Momma Told Me: How A $7 Tan Lost A $55/Month Customer- Let's Talk Customer Service

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How A $7 Tan Lost A $55/Month Customer- Let's Talk Customer Service

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Momma Told Me: Consumer beware.

Sometimes I feel like I just may be the only sane one left.

Thankfully, the definition of 'sanity' and what is 'normal' vacillates widely between cultures and those defining. One particular topic, where I feel the perceived lunacy to be strongest, is in the field of customer service. We are a long ways away from 'The Customer Is Always Right,' Batman. In fact, I get the distinct sense that some companies and services actually take joy in aggravating the customer, especially in cases where the brand/service has already received the money/patronage of the customer. These companies, or those representing them, almost make it feel like they are entitled to our hard earned money, and to relinquish any part already surrendered would be wholly unfair under any circumstance. When did the practice of receiving quality customer service become equal to pulling teeth?

I'd like to consider myself a fairly happy consumer. I do my bit to help the economy through venues big and small, and patronize a wide range of establishments (from handmade to conglomerate). Sadly, I feel my customer service theory spreads from organizations of 1 to 1 million. The size of the business does not necessarily equal the quality of the commitment or presence of care. And brands seem much more eager to soothe potential customers concerns rather than those of the customers who have already paid and returned with a qualm or issue. There is one industry where this does not always ring true; where the customer can often be helplessly trapped in a downward spiraling experience, and have little control over the speed of remedy; food service.
Just last week I decided to swing into a fast service style, very well known, Asian food chain for lunch. It was 12:50, so I'd anticipated a rush, and anxiously waited my place in line for 18 minutes to place my order. This particular restaurant prepares all of their dishes in advance and serves them via heat trays. Now, mind you, I was on board with waiting nearly 20 minutes for my piping hot lunch under the conditions that my food would be promptly scooped into a Styrofoam container and handed to me at the end of my wait in line. Unfortunately, I had noticed the rice I order had been sitting, empty, since my arrival on the premises, and the server did not mind to call in for a fresh batch until it was ordered; by me. I stood there, perplexed, the employee with a bemused smile on her face,

"How long until the white rice is ready?" I asked, still hopeful there was a magic Panda in the back burping up large portions of steamed rice;

"5 minutes, what else do you want?" the server barked.

My mouth hung open, about to vent the past 20 minutes of frustration, only to snap shut. Clearly this employee did not understand the nature of her job, in the middle of a lunch rush; what good would me reiterating the situation do?

"What else do you want?" she barked again.

And, with a sharp turn on my heel I gave her an equally detached smile, "Nothing." and left the establishment.
Now, I realize that the average consumer might have grumbled under their breath and shuffled off to the side to wait for the hot food they'd already invested 20 minutes of their life towards. I know some think it crazy to have committed so much time already, only to walk away over another 5 minute wait. I understand the business was busy, but the tray did not run out while I was waiting, it ran out before I'd even entered the building. And the fact that I was quoted 5 minutes for a fresh batch, just calls, tells me there could have been piping hot rice waiting for me at the end of my wait. For me, it was the principle of not rewarding a business that so clearly demonstrated a lack of concern for the customer's time.

Flash forward to this past weekend.

I haven't tanned since my teens, and am in need of a simple base tan to even out my legs, to the rest of my body tone, for some upcoming formal events. I do some research (time on the consumer's part most businesses don't place value on), and discover the closest salon with a leg only tanning bed is in the town over (a 20 minute drive). On their website, under promotions, a sentence reads "Please fill out the form below, and as a new customer you will receive a FREE TAN, or the current Endless Summer PROMOTIONAL OFFER!" I proceed to fill out the form and promptly receive an email (text only), telling me to take my 'coupon' in for a FREE TAN.
So I mosey myself over to the next town and walk into the new salon to present the email (the only physical proof I have of my owed FREE tan for 'new customers.' The girl behind the counter looks perplexed. After a moment she explains that she will have to put a note on my account for the owner to add a free tan credit. I'm not pleased with this solution, as I understood my first tan was to be free, but agree and proceed to buy a $45 tanning lotion and $7 leg tan session.

Flash forward 2 days. I return to the salon and inquire about using the credit on my account. The girl behind the counter looks perplexed, "FREE tan?" I explain the situation again, and show the email on my phone once more.

She proceeds to pull up my account and call another associate over (both younger than me). They consult the screen as though it is a physics dissertation then the second looks at me and matter-of-factly barks, "Oh, you have to spend $100 to get a free Level 6 tan!"

"Excuse me?" I respond, voice cracking and almost in shock, "There was no mention of having to spend any money on your website, or in the email. Is that your 'current promotional offer,' because I read that to be a choice of free tan, or promotional offer?"

The associate furrows her brown and sighs, clearly annoyed that I am questioning this further, "No, we simply don't give out free tans, you have to spend $100 to get a level 6 tan!"

