Hey Taco John's, Go F*ck Yourselves: A failure to understand customer mindshare

Hey Taco John's, Go F*ck Yourselves: A failure to understand customer mindshare

It was managing the shit shift at Pizza Hut that spurred this mindset. I had always been happy to compensate a customer if something went wrong. Our district manager took it a step further. She coached us to not only refund their money, but offer a free pizza bonus for the customer’s time and effort that we wasted. This immediately made sense to me. Not only are you wasting the customer’s money when you deliver a poor product, but you’re wasting all of the effort and time they put in purchasing that product. You’re also undermining any sort of expectations they had planned on for your product. It’s a type of mindshare that’s not quantifiable but will devastate your user reviews and references if you don’t fully understand it.

Here’s an example. Last September, I ran the Omaha Half Marathon. I busted my ass training and finished in good time. I was drained. They had some fruit and bread to munch on after the marathon. The snacks were good but only staved off my hunger for short period. By the time I reached Lincoln, I was starving. I dropped off my running partner and headed towards the nearest restaurant I could see - Taco John’s.

Now I’m a huge Taco Bell fan, but I had never been to a Taco John’s. I thought “Screw it, all Mexican places serve basically the same food and I’m F’ing hungry!” All the hard work had paid off and now I was going to replenish and reward myself. I ordered 3 different full-size meals and counted the seconds until I would be plopped down on my couch scarfing down a Mexican buffet. Little did I know, those bastards at Taco John’s had other plans…

The first thing I noticed were two missing burritos. You know in The Hulk, were Ed Norton looks at his watch/heartbeat monitor as it starts to raise? That’s what happened here. Those burritos were my gold metal. The crown jewel that said, “Damn right you just ran that half marathon and now you deserve some sweet Mexican nectar.” I moved on to the Nachos Supreme. The Chips were stale and the toppings were cold. My knuckles whitened as the sensor on my watch began to beep. The final straw was when I started bit down on the soft shell taco to find it cold. The drive home was only 5 minutes and the food was well covered so they must have been served cold. I was furious! The sensor dial broke and I went into Hulk mode!

I called up the manager and began to list off the personal injustices I had suffered at the hands of Taco John’s. I managed to stay cordial but I sensed that he could feel the slight edge in my voice. I couldn’t help it, I had the upper-lip trembles that you get right before you go ballistic. The manager said I could come out and pick up another meal or he could send me a coupon. I had already started eating everything in the house so a coupon had to suffice.

A week went by and my anger subsided. One sunny day I saw the Taco John’s letter in my mailbox. I was as excited as Charlie when he unwrapped the golden ticket. Only there was no golden ticket. Just a hand-written coupon for 2 Burritos, 1 Nacho, and 1 Soft Shell Taco. My eyes turned green. This motherfuckin’ manager had no idea how much that meal had met to me. Plus all the rest of the food that was cold. No matter how crazy it was, I had massive expectations and plans for that meal. I had time and effort clocked in and that meal was the crowning jewel to my great achievement. I wanted revenge! I wanted Justice!

You see, we all think similar thoughts when we’re getting bad service.
The idea is very evasive if your on the opposite side of the register and looking at the tangible asset of money and not the intangible asset of mindshare. You can’t readily measure or see a customer’s negative thoughts but you can sure as hell see that \$20 refund waltz out your door. Every chance I get I tell people about the negative Taco John’s experience. I’ve stopped entire friend groups from eating there and have a lifelong oath to bring it to shambles (just kidding… or am I).

The lesson here is simple. Taco John’s failed to empathize with their customer’s complaint. They thought that I was just getting food from them when in fact, I was getting a whole experience. A empathizing apology letter along with the coupon would have been great.

Four sentences:

“Brian, we are sincerely sorry that we sold you cold and substandard food during our last transaction. Please know that we want to make it up to you and strive to always give our customer’s the best experience possible. Enclosed is a coupon, please accept this along with our apology. We value you as a customer and want to make sure that you are satisfied EVERY TIME you visit us.”

I never saw that letter and Taco John’s will never see the day when I drive through again. With this transaction, my Money, Time, Expectations, and Effort were all on the line. They delivered a substandard experience and failed to realize that each transaction is more than just the tangible goods being exchanged.


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