Crippled Consumer, Paralyzed Citizen

Riffs, Rants and Raves

How to piss off a customer

Three weeks ago, I went to the Costa Coffee outlet. My post on their Facebook timeline explains what transpired:

“TERRIBLE! I went to Costa’s on Church Street (Bangalore) yesterday. I ordered Earl Grey tea. When it arrived, it tasted like some nondescript (stale?) tea. I took it back downstairs and asked them to replace it–they brought back the same thing without the tea bag! The carrot cake looked good, but all the so-called cream cheese was some stale stinky butter, which I had to waste. The brownie tasted average. I have no idea what fats or ingredients these people use, but I’ve now ended up sick. (All my other food is home-cooked, so this can be the only culprit.) Terrible service too. I guess the place survives just because of its location, and because nobody throws you out if you sit there a couple of hours.”

I promptly got a response: “Dear Nandita, Thank you for writing and sending us your feedback on our Costa Coffee. We are sorry that you had an unpleasant experience at our outlet and we thank you for bringing it to our notice. We take consumer feedback on the quality of our products and service very seriously. May we request you to message us your address and contact details so that we can get in touch with you.”


I immediately gave them my contact details. And then, silence! So I wrote to them, saying that nobody had bothered to contact me. The next day, their representative called, saying that he was calling me because his Delhi office had asked him to! (Not because he, as the guy in charge here, was concerned?!!) He said how sorry he was, that he would look into the matter, etc.–and that once I got better, he would like to meet me over coffee to “understand the issue better”! With my severe stomach cramps, I was too feeble to argue, so I just mumbled OK.

The following week, the guy called again. He said they had looked into the matter. Apparently, they get all their stuff from reputable places, so they had found nothing wrong with anything. Yet, as a precautionary measure, he said they had decided to withdraw the carrot cake from their shelves. He then went on to explain, “Madam, the Earl Grey stock was fresh–I came to know that it had arrived at the outlet just the previous day–but because… you see… Earl Grey has a somewhat unusual woody flavour, you may not be used to that flavour, and you may not have liked it…”

This was just too much for me to take. For a (black and green) tea lover like me–who can tell the difference between dust tea and leaf tea just from the flavour–this guy tells me that Earl Grey (my favourite) has a woody smell–does he not know that the characteristic citrus smell comes from bergamot, which this tea at Costa’s did not exhibit even a trace of?!!

Furious, I interrupted him and went off on my tirade. I wish I had recorded this conversation–the guy constantly kept speaking while I was speaking, instead of listening to me. Essentially, I said, “So you have called to tell me that your products are fantastic and that I do not know my tea? I am shocked–instead of being gracious and offering me a refund–after all, I’m not asking you to compensate me for the antibiotics or the 1 1/2 days I had to take off work–you simply ask me to visit Costa Coffee again?!!”

He replied, “Well, Madam… [more blah about the products being OK]… that is what I was about to tell you… what I’m saying is… please tell me which outlet you will come to, and I will meet you; we will sit down over a coffee and I will arrange for a refund.”

So here are my questions:

1. Why did he not mention a refund in the first place–did he have to insult my olfactory and gastronomic senses for a few minutes, and wait until I screamed at him?

2. If they mean business and intend to refund anything, why don’t they just ask for my bank account number–why do I need to go to Costa Coffee and endure another beverage there (even if it’s on their tab) in order get my refund? In fact, the merchant even has my credit card number–why do they not just refund the amount to my credit card?

3. If their stuff is indeed good, why did they take the carrot cake off their shelves?

It looks like Costa’s (in Bangalore, at least) is seriously in need of people who can smell and taste better, and who have better PR than to tell the customer s/he has no idea what something should taste like. Refund or nor refund, I’m not going there again.

UPDATE: On Dec 24, the rep called me again, and I told him I was not interested in stepping into an outlet to get my refund. He immediately said OK, and they have deposited the refund in my bank account today (26th).


3 comments on “How to piss off a customer

  1. Sharath Jeppu
    December 25, 2013

    Most companies have a social media representative who responds but nothing comes out of it. In the business of service measurement, there is a parameter called “response to an interaction”. This is often done by somebody with a template answer which typically goes like exactly like

    “Thank you for writing and sending us your feedback on our XXXXX. We are sorry that you had an unpleasant experience at our XXXX and we thank you for bringing it to our notice. We take consumer feedback on the quality of our products and service very seriously. One of our representatives will get in touch with you to resolve your issue.”

    And then you are in outer space or abyss depending on which you relate to better for emptiness. It happened in my interactions with Airtel several times as well as Kent RO. The folks manning the social media response are typically not empowered to intervene and help customers in any way. Can’t blame them. But pretty stupid of companies to lose customers in this day and age trying to save a few pennies and waiting for things to blow up. In comparison, I think a few companies have done well in this area. Apple, Amex, Suzuki, are a few companies which I have ad pleasant experiences with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rant. Rave. Share.
      December 25, 2013

      You’re right, Jeps. I think a few firms have got it right — in that category, I was very impressed with Printo’s service.


  2. Don Charisma
    February 26, 2014

    Good read … and as a Costa over Starbucks man I have noted their poor customer care … Still virtually anything is better than starbucks !

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 22, 2013 by in Consumer and tagged , , .

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