Biting my lip I feel my blood beginning to pump. Not only had there been no specification of a 'level 6' tan, or any designated type of tan, but there certainly had been no mention of spending $100 when I decided to drive 20 minutes from home to frequent a salon in the next town over. Not to mention, their had been no confusion over my 'free' tan on my first visit. To top it off, I had initially been quoted $55 a month for a regular membership, a full $22 more than the nearest competitor with the same equipment. I attempted to explain that, by honoring their advertised offer (the free tan for new customers), it would cost them nothing (after all the machines do all the work), and they would keep their new customer happy and returning.

Both girls seemed confused by this explanation, and proceeded to ask me what service I would like to pay for, today.  Biting my lip once more, I proceeded to leave the salon and drive to the next closest one with applicable equipment. There I paid $22 less/month for the same service AND was offered a free tan. Not only did the first tanning salon lose out on an over-priced $55/month customer, but my word of mouth in our county will not be good. I am also debating reporting them to the Better Business Bureau, over a $7 tan that would have cost them nothing to provide me, as promised!

Do you walk away from poor service, or do you think some bad service is simply 'inevitable'?

What Daughter Says: Consumers are empowered with instant price matching and visual shopping, thanks to modern mobile technology. Why would anyone settle for less than great prices and great service?


  1. I honestly generally deal with it then and there by speaking to management. Sometimes the clerks are simply clueless or don't care. Management tends to have more of a vested interest. I'm also not above emailing/tweeting/FB messaging the headquarters.

  2. That was just a total scam from the tanning place, they didn't even seem to have a clue about their own offer. I grew up in a family business and I am not above walking out on establishments that don't give what they offer or have horrible customer service.

  3. UGH its sad how customer service is dead these days too though

  4. I go to management as well. Sometimes front line help does not do the best it can to satisfy the customer. Like with the tanning salon - no vision there with the two clerks. They couldn't see what they were losing. Only a "rule."

  5. Great customer service, ah? That is so annoying

  6. I can remember one time I took the grand kids to this play center. We were there no more than five minutes and the machines were broken that gave tokens, there were no things for the 3 year old to do (I asked before paying and they assured me there was things to do), the kids that were there were unsupervised and slamming doors and running into people. I went an voiced my concern and refund request. The manager declined. I asked her if she slept well at night stealing people's money. I asked her to reconsider as I was not going to drop this. She didn't I turned her in to the Better Business Burea, won the case and got an apology letter from the owner with a check double my amount paid in hopes I'd try them again. I didn't but it felt good to win.

  7. I typically walk away from bad service when I can. If service is bad at a restaurant or salon, I leave a bad tip. If service is really bad, I have no problem reporting the business or leaving a bad review on a site like Angie's List or Trip Advisor. Just one bit of advice though, go for self tanner. Tanning booths up chances for skin cancer by 75%.

  8. I complain REALLY REALLY LOUD in the nicest of ways. BUT REALLY REALLY loud. And then I ask for each successive step of management. I annoy them to usually works.

  9. I am seriously SO in love with this one! Seriously, Customer service should not simply DIE because an establishment already has a one time purchase. You always need to keep the customer happy!!

    I'm glad you walked away! I worked in customer service for near 10 years. It doesn't matter if it's lunch rush, or if you don't understand the coupon. You do what you can to create a compromise to keep the customer happy. And never bark/snap/belittle them. Because when they are happy, they RETURN! And that keeps YOUR paycheck coming in.'s sometimes a little self serving if you think about it. without the don't get paid. So just BE NICE. glad you walked out. They do not deserve your business with treatment like that. And that is the only way they will learn is if you withhold your money and business.

  10. Oh Yeah, and that "coupon for a free tan" issue...that is false advertising in WRITING. BIG trouble for them with the law. I'd definitely report them for it.

  11. I may have waited for the rice but I would have been MAD, let me tell you. Especially with the "What else do you want?" Um, how about an apology, for starters. You should probably call management. I am sure they won't be pleased to find out that a rude, lazy server is running off customers.

    I would report the tan place to the Better Business Bureau. That is false advertising.

  12. wow i would have lost it in both situations especially the tan. I have no patience for things like that and often loose it lol i dont know how to bite my tongue in those situations

  13. I do walk away from poor service. I use to take it, but not anymore.

  14. I am typically a patient person....but in situations like this I tend to lose it! I would have demanded a manager....then the owner if that did not help! Wow!! Good thing you blogged about it! Now the readers in your area will also know to stay away! Ug!

  15. I usually walk away, and then voice my concerns in an online letter, to the corporate office.

  16. I think you made the right decision in both cases. How incredibly frustrating though?! I would have walked out on the rice too. It was the principle of the situation. And that free tan at the salon, omg! I would have been furious!! I give you credit for keeping your cool. :-)