Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Judge and the Book of Mormon ... OR ... How NOT to Raise Funds

A conservative candidate for Judge in Clark County Nevada – a good man (and not a Mormon) has made a potentially election-killing decision.  He’s tied a major campaign fund-raiser to the Book of Mormon. 

More on that in a minute.

Sure, there are more Mormons in Clark County Nevada (home to Las Vegas) than you can shake a stick at.  For a century and more, casino owners have been glad to hire Mormons as dealers – they’re honest with their employers, and (the word is) they have no compunction about cheating the heathens.  I may have that wrong – I may be referring to Jack Mormons – lapsed Mormons who nonetheless hold onto major of the faith’s tenets.  But that’s really beside the point. Anyway, casinos are Mormon-friendly employers – however, even without casinos, this would be Mormon Central. Just down I-15 from Utah, Clark County was first settled (other than by the Paiutes) by Mormon settlers who built the Old Mormon Fort not a half-mile from what is now Las Vegas’s Fremont Street Experience.

However, for every Mormon in Clark County, you’ll find at least one non-Mormon who’s all but fed up with their door-to-door evangelism – not to mention the arrogance of mere children who arrogantly believe that they can teach their elders something about a life they have yet to live. 

Taking it a step further, there are more than a few Clark Countians who live in fear of Mormon bosses – one of my closest friends has a Mormon boss, and he lives in fear of being the only executive on the department’s team who isn’t at least nominally a Mormon.  Harassment isn’t too strong a word, and while I doubt if this is “official” LDS policy, it happens – just as does “shunning” of non-Mormons by neighbors in heavily-Mormon communities (that I can speak to from personal experience).

But that’s not really the point.  In fact, the Mormon faith isn’t even the point.

The point is that politics and religion don’t mix – they never have. It’s only worse when the religion is controversial.

Any religious faith, if pushed hard in a political campaign, can become polarizing.  Even a fairly neutral belief such as conservative or reformed Judaism, or mainstream protestant Christianity, even these can become polarizing in a political campaign.  Bring in a controversial faith – be it the late Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” or pretty much anything having to do with Islam, the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses (to name a few), and you’re going to polarize a segment of the political electorate.

Polarizing the political electorate means driving potential voters away – for reasons having nothing to do with the qualification of the candidate.  Jack Kennedy lost votes because he was a public and believing Catholic. Mitt Romney lost votes because he was so closely identified with his Mormon faith.  Joe Lieberman, a great and good man (for a liberal), lost votes because he was well-known to be a faithful Orthodox Jew.  In an election that close, his faith might have been the difference between President Bush and President Gore.

Is any of that right?  Of course not.  Even, “Hell, no!” 

But it is very much human nature, which is why every savvy politician who wants to win tries to avoid “taking sides” in a religious debate. They recognize that any such debate will only hurt them with some voters. 

At least if it’s the candidate’s own faith, most do better by embracing their faith than to be seen running from it.

But when a candidate makes religion an issue – and the faith isn’t his own – that’s just a bad political choice.

Enter this conservative candidate for judge, this good man who’s not even a Mormon.

Today he posted on the Facebook discussion group “Clark County Politics” a fund-raising promotion.  It reads:

“Donate to ____ 4 Judge between now and May 15, 2014, and WIN 2 BOX SEAT TICKETS FOR THE PRIMARY ELECTION NIGHT SHOWING OF THE BOOK OF MORMON.  Support ____4Judge and win a chance to see the most popular show of the year with him on Primary Election night.”

Ignoring the poor grammar and punctuation, here’s the kicker.  Apparently, THE BOOK OF MORMON he’s referring to is a Broadway stage show, and a touring company of the play will be in Las Vegas on primary election night.  Not being a fan of Broadway shows, this was all news to me.  But if I’d known that, it wouldn’t change my negative reaction to this.

