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Talbott Blog

Dueling Stories at Panera

I got to Panera Bread a bit early for the raleigh.rb meeting last night so I could grab some food since I came straight from work. I ordered something that sounded good off of the menu (anything with bacon is great in my book), and went to fill my drink. As I finished with that my name was called, so I didn’t even have to wait for the food. This is where it gets weird, though – I went up to the counter to grab my food, and as I started to pick it up, the guy working behind the counter says:

If it isn’t good you can bring it back and we’ll get you something else.

Huh? Am I getting a dud or something? After I gave him a blank stare, he sort of clarified – basically, the entree was new, and I guess (in his mind) unproven. Now, I’m not really a fan of Panera anyhow (we meet there because they’re one of the few places around with free wi-fi), and while the sandwich was OK, I sort of felt pre-disposed to not like it.

I think the thing that really threw me for a loop in this little exchange is that the well-meaning Panera employee told me two different stories all in the same sentence, and they completely cancelled one another out. Story one was, you’re the customer, you’re always right, and we want to make you happy. Story two was, our menu is questionable and there’s a good chance that you won’t like stuff on it. Moral of the story? When educating your employees that the customer’s always right, make sure that they understand that it’s still important to be positive on what you have to offer.