19 Minutes Waiting + 3 Second Apology = Everything’s Fine

February 9, 2015

When you work a lot of late nights, you eat a lot of grab-and-go dinners. Even though we live in an area of town with a good restaurant selection, we’re still always looking for other choices. Sometimes Scoutmob is a great tool for not only discovering a new meal but also a good deal.

Having found a new option on the way home one evening we said, What the heck, and gave it a shot. The guy at the counter was really nice, and we were pleased with the ordering process. We were excited to try something new, so after placing our to-go order, we took what we thought would be a quick seat while our food was prepared.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We sat there for exactly 19 minutes – 19 minutes for a glorified fast food restaurant to go order. We knew it was 19 minutes because the receipt said the exact time our order had been placed. Because we hadn’t been to this place before, though, we weren’t sure if it always took this long and perhaps saying something would be uncouth.

And so we waited.

You may (somewhat justifiably) be thinking, What’s the big deal?, either because it wasn’t so long to wait or because if we cared that much we should have said something. The big deal (if this can be said to be one, and it’s honestly not), is that we get very little time at home in the evening to unwind and relax. Sometimes it’s just 60 or 90 minutes, whether it’s dinner, television, reading or whatever else. That’s time we value highly because it creates a separation between the work day and getting in bed that’s mentally very valuable. We grab dinners intended to be quick because we want to get home to relax. This 19 minute wait seemed like a violation of that important contract between a to-go restaurant and its patrons.

Plus, we were hungry and nothing compounds irritability like hunger.

After 19 long (and increasingly grouchy) minutes the man who took our order came over with our food and said, “so sorry about that wait. Hope you have a great night.”

Oh, what a difference that made. It was just one 3 second apology. A few simple words. They cost him nothing – no face, no pride. He just acknowledged what we had experienced, recognized that it was a little much and said he was sorry about that. And it made all the difference in the world. Suddenly we weren’t irritated or grouchy or anything. We were fine. We weren’t crazy for thinking that was too long to wait either. All was better.

Learn a lesson from our experience and apply it to your own business or life. An apology costs you nothing and goes such a long way. If you have an angry customer, start with an apology and a demonstration of your understanding. It doesn’t matter whether or not you messed up or how good the reasons are. Just be sincere and offer an apology. It could save you a lot of trouble down the road in the form of over explaining something that an apology would have resolved, leaving a bad brand experience in someone’s mouth, as this restaurant almost did, and then a disappointed customer spreading the word further about his bad experience.

A simple apology just goes a long way.