Valued Professional Relationships

We recently found ourselves without plans for Saturday night and wishing not to have the Saturday afternoon endless discussion; “What do you wanna do tonight? I dunno, what do you wanna do?” I got out in front of the situation. So on Friday afternoon I went on the OpenTable reservation app to see if any of our favourite restaurants had any openings.


Branca, a place we had been to three or four times before had an opening. So I booked it. Full disclosure, at the time of booking I was required to give my credit card information to reserve the table and it was stated that if I cancelled within 24 hours of the reservation I may be charged a cancellation fee. The restaurant called me later that afternoon to confirm my reservation and I stated I was coming.


The following morning (Saturday) we decided that we didn’t want to go, so I left a message at approximately 8:00am with the restaurant that we wouldn’t be coming and stated that I expected that because I had just made the reservations the day before and we were telling them early we wouldn’t be coming that I expected that we wouldn’t be charged a cancellation fee.


I received a message midday from the restaurant saying that they would speak to their owner but that they had a policy in place and would charge $100 to my credit card. I called back shortly and “had some words” with the manager (I think). The call ended with me threatening to go public (as in this note) with my displeasure and counting down from 10 before hanging up. Several minutes later I received a follow up call from the manager – the owner was willing to give me a $100 gift certificate…but still intended to charge the credit card. I declined the offer.


That being said, the follow up call went better than the first. No raised voices. No countdowns. I expressed my unequivocal support for small business (because Tonic is one). I understand the intent of the policy – in not wanting to have empty tables.  I praised their food (because it is unique and delicious). I offered to speak directly to the owner who was the decision maker on what was clearly a discretionary policy. I also pointed out that OpenTable didn’t disclose at the time of booking (but rather after) that the cancellation fee would be charged and didn’t set out the amount of the charge. And lastly, and in my mind the crucial point, I reiterated that I was an existing customer (easily confirmed through their booking system). Customers/clients aren’t always right, but they absolutely have to be valued and made to feel that they are valued. In this economy, blanket policies that involve penalties to clients are foolish. I told them that, and that if they didn’t confirm that they wouldn’t attempt to charge my card, I was going public. And so I did.


The happy ending to the story is that later that day we called one of our favourite restaurants, Enoteca Sociale, to see if they had any cancellations. And even though they didn’t, and even though they set seats aside at the bar for walk-ins, the host engaged me once I disclosed that I was a regular (and she confirmed that I was by simply looking at our bookings). She figured out a way to accommodate us. A contrast in customer service and communication styles that confirmed my decision to write this note.

In that spirit, valued Tonic reader, should you want to discuss anything in this note, this issue of Tonic or something I said that got on your nerves on THE TONIC Talk Show, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, Joel Thuna discusses Vitamin D (at. p. 25 and on the Mar 3 episode of THE TONIC). Rod MacDonald has some suggestions for men who’ve lost their mojo (at p. 31 and on the Mar 10 episode of THE TONIC). And Carlyle Jansen explores why it’s difficult for some women (and men) to say “no”, (at p. 22 and on the Mar 10 episode of THE TONIC.

Categories: Publisher’s Note