Moral Monday – How Far Will You Go For Adequate Service?

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Recent articles written about problems at Costco (caused by both parties) have sparked some good debate about business ethics and morals. So in that frame of mind, I’d like to have a regular segment discussing deep and not so deep moral and ethical dilemmas.  Please help by voicing your opinion at the end of the article and feel free to mention your own experiences.

Let’s start with a lay-up.  Stuck at the airport, I decided to kill some time by grabbing a meal at Burger King.  Scary to see a $1 double cheeseburger for $3.69 at an airport, but that’s a topic for another time.  I ordered a Whopper value meal with no pickles and a coke.  After waiting a few minutes, my number was called and I grabbed my bag, cleared my table and dug in.  As you would suspect, my burger had 6 pickles. Why God would create such a texturally devious vegetable is one of life’s true mysteries.

Six pickles.  No big deal really, as I simply removed them from my burger and still had a satisfying sandwich, but it got me thinking.  When you pay for something, whether its goods or services, how far are you prepared to go in order to be satisfied?  In my current situation, I had three choices.  I could either:

  • Shake it off, remove the pickles and say nothing
  • Go back to the counter and ask for a new Whopper, this time with no pickles
  • Request a refund, order something else or from somewhere else

When you think about it, the Whopper can be replaced with almost any good or service and the same options apply.  Consider the transaction closed and lick your wounds, request adequate compensation, or be given a refund.  Depending on your situation, demeanor and moral background, you may consider one or all of these options.

Allow me a moment to explain to you why I chose the first option.  Working at McDonald’s for six years while in grade and high-school, I know the policy of any restaurant–once it leaves the kitchen, it can only go to one customer.  Had I asked for a new sandwich, the one with pickles would simply have been trashed.  I hate wasting anything, especially food, so throwing away a couple of pickles is better than throwing a way an entire sandwich.  Option # 2 was out.

Asking for a refund was unpractical as well, because pickles are nothing more than a bad taste for me.  Perhaps if I had been allergic, I would have been more frustrated than I was, but spending only a couple of seconds removing them completely removed the taste of them, providing me what I initially wanted.  Granted, my time to remove them was probably worth a nickel or so but to me, this really wasn’t a big deal.

However, there are others who are furious when a fast food order is even slightly off.  I’ve handled, on two separate occasions mind you, customers who have called the police looking to arrest someone for attempted murder because they’re allergic to ketchup and we intentionally put ketchup on their quarter-pounder.  Depending on how your day has gone and how tempered of a person you are, you’ll probably react to this situation differently.

Putting this into context, what if this wasn’t a $5 item but a $500 or $5,000 one?  Should the amount of the item matter when receiving adequate service?  Obviously the larger the amount, the more attention you’ll have toward a mistake, but as a customer, are you entitled to do either of the three choices above, no matter the problem and no matter the cost?

Complaining is an effective refund strategy, but a lesson learned early in life taught me not to sweat the little things.  Perhaps letting Burger King (or specifically the employee that messed up the order) get away with the little things is irresponsible because they will continue to do this to others rather than fix the problem.  Is it my responsibility to point out all flaws in a business to alert other potential customers?

I’ve certainly made the pickle situation more involved than it probably needs to be, but feel free to help me answer any of the questions posed in this article.  What would you have done with your Whopper?

Published or Updated: August 23, 2010

Comments

  1. Annie Mack says:

    I gave up on customer service years ago. It is impossible to get someone in India to care over the phone, and the employees today couldn’t care less if you’re happy with their service. The most alarming thing is that their managers couldn’t care less either. The customer is never right anymore so don’t bother arguing. Make sure to shop where they offer refunds instead of credits and just return it, get your money back, and be gone. Complaining only raises your blood pressure.

  2. Alexandra says:

    There is an ongoing joke in my family that I am ‘cursed’ when it comes to eating out, because somewhere around half the time my order is wrong. (Not just special orders either, I’ve gotten my order completely swapped with something else, forgotten, or made as if I’d ordered it as a special order when I ordered the normal food.) I usually just pick around it, unless it is completely wrong, but I’m a vegetarian and when I end up with meat on an item that I asked to be made without it, I try to pass it off on someone who will eat it. It’s quite frustrating when it happens, because like the article mentions, sending it back just means it gets thrown out, but since I don’t eat meat for ethical reasons, throwing it out seems just as bad as eating it.
    I guess a person’s decision to complain or suck it up should really just be based on how much a person values the item or service and how bad the screw up is. However, how much a person values an object or service doesn’t always depend on how much money they spent on it.

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