Monthly Archives: August 2020

Turned Around Tacos

A little reminder this Foodie Friday. I called one of my favorite taco places last night to place an order that I’d pick up. I ended up hanging up the phone without placing the order and the reason why I did so should be instructive for anyone who has customers (and what business doesn’t?).

The place we were ordering from serves very authentic tacos and other Mexican dishes. One of these is a torta – a sandwich – called a Toluquena. While there are minor variations on it depending on the place, it’s a pretty common menu item and I wanted one. I was also trying to get a plate of cheese enchiladas and a “wet” burrito. All of these things were on the restaurant’s menu.

A woman answered the phone. It took a few tries to get her to understand that I would come to pick up the food but once we had that squared away, I asked for the first item: the Toluquena. She didn’t understand. She asked if I meant a Tampiquena, which is a common steak dish but not what I wanted. “No, una torta – a sandwich.” A Tampiquena sandwich? No, a Toluquena. The next couple of minutes involved her getting the menu and pointing out to her where it was. It was sort of a sandwich “Who’s On First” routine.

We moved on to the enchiladas. Cheese enchiladas. “With chicken?” No, just cheese. “Chicken enchiladas?” Let’s try Spanish – “no, no carne, no pollo. Solamente queso.” She said she needed to go check, at which point it was time to hang up the phone. The odds of getting the food we wanted were quite long at that point and I was in no mood to eat something I didn’t order. We ended up driving to another taco place (just as good, by the way) and brought home exactly what we wanted.

The reminder is this. First, more folks are using the telephone to place orders to go these days for the obvious reasons. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the restaurant business or selling hardware or party goods. People want to call in and pick up. Next, because of this, the person or persons answering that phone need to know the products (or menu). In my case, the language wasn’t an issue – I speak enough Spanish to get by – but my guess is that the bulk of your customers speak English so your phone people should be able to as well.

This woman’s inability to handle our order didn’t just cost them last night’s business. The last time we ordered from this place we received the wrong food in our order having ordered over the phone and picked up. I love the food but I love getting the food I order even more. I probably won’t go back until I’m comfortable ordering in person (you can’t order online from this place either). When a customer service issue becomes routine, you’re in trouble.

Every customer interaction is a chance to shine. Every person who will be dealing with customers needs to have the training and resources they need to shine brightly, especially now.  Make sense?

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Helpful Hints, Huh?

Tennis Anyone?

We’re getting to the time of the year when political conversations, which are always lurking, come front and center. It’s not just that nearly every media outlet is covering the elections almost full-time. Social media, at least my feeds, is almost entirely politics (along with dog and cat photos).  What strikes me most about all of this is how little of the discourse is a conversation and how much of it is a rant.

Of course, politics isn’t the only place where that pattern holds true. I’ve been in many business situations where people with opposing or different views on a topic don’t really converse and try to resolve their differences. They do a lot of talking and almost no listening. That’s something I always found to be unacceptable when my team did it, and so I’d remind them that being creative and developing ideas, is like playing tennis. You send something out and wait to see what comes back. In order to continue to play, you need to make adjustments since it won’t be coming back to the same place at the same speed every time.

Take note, as you scroll through the comments in social media, or on some blogs or in your next business meeting, about how little factual information is hit over the net at the other side. Note as well how a lot of the “players” don’t really have an interest in the game. They “win” by reciting whatever preconceived notion ad infinitum and either waiting for everyone else to give up or by taking their ball and racquet and going home. That accomplishes nothing but to make each person who participates in this way more dug in, angrier, and frankly, dumber, or at least, less smart.

If you’re having a dialog, remember that the word is rooted in the notion of accomplishing something through speech (dia: through and logos: speech, reason).  You need to listen to do so. What do we accomplish via monologue other than to express ourselves? Does it matter if anyone is listening?

Playing tennis against an opponent requires you to adjust and accommodate and change your tactics. Playing against a wall by yourself doesn’t. Tennis anyone?

Leave a comment

Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks

Food Prices

Let’s think about what’s been going on with food prices this Foodie Friday. I do the bulk of the food shopping so I might be more attuned to both the food supply and food prices than many of you, I get that. However, this is something that affects us all (unless you don’t eat, which is another issue altogether).

You’ve probably noticed that your grocery bills have gone up steadily over the last six months. That’s been due to the pandemic. You’ve read about the problems in meat processing plants as well as shortages of many other items due to supply chain disruptions and the shift from many of us working in an office (and eating meals away from home) to working at home (where we’re supplied by grocery stores). You’ve probably also recited the “supply vs. demand” mantra to yourself as prices rose, as the supply of some food items diminished, and the demand grew.

What you might not realize is that many of those issues have gone away. Have prices fallen? Not so much although they are down a little from their peak. As an NBC News article said:

Pandemic grocery prices shot up like a rocket and fell like a feather, even after supplies recovered. While the average price of ground beef was down by over 9 percent last month, shoppers are still paying nearly 13 percent more than they did in January.

Do I think it’s all price gouging or companies taking advantage of a horrible situation? No, not all of it, but you can’t help but wonder why prices for many items that are in abundant supply remain high. An analysis of consumer price index data for February through June, conducted by 24/7 Wall St., is shedding some light on the exact items that are driving up your grocery spending the most. According to the analysis, you’ll find that foods like dried legumes, peanut butter, ham, and potatoes have seen a price increase of 7% or more. However, the five items that top the price-growth list are mostly found in the meat aisle. Hot dogs, chicken, pork chops, and most beef cost quite a bit more than they did pre-pandemic even though, based on what I see in the stores I patronize (and supported by the data I could find), the shortages are pretty much over.

I think we’re all aware of the unemployment situation and the fact that the support system for those folks who’ve been fired or furloughed is shaky at best. Food insecurity has been a problem in this country pre-pandemic and it’s only been exacerbated. I also get that many variables go into establishing the price of foods in grocery stores, including costs to the grower, the processor, the manufacturer, the distributor, and lastly, the retailer. Increases in food prices are driven by dozens – if not hundreds – of different factors. But I also see that the food producer stocks are doing pretty well, and they’re still paying dividends. Maybe now is the time for them and others in the food chain to think about putting the customers ahead of shareholders, at least in the short term? Is taking a short-term hit or foregoing a dividend a fair price for supporting your customers and building goodwill?

Now, ask yourself a similar question.

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud