.

Savvy customers are seeking local products or services, and are willing to pay for that knowledge and experience.  The hypothetical, was of a customer in a big-box store, seeking plumbing advice from an unexperienced employee borrowed from lawn-and-garden.

As an employee of one such independent hardware retail store–it was a pleasure and challenge to give good, personal customer service.  “Can you make me one of these?” Was frequently heard from customers–as they brought in homemade widgets to solve household problems.

My personal favorite customers, were those that dabbled in artsy-craftsy.  “I’d like to build a Christmas tree from plumbing fittings–something different.”  That turned out to be one of the easier challenges.

Self-employed inventors threw off bizarre vibes of paranoia.  They wanted help, without giving away what they were working on.

There were more humorous incidents than I can recall.  Some were doozies.  On my first day, a call from a customer with a chirping bird, hidden somewhere in her home.  Everyone thought her to be crazy.  It turned out to be a dying smoke detector battery.  The detector, forgotten about, stored away on a laundry room shelf.

And, downright silly things; a young cashier paged overhead for assistance.  “Could someone help the nice man on aisle seven find his nuts?”  “Did we have moronic acid?”  Which was really muriatic acid.  “Did we carry balusters?”  Further questioning revealed this meant ballasts for fluorescent lighting.

It was give-and-take between customers and employees.  We learned from each other.  What could be more meaningful than helping people?–



Thanks For Everything and Good Luck

I have a new favorite breakfast spot.  Been there at least a half-dozen times or more.  Christina was a great waitress, attentive, courteous, with a friendly smile.

“Would you like your usual?”  She’d ask. We’d sit at our favorite table.  Last Sunday, Christina, was no longer there to brighten the morning.

It turned out, she had a killer commute to work–moved on to better things, closer to home.  Can’t blame her–crossing the bay bridge and tunnel, famous for traffic tie ups, was nerve-wracking.

Maybe it’s nitpicking, but her replacements had a lot to learn.  Starting with the difference between one slice of thick marble rye toast, cut in half, and two slices of rye toast, cut in half.  Breaking in new employees was a tough job.  I can’t help it–Christina spoiled me.

Christina, I don’t need you to come back.  Wish you best of luck and happy landings.  Will miss you on early Sunday mornings.



How was it possible–two days later, everything was exactly the same as before?  Due to termite damage discovered in March, the front wall between the door and window had to be rebuilt.

The paint color and wall texture were matched perfectly.  All the mess was cleaned up and hauled away.  The clock was back on the wall.  Furniture returned to original resting places.

It’s rare (for me, anyway) to have contractors that are competent, efficient, reliable, and true to their word.  When they promised possible completion in one day, I said–“Yeah right,”  “I’d believe it when I saw it.”  Matching difficult paint colors added an additional day.

Complaints about paying annual termite inspection fees, suddenly, didn’t seem so bad.  Everything was covered by contract.  I was happy.  My two dogs were happy to be in favorite chairs by the front window.  Looking out the window is their entertainment.

With one project completed, there’s still one more to go in the master bathroom.  At last, some breathing room. And it’s the nicest day we’ve had in a couple of weeks.

An update:  The elusive bathroom tile, already paid for, supposedly in stock, is somewhere on a stranded truck.   According to the tile store owner, the driver quit on the return trip, and just walked away.  The store owner promised to go himself, and retrieve my tile last night.  Was he just covering his rear?  Will I have to get a refund and get tile somewhere else?  My contractor will be here at nine this morning.  Will there be, or will there not be tile?  That is the question.