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 ...

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