Friday, 28 March 2008

Bitter taste in my mouth...

I am so unhappy with an incident at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf tonight... here is the mail I wrote to the operations manager.


To the operations manager,

The bitter taste I have in my mouth right now is not only from the coffee I drank at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's (CBTL) outlet in Penang but also from the way they handled their business transaction. I have always preferred CBTL over Starbucks but now, I am taking my business elsewhere. Its not worth the price you pay to drink there.

My friends and I went to your outlet at Bellisa Row, Pulau Tikus, Penang for chit-chat after dinner tonight, thinking that its a comfortable enough place to de-stress (HOW UNTRUE THAT TURNED OUT TO BE!!!!!). We ordered 4 drinks and it was then when Izan, the staff at the till suggested that we take up the loyalty card for free since our bill is more than RM25. It seems that the RM25 would be added to the loyalty card and then deducted from it, thus giving the card for us for free. My friend Andy agreed to it and since the bill came up to be RM37.59, He paid RM50 for the whole thing but then he did not realise that the change he got back was only RM2.41. It was only when we looked at the receipt at the table that we realised that there was something wrong with the bill. Cos the bill said that he paid only RM15 by cash(with the RM25 in the card, this comes up to only RM40?!) and thus only entitled for a change of RM2.41. HUH?! Something is wrong here right? He should be paid RM12.41. We were confused cos we thought that we had paid extra for the card and that the staff did not explain the whole procedure clearly to us.

We went down to the counter to ask for an explanation. Not only was she not patient with us, when we asked her whether we had to pay for the card, she said "DUH!" Can you imagine that, you make a remark that implies that we are THICK and DUMB!!! That is so, so rude! Here am I, a hospitality marketing lecturer, trying so hard to drum into my students every week about the importance of customer satisfaction and quality of service, and here I found myself at the receiving end of a perfect example how NOT to treat customers! (Hmm... this will make a perfect example to give the students! Imagine, 100 students per semester... the power of word of mouth). The management trainee present, Kelvin, told us to take our seats and he will assist us with the matter later cos by this time I think we were attracting a lot of attention. Later, he come to talk to us and then we explained to him what was wrong and he said he will check. Ok, fine... maybe there is still hope.

After awhile, the outlet manager (can't remember his name but he did write down the name on the receipt) came up and again we explained to him that there was something wrong... he told us that he checked and there was no excess cash in the till. So he said that at this point there is nothing he can do for us. No apology, nothing to make up for the dissatisfaction. Nothing! I told him that since this is the case, we will make a complaint. He said that is our right but if we do complain, it will not get anywhere, that we will not get out money back and he will so confident about it! (Such arrogance!) They made a mistake, the staff keyed in a wrong figure collected and we come up short and here he is implying us that if we decide to take up a complaint, we will lose. Are you sure?

What is so upsetting is that there seem to be no recourse set in your SOP to deal with such issues. Any disputes cannot be settled immediately. It means that any staff can punch in a lesser amount and if we check later and found out that there is a short, then we the customers may be at fault! This is no local coffee shop... this is an international company! We go there expecting excellent service and this is what we get!

I am so, so upset for my friend Andy. Not only was the customer's rights NOT upheld but we were made to feel that our INTEGRITY is nothing. Because of the failure in your system to make sure that no HANKY PANKY can be carried out by either your staff or the customers, we, the customers, have to pay for it. It is obvious that CBTL do NOT seem to practice the concept of "The customer is always right". The outlet manager just refuses settle anything there and then. A RM10 dispute and he has to take 24-48 hours to settle? Is he not delegated to some authority to deal with this situation??? He just says that he will look into the matter.

This is what you put up in your US website:

Customer Service
At The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® we are dedicated to providing you with excellence in the products we sell, the services we provide, and the environments where you shop. We care about what you have to say about your relationship with us, the quality of our products, and your experience as a customer.

Obviously I begin to seriously doubt how true this is...

My friends and I are definitely going to pursue a formal complaint. We will also forward to you the receipt we obtained. I am also planning to highlight this incident with your parent company in the US.

From now on, CBTL will be 5 customer less and I do know for a fact how exponentially powerful word of mouth can be. All your efforts in drawing us to your business goes down the drain because of an incident like this. Initially, we were just seeking a simple and immediate recourse, hoping that we will get back the RM10 for our friend but now I don't really care for the money anymore. Your outlet manager dared us to complain and we will make sure that we do that. If this is not resolved satisfactorily, we will make sure that everyone we know, knows about this incident as well, then you will see how many customers you can afford to lose.

Mr. Chen, a very unhappy EX-CUSTOMER


Join me and make a complaint to the Parent Company in US here:

as well as the the company in Malaysia here: (look for the in-store issues email address)

My friends and I are going to pursue a formal complaint and I will let you know the outcome.
The aftermath of GE2008 has taught me something. The big guys can no longer ignore the little guy and push us around anymore. That we can decide for ourselves whether something is worth having. We may not get a resolution from them but we can definitely make them suffer. Its time we vote with our feet and take our business elsewhere.

From now on, CBTL has 5 less customer and I am urging anyone who is reading this to seriously consider boycotting CBTL (at least in Malaysia). I am telling CBTL that bad service and leaving customers with a sour taste will have adverse and severe consequences. See how the SMSes have affected the businesses of Nasi Kandar stores in Penang? It could very well happen to them too!

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