Do You Really Have to Charge Extra for the Sour Cream?

One of the simplest maxims of customer service is……Give them what they want.

Now, I believe that the saying was orginally much longer and got truncated over the years. I believe that the original saying was…..Give them what they want without nickel and diming them for it. But of course, over time, we lost the end of that saying and now all we have left is – Give them what they want. It’s still a very true statement, however, I would like to take a look at the whole saying and see how it can enhance your customer service.

I know, I know, I can already hear the critics saying, “But what if they want something that I don’t have or what if they want something that costs more than they are paying me?” Take heart, my virtual naysayers, I am not talking about letting one con artist cheat you out of your entire savings. Rather, I am standing my the adage that if you take care of you customers, they will take care of you. And I think we can all agree that the pay off is generally great for you in the long run.

Allow me to share an example. My family and I often go to a specific Mexican restaurant chain that is here in the Sacramento area. They have great prices and a wide selection of food. In this restaurant, you order at the counter and then sit down and they bring it out to you. We generally order, more or less, the same dishes because we have found what our kids will eat and, we wall know that once you find the groove for your two year old, you do not deviate from that path!

Anyway, my wife love to have sour cream and guacamole with her Mexican food. It’s a staple for her and while some of the dishes have that automatically, some do not. While I try to always make it a point to ask for it up front, so that we ensure that she gets it with her food. Occasionally, I will forget and in these cases, the food arrives without sour cream or guacamole. When that occurs, I go up to the counter and ask for it.

This is where it gets interesting. I am always asked if I want a small or large sour cream and / or guacamole. I always answer that I want a small one.

Inevitably, I am charged a small sum (a dollar or so) for the sour cream or guacamole. It doesn’t really irk me, and I follow that this is just their procedure and allows them to keep costs under control. Would I like free sour cream or guacamole? Sure I would, but I understand business. So, each time, I pay my dollar and walk back to the table where my wife is very happy that she now has sour cream or guacamole.

This has continued for months until a while back, I forgot to ask for guacamole when we ordered and then, when I went to the counter to step through the ritual, the woman running the counter that day simply handed the small container of guacamole to me and then refused my outstretched dollar!

I was amazed. I offered it again to her and she replied “No, I’ve got it,” smiled and walked away. Wow! I was blown away. Not because of the dollar that I saved, but that she understood the basic principle of customer service.

I floated back to the table and shared my good news with my family. A good meal became a great meal. My kids seemed angelic, the sounds of the restaurant blurred into the background and I enjoyed by gourmet quesadilla like I had never tasted something so exquisite before in my life!

Because I am a customer service fanatic, I tend to mull good and bad interactions for quite a while so as to extract what I can apply in my own work. As I thought about what had just occured, I realized that this woman was in fact, one of the managers there at the restaurant and that she had the power to give out sour cream and guacamole for free! Having put myself through college working in restaurants, I knew some of the costs that are associated with food and understand that there is a threshold that every restaurant must maintain in order to break even.

Now, I am not suggesting that restaurants give away everything for free! No, instead, I am hoping that this manager will take the opportunity to discuss food costs with her boss and see if this is something that can be taught to the junior employees to be used at their discretion so that more people can have as great a meal as I did.

I but groceries like everyone else. I love to cook, so perhaps I buy more, I don’t know. I am familiar with the price of sour cream as well as avocados. Because of that, I don’t have a blanket
statement of what you should and should not do.

However, I challenge all of us to find out what the price of our sour cream is and see if there is a way to hand it out for free when our paying customer asks for it. It might just make their day.

Good eating,



One response to “Do You Really Have to Charge Extra for the Sour Cream?

  1. Pingback: It May Be Small Change, But Your Customers Feel It « Customer Service Voodoo

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