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Ever seen the classic movie “Office Space?” Remember the scenes where Jennifer Aniston’s character is being upbraided by the restaurant manager for not wearing enough flair? Call to mind the tone of the restaurant manager’s voice – that insipid pseudo-friendly tone that simultaneously drips with condescension. Hubby and I heard that voice tonight.

We walked into the local Arby’s and were immediately greeted by ‘K,’ who was mopping the floor. She gave us a friendly warning to be careful on the floor because it was slippery, then she stepped behind the counter and let us know she was ready to take our order. It took us a while to decide what we wanted, but ‘K’ let us take our time without rushing us. When we ordered, she efficiently processed our order. She exuded a sparkling attitude that made us feel appreciated and welcomed as customers.

We got our food and sat at a booth. Meanwhile, another employee asked ‘K’ to take out the garbage, which she immediately did. As she was coming back inside, dragging the garbage can, mind you, a manager came up to her and said he wanted to speak to her. They went down the small hall behind our booth and while in earshot of us, the manager berated her for not keeping the cup lids and drinking straws well-stocked by the fountain drinks. He had that “You’re not wearing enough flair” voice and told ‘K’ that her neglect of the lids and straws was a sign to customers that she didn’t care about them.

Hubby and I were pissed. ‘K’ is a high school student and she was working her butt off. She certainly made us – as customers – feel that she cared about our experience at Arby’s. Hubby has worked in many, many restaurants during his life, some of which he managed, and ‘K’ is exactly the kind of employee he would want working for him.

Because we wanted ‘K’ to know that she was doing a good job and simultaneously let the manager know he was out of line, we wanted to fill out a comment card praising ‘K’s’ customer service. Trouble is, Arby’s doesn’t have comment cards on the tables.

(They have that bell customers can ring on the way out the door, which would be fine if the employees could shout out a sincere and natural “Thank you!” Instead, they’re all stuck saying, “Thank you, guest. You’re the best.” Customers can immediately tell this over-used statement is annoying for employees to say, which makes it annoying for customers to hear. Piece of advice, Arby’s: Lose the cheesy line. It’s as bad as the “Office Space” flair.)

As ‘K’ was passing our table, after having stocked more lids and straws, I asked her if there were any comment cards available. She saw our receipt on the table and pointed out that on the back was a web address we could visit in order to leave a comment. (Another example of ‘K’s’ great customer service.)

I didn’t want my comment to go to some corporate website where ‘K’ might never hear about it, so I told her right there that she was doing a fine job with customer service. The poor girl’s fingers were shaking when she pointed out the survey info on our receipt, but she hadn’t been shaking when she took our order, so I’ve got to wonder if the manager’s words had upset her. They sure upset me. I’m still vibrating with anger.

Here’s what I have to say to that manager: If you need to correct an employee, do it out of earshot of your customers. Also, don’t unnecessarily ascribe malicious motives to an employee’s action or inaction when it could easily be explained by inexperience or being busy. You can kindly ask an employee to take care of a task, rather than using that awful “You’re not wearing enough flair” voice.  Finally, if you, as a manager, see that something needs doing and your other employees are busy, step up and do it yourself. That’s what a good manager does in order to make the entire team work better.

And ‘K’: Keep up the good work! Arby’s needs more people like you!

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