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  • Writer's pictureAnn Logothetis Neale

“You have to go to the bar”

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Note: "You have to go to the bar" is first in a series, Customer Experience Observations.

“Wow, rock star parking for the second year in a row!” my husband exclaimed as we pulled up to our favorite Wisconsin supper club.

We’d been coming to that specific place on that specific Saturday night for 18 years running, and we were excited to be back.

Most years we’d hit the prime rib buffet, roll out in a food coma, and file the experience away under “fond memories,” knowing we’d be back next year. But without much discussion, this year we decided to skip the buffet and just sit at the bar for some Spotted Cows and comfort food.

We checked with the bartender, who waved us over to some high tops at the edge of a dark, empty party room before returning to her conversation with the sole patron at the bar.

We enjoyed our meal for the most part, even if it was a little creepy sitting off by ourselves in the shadows. While waiting for our check, I noticed our tabletop ad proclaimed, “First Drink Free!”

There were no details or fine print, but all the tables had them. I was intrigued, even though I was pretty sure there weren’t going to be any free drinks on our bill.

And of course there weren’t, so I decided to ask our server how the “First Drink Free” promotion worked, just on principle.

“Oh, you have to go to the bar,” she said, before walking the 5 or so feet to the bar to ring us out.

That’s when it hit us.

We got rock star parking because the place was almost empty. We didn’t want the prime rib buffet because it hadn’t been that great the past couple years. And the service had gotten so detached, it didn’t even know it was detached.

As we looked around, we realized little but the name remained from the place that had earned our loyalty for almost two decades. In fact, it had gradually become just another roadside joint with mediocre food and service.

We hadn’t really noticed -- we just kept on giving them our money. But I’m pretty sure that’s over now. After one too many cracks in the experience, even a sacred tradition can crumble.

Even small things (like an ironic ad for a free drink) can become moments of truth. Pay attention to the little stuff. Think about how your customer will receive your message. Make your moments count!

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