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Deliverude: What happens when organisations just say no.
The one with the cold rice and the missing Hoi Sin sauce
In the past few months, two hilarious-but-infuriating stories converged in my inbox. Both were about food, both about organisations failing to take ownership, and both with that wonderful job-worthiness that I enjoy so much.
More than that, both reinforce the point I make in my book that bad customer experience is really, really expensive to provide.
The first was from Christian Hunt, author of the new book ‘Humanising Rules’ (a title I instantly like) on his failed attempts to successfully purchase some Hoi Sin sauce…
Last night, I fancied roasted duck. My local Chinese has stopped serving it, so I settled on an Uber Eats decently rated offer.
However, whilst the DIY ensemble of ‘too hot to hold’ wafer-thin pancakes, neatly cut cucumber, and spring onion strip arrived (perfect IKEA-effect food), what didn’t arrive was any Hoi Sin sauce.
So, I did what Uber Eats suggests and reported an issue. There’s nowhere to report “you’ve missed a key ingredient”, so I pick the closest thing and include this photo from their menu that also specifies ‘Served with pancakes, cucumber, spring onion, and hoi sin sauce’
In the morning, I wake up to this.
“ Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that merchant partners will include condiments with your order because they are not listed as a menu item. In the future, please call the merchant directly after you place your order and ask if they have the requested condiment available.”
So, I reply explaining that the Hoi Sin sauce isn’t a condiment, it’s an integral part of the dish.
I get the exact same response. Verbatim. Clearly Uber Eats Bot is working overtime. So, I respond with “it’s NOT a condiment. How many times?!”
I get the exact same response. Clearly Uber Eats Bot is working overtime. So, I respond - again - with “it’s NOT a condiment. How many times?!”
The next response is a human who says they don’t understand my complaint. So, I try again in simpler English. With more photos of the menu.
And then, appropriate for a food delivery company, the ultimate shit-sandwich arrives:
We are really sorry to hear about such a dissatisfying encounter with Uber Eats. We can completely understand your frustration on this occasion.
After reviewing your concern we appreciate the points you’ve made. We review our customer's queries on a case-by-case basis to provide the best possible resolution to the issues and to ensure that fair customer service is being provided to everyone using our app.
Please be assured that when you flag an issue with us we take all the internal actions to ensure that this doesn't happen again with our customers.
However, unfortunately, we’re unable to offer a refund or price adjustment, as mentioned previously. As such, we now consider this matter closed and are unable to review your concern further.
We work hard to give you a great service, and this time we fell short. Your feedback really helps us improve the Uber experience. We’ll keep working to ensure your next experience will be a much smoother one.
Nothing is more important than regaining your trust, as being our valuable customer, and all of us here hope you will give us another opportunity to once again serve you with our best.
Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know about this.
It’s a remarkable response. Full of self-praise and empty words for how seriously - and how well - they deal with customer’s problems, how determined they are to keep improving, that nothing, nothing, is more important to them than regaining trust. Except, it seems, a couple of quid and some Hoi-Sin sauce.
It’s fair to say that, in Christian’s mind, this matter is far from closed.
This also reminded me of a story another brilliant writer, Tom Connolly, told me about a similar take-away travesty:
Deliveroo delivered the wrong curry along with my rice and poppadoms. With no option to call Deliveroo, I "chatted" with them.
They asked for visual proof that I had received a lentil and potato curry instead of a chicken curry and having got that from me, they said they'd send out the correct curry.
Thanks, said I, and asked them to send a fresh pot of rice so that I wasn't eating either cold rice or rice dried out by being reheated.
No, said they. But we will credit you with the £0.88 ‘cold rice repayment’.
(The fact they have a ready name and amount for this suggests, perhaps, that it happens often).
Total refusal on their part led to me cancelling and asking for a full refund - albeit they’d only refund me £13 only because some of the order was received.
They were pretty happy with themselves for delivering the order on time, though:
In Tom’s case, he did at least get a good outcome in the end. He emailed Dishoom directly to let them know what had happened. They were so appalled they sent a £30 Dishoom take-away voucher and an invitation to also take him + 1 to a Dishoom restaurant in London for breakfast on the house.
These stories have a lot in common, aside from making me very hungry, and a little bit angry.
In both cases, the organisation is avoiding taking ownership. In both, it’s making the customer feel a bit like a criminal (although I’m impressed they can tell the difference between two curries from a grainy photo). And in both, they’ve spent far more money on telling the customer no, and making the customer unhappy, than they would have if they’d just said yes.
It reminds me of my Amazon Returns story. All the other companies wait until they receive the parcel back to issue a refund. Amazon issue it as soon as the courier scans the item and puts it in the van. They know it’s high unlikely I’ll be trying to scam them, and that a quick positive response is better for me, cheaper for them, and makes me feel more confident about how they’ll act if something goes wrong in the future.
And if nothing else, it’s a good reminder that we should probably all get off the sofa and cook for ourselves.