Un-Wowed by Another Guest Service Failure

Let’s talk about the “hafta” clause and if your team members use it

Well, as much as I hate to take a break from my series of Hospitality Pro articles (we’re up to number four, in case you missed it), I must digress in this issue and revisit a subject near and dear to me. Namely, being WOWED or, more importantly, being Un-WOWED by really, really good or really, really bad guest service.

Back in the last decade (and the one before that as well; damn, I’m getting old), I wrote a series of articles on being “wowed” with great guest service. And yes, occasionally a WOW article became, unfortunately, an Un-WOW article. This then is one of the latter.

And you know, I still don’t get it. Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, businesses shuttered, people out of work, and on and on … and you’d think the companies that are open would be bending over backwards to do business with you. But alas, a breakdown in service will show up in the cash register sooner or later, pandemic or no, and usually sooner rather than later. Such was the case with me these last few weeks.

Let’s start with the local appliance store.

Yes, kitchen appliances is the area that we will be exploring today, class. You see, I have managed to accumulate a few rental properties over the years and one of them needed a new electric range. So off I went to shop at the local appliance store in my town (no big-box store for me, thank you very much).

The first indication that I might be in trouble was when it became clear that most models were display only, the pandemic had slowed everything down, and if you wanted a new stove, you either had to take what you could get or wait a long, long time for it.

So, on a Saturday afternoon I spoke with a very pleasant salesperson who showed me my options for an inexpensive but good quality range fit for a rental property. I then informed him that I was an existing customer (he even looked me up in the computer), and if he would be so kind as to work up some estimates on the two models along with install, yada yada, and more importantly WHEN they could deliver and install it, that would be nice. At which point it started to go south. For, you see, I encountered the dreaded HAFTA disease.

What’s the HAFTA disease, you ask?


Perhaps some of you have been in my classes, lectures or talks where we cover the six deadly sins of bad service and conflict, and one of them is the dreaded HAFTA disease. That’s when a company, via its service representative (very much like the ones you have working on your casino floor right now), tells a guest they hafta … you hafta call back, you hafta see the boss, you hafta fill out a form, you hafta come back later. Folks, there is only one thing that a customer has to do … and that is leave and never come back. Everything else is on the table, and if you want the sale, you better do it yourself before they find someone else who will.

My salesperson informed me that I would hafta call back on Monday for the information. To which I replied, “No, no, no … you’d best call me.” I’m the customer. I’m in the computer. You have my name and phone number, jot it down, schedule it, Roger Ramjet it, do whatever you hafta, but you call me on Monday with the information.

He agreed.

And they never called.

WHAT?! Are you nuts?!

Do you really have that much business that you can simply blow a sale out of the water because you’re too lazy to work a customer and provide good service?

So I decided to give the big-box a try. That’s right, off to the store to be named later to see what they can do (don’t want to mention the store, but it rhymes with “repo,” if you know what I mean).

And indeed they had a stove, it was in stock, and they could deliver and install the following Friday. Yeah.

And then came Friday.

No delivery.

No call.

No message.

No nut’n, honey.


Okay, cancel the order and fly to another store. At this one (sorry, trying to keep the story as short as possible) they worked with us, looking up stock in the back, checking backorders, finding the perfect range but with a buyer’s sticker on it. But wait, that customer doesn’t need it yet, so we are going to give it to YOU! And we can deliver and install tomorrow. Or the next day, but we will call, and in addition, we are going to give you our sales manager’s and driver’s cell phone numbers so you can call them if you have any questions or trouble. And voilà, we have a range, a happy tenant and a new source for appliances in our town.

Folks, I’ve been in the hospitality business for over forty years and it continues to amaze me how bad so many of the characters in our numerous service industries are at delivering simple, basic, good service. I am still amazed, and still busy trying to help companies not make the mistakes that you just read about. Because if there is one simple lesson I have learned over the years (and I hope you have too, so burn this into your brain), it is this:

Service and quality pays!

It’s the best kept secret on the North American continent (and around the world, for that matter).

Show me a business that is suffering, that is closing down or declaring bankruptcy, and I’ll bet you anything that there was nothing wrong with their location, product, price or desire to succeed. But I’ll bet their service sucked. No ifs, ands, or buts.

So take a look around your operation. Don’t wait. We’re in a crisis, a pandemic. Don’t rest on “good enough,” or “it’s the times,” or “we’ll fix it later.” Be passionate about it. What are you doing to WOW your guests with service, and where are they being Un-WOWED? Get your hands around those two issues and you will move heaven and earth, while all your competitors drown in their own apathy.

So, until next time, remember … service and quality pays. Build it into your organization at every turn, in every corner and with every associate you have. DO IT NOW!

You just may find it rocks your whole world.

Steve Browne 19 Articles