My daughter and her friends got in line for a ride at a well-known amusement park, so I decided to get something to eat during the 45 minutes until the ride was over. I spotted a small stand nearby with a big sign that advertised ‘Roasted Corn’. I love roasted corn. As I approached the stand, I saw that all they sold was roasted corn, and bottled water.
It was 3:00 in the afternoon. There was no line. The person in the stand was handing someone an ear of corn as I walked up to the stand, and there were a couple of people buttering corn on the side of the stand. I could almost taste the corn.
I ordered a corn and a bottled water. I thought that was a reasonable order, since that was all they sold. The young man behind the counter, with a perfectly straight face, told me they were out of roasted corn. When I confirmed that he had said they were out of roasted corn, he assured me that they were making more, and that it would be ready in ten minutes.
I decided that I didn’t really need corn badly enough to stand there for ten minutes, so I thanked him and walked off with a number of questions circling around in my head.
Is it possible they were so unable to manage the one product they sold that they didn’t have any to sell?
Was there some unforeseen rush before I got there that left them cornless?
Do they care so little for their customers that they assume having them wait ten minutes for the one product they sell is not a problem?
Did they not notice as they well selling corn that their available supply was getting low and consider that it might be good to add some more to their industrial strength roasting oven?
Do they really run on such a tight margin that they are afraid to trash a piece of corn every now and then?
Are they buying very expensive corn?
Are they really a front for drug trafficking or money laundering and don’t really need to sell corn?
Their focus was clearly not on their customer. It was most likely some company procedure designed to maximize profits. It’s hard to say how many sales they lost during the day, but they lost mine. I ended up getting some fries, which I was finished with before my corn would have been done.
What could they have done better?
Make sure they have a minimum level available, plan for fluctuations in crowds, train their staff to judge the need based on the size of the crowd, and at the very least, train their staff to be sympathetic to customers if they do run out.
I could have waited ten minutes for a piece of corn, I was going to be sitting around for 45 minutes anyway, but I have a policy of not supporting poor business practices when I don’t have to … and I like fries almost as much as corn.
How about you?