All I knew was when I saw the promotion on the website, I saw THE BOOK OF MORMON and a photo of one of the Mormon teen-boy missionaries, nametag, white shirt, white socks and black tie – book in hand – on the promotion.  I didn’t read the fine print about it being a Broadway show.   

All I did was see this message, then react immediately and viscerally to it. Seeing the promotion but not really reading it (yet), I knew I had no desire to win a copy of the Book of Mormon – so the “incentive” offered nothing to me. More to the point, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what a non-Mormon and otherwise reasonable conservative candidate for judge was doing pushing a minority and clearly controversial faith – let alone doing so in the midst of a purely secular election.

So I asked him, and he explained that it was a popular show, and a good fund-raising incentive.  Frankly, I wasn’t buying it.

Then another conservative climbed into the conversation, noting that “this big hit Broadway play was prepared by liberal play producers in anticipation of Mitt Romney’s presidential run in 2012 – I’m surprised that you are not sensitive to the derogatory impact …” 

I don’t know if that’s true. Imagine – liberals wanting to mock a Republican presidential candidate – hard to believe, isn’t it? 

However, whatever the play is supposed to do or say or be, I do know this.  If two conservatives – well-known local activists who both were prepared to support this candidate’s run for judge reacted this badly, and for completely different reasons – then this has to be a bad idea.

Arby's - when is 9:54 pm really 10 pm?

When is 9:54 pm. really 10 p.m.?

When I drive up to your drive through, clearly ahead of the 10 pm closing, and I'm told by the staff that you're closed.  The staff was standing in the parking lot smoking.  My watch and car clock, both set to satellite time and therefore accurate, said it was before closing. Your well-lit store and prominent street sign said you were open.  Everything said you were open - except for your staff, apparently eager for an early closing and a quick cigarette.

Did I mention that they were clearly far more annoyed with me for disturbing their early break than they were courteous to me?

Did I mention that this was the third time I'd come by before closing, only to be told that you were closed?

Three strikes and you're out applies equally to baseball and burgers - or in this case, to sandwich shops.

You spend millions in advertising to attract customers, but it only takes a few lazy crew members and a manager who turns a blind eye on early closing to lose customers you already have.   But don't worry.  I'll be sure to tell everyone I know (via this blog)'s the least I can do to repay your staff's courtesy and attention to service.

ADDED NOTE:  I got an email from Arby's after I used their online form to file the complaint you just read.  It was nice that they sent me a note. Not swift that they thanked me for my input instead of expressing concern that I'd had a bad experience - perhaps then suggesting that they'd get to the bottom of this for me.  But then ... showing that they REALLY DO NOT HAVE A CLUE when it comes to customer service, they posted a harsh and aggressive confidentiality notice on the bottom of the world's most innocuous "customer service email" ... really swift there, guys.

Here it is - we report, you decide ...

Dear Arby's Guest,

Thank you for the feedback you shared with us regarding your recent experience at one of our restaurants.

At Arby's, your point of view and your experience matter to us.


Arby's Guest Support

Notice: This e-mail message and its attachments are the property of Arby's or one of its subsidiaries and may contain confidential or legally privileged information intended solely for the use of the addressee(s). If you are not an intended recipient, then any use, copying or distribution of this message or its attachments is strictly prohibited. If you received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete this message entirely from your system.

PS - nobody can send you an unsolicited email with any expectation of privacy - so not only is this strategically stupid, it's also legally indefensible.  

I'm just saying ... go to Arby's at your own risk, knowing how deeply the staff and corporate management care for your comfort and convenience.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Take Chili's Restaurant - Please ...

Picture five adults, having attended a beautiful and moving Easter Eve church service - filled with love, joy and happiness - heading to our neighborhood Chili's to top the evening with good food, well-served, in a pleasant atmosphere.

Now picture that bus plunging off the bridge and being dashed on the rocks down below.

Finally, picture the company adding insult to injury with their inept "online customer service" operation.

Get the picture?

