Monday, November 30, 2009

customer service — fails and wins

On our way to Dayton last week, we stopped at Tamarack outside Beckley for lunch. Tamarack is an arts center with food service by The Greenbrier, a resort outside White Sulphur Springs. It's an oasis in the land of bad travel food and cookie cutter service areas. It can also get very busy on big holiday travel days. That Wednesday was no exception.

The layout in the food service at Tamarack is poorly set up for large crowds. One entrance funnels to grill and deli lines set close to each other, and you cannot order from both lines at once. This means you need to have two people waiting in both lines if you want items from each or be willing to order on one line and then wait in another. On busy days when there are also many travelers not accustomed to the system, things can become a bit — um — delayed.

When we stopped on Wednesday, things were busy, and a man was guiding people to which line they should join. I asked him what I should do if I wanted to order in both lines but had a child with me. He took one look at us and asked whether she wanted a pizza. She did. He said he would put the order in for us so we could get in the grill line (the longer of the two). When I'd placed my order, the woman behind the counter told me we needed to wait for the pizza. Instead, our kind concierge overheard and said we could sit down; he'd bring the pizza to us.

It was a small, important gesture that made a long trip easier. Kudos to him and the rest of the staff for that moment.


On the flip side is our local Indian takeout/delivery joint. We've ordered from there in the past and generally had good luck. Tonight was a fail in both food and service.

Among the dishes we ordered was Vegetable Korma. On the menu, it is described as fresh vegetables in a cashew and onion sauce. L asked if they could add chickpeas to it, and they obliged. What arrived was a gloppy, creamy dish of cubed carrots, peas, and corn. The sauce wasn't bad, but it was clear that we'd gotten frozen mixed vegetables.

L was reluctant to call, but I decided it was worth it. The man remembered the order and informed me we'd gotten exactly what we'd ordered. I suggested that the vegetables should be fresh if the menu said they were fresh. He countered that they only used fresh vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes, that they used frozen mixed vegetables for the korma. Then came the most stunning moment: he made it our fault for not asking what was in the korma. If we had asked what was in it, he would have told us and we could have ordered something else. I stammered that fresh vegetables should mean fresh vegetables and that we weren't happy with the dish. To no avail. I was informed that they had given us the chickpeas like we asked and that we should have asked what else was in the dish. This was just the way they made the korma — apparently in a topsy-turvy world where frozen really means fresh.

I won't name names here in deference to a recent note on food blogs by Brandon Fox, but suffice it to say that our local Indian takeout joint near VCU — on Main Street — will not be getting business from us again any time soon.