Here's the story - and here's why you certainly do NOT want to repeat our mistake.  Take Chili's off your list of places to go to enjoy good food and good service. Ain't gonna happen.

We arrived at 8:30, well after the crowd had left.  There were many tables vacant (unbussed) and it took three people ten minutes of desultory "cleaning" to get the table cleaned and set up.  Clue Number One:  "sudden service" was not on the menu.

We were told that three waitresses would take care of our needs.  Clue Number Two:  that meant each one of them assumed the other two were taking care of us.

After we ordered our food, we got our soft drinks - drank them - then waited, and waited, and waited ... finally, I had to ask another waitress to tell our waitress we needed drinks. So two of them came, then all three of them again forgot all about us.

After entirely too long with no food and not much to drink (even in the Spring, Las Vegas has a very dry climate, and people get thirsty easily), I asked to see the manager.  The greeter paged him.  Five minutes of standing there later, the greeter took it upon himself to go hunting down the manager, who'd ignored the page.

He was a big, blustery man, and came charging out of the back with the bitt in his teeth - it took him a bit to calm down (didn't know if he was mad at me, or just entirely too emotional).  Told him what the problem was, and he said he'd "go check it out and get right back to me."  I didn't want to know what was wrong - I wanted it fixed.  But later I'd wish that he'd even done that much.

Still we waited. Finally diner for four arrived.  There were five of us, but only four dinners arrived.  Of these, one was a salad, one was just about right, one was barely tolerable, and one was so cold it had to be sent back to be reheated.  Clearly, that food had been waiting for us to demand that it be produced.  However, the fifth dinner (fajitas, which have to be served sizzling) didn't come for another five minutes - clearly, they hadn't started them until the other food had been delivered.

When the fajitas came, they were not served with a plate (if you've never had them, they bring you a hot skillet with sizzling meat, onions and pepper strips, a "tortilla" dish (with lid to keep them fresh) and a plate on which to assemble the fajitas.  No plate.  I had to use the lid from the tortilla dish (I could have asked for a real plate, but I was half-past starved by this time).

Finally, we waited forever it seemed for more drinks, and our check.  Still, no manager with his explanation.  So once again, I asked the host to chase the guy down.  Now I could tell he was really exasperated with me - the "tell" was his overpowering condescending attitude.  I reminded him that he said he'd "get back to me" and he brushed that off, literally, like an annoying fly. Then he told me that he'd taken something off the bill (I knew that to be a lie - I already had the bill in-hand).  We waited another ten minutes until the waitress got around to producing a second bill, with the least expensive item - the salad, the only thing that wasn't done wrong) taken off the bill. 

That made it all better.

Back home, I went to the Chili's website to post a complaint. 

HINT TO COMPANIES WITH COMPLAINT FORMS ONLINE:  Do NOT limit the size of the complaint to 1,000 characters (that's like nine tweets).  I did what I could to lay it out in 1000 characters, getting even more annoyed as I did so.  Finally I got it all in there.

And waited.

And waited.

Then I got an email asking me for the name of the server, the name of the manager and the receipt number.  Uh, yeah. I've got that.

Finally, after several more exchanges that made me SO much happier, they sent me an apologetic-sounding form letter (as if such impersonal messages could be "apologetic" - I mean, how much added effort would it take to address my specific experiences?) telling me they would send me gift coupons or some such.

It arrived today.  Not an apology at all, but a "thank you" for "sharing your comments" and "providing feedback."  Plus, a carefully-metered out set of two $10 gift certificates and one $5 gift certificate.  Five adults had their evening ruined. The cheapest entree was comped.  Then we get $25 - not as a make-good, but as a "thank you."

If you choose to eat at Chili's, do so at your own risk.  What was once a decent operation has become a total disaster, unable to serve food hot or on time, and even worse, unable to handle a legitimate customer complaint in a way that makes the customer feel better about the experience.

You've been warned.  Stay away from Chili's ...