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by Darlene Pineda


Cucumbers. You find them in salads and sandwiches, usually not in the middle of customer service story. Unless you're me, of course! I was in a chain sandwich shop, ordering lunch. I asked for a deli sandwich on wheat, and when we got to the toppings, I asked for mustard and cucumbers and green peppers and tomatoes and lettuce … but the sales person behind the counter was shaking her head at me. "I'm sorry," she says, "but we don't put cucumbers on deli sandwiches."

"Excuse me?"

"We don't put cucumbers on deli sandwiches."

When I asked why, she had no answer. At this point three other employees strolled over, including the manager. "Can anyone tell me," I asked, "why I can't get cucumbers on my sandwich?" The manager broke into a long tale of how they just can't. Won't. Not allowed. No cucumbers. No exceptions. None at all.

"Did the cucumbers and the deli meats have an argument?" I asked, "Do they fight with the bread? Why, of the multitude of condiments you offer, do you disallow the cucumber? Have cucumber prices risen dramatically? Is there a shortage?"

The young man who had also wandered over quietly reached for a handful of cucumbers, piled them next to my sandwich, and wrapped the whole thing up before anyone could notice. Two customers behind me in line started asking if they could get cucumbers with their sandwiches. The manager's face was now red with frustration as he kept insisting that he simply could not put cucumbers on a deli sandwich. When I asked for the corporate number, he turned even redder. I paid for my sandwich (with the cucumbers hidden on the side), and as I walked away several customers stopped me to tell me how ridiculous the cucumber policy was.

Of course, when I called their corporate customer service number, they denied any knowledge of the cucumber embargo, apologized, and swore they would investigate.

In their stubborn insistence to save the cucumber, they lost not one customer, me, but all the other customers standing in line with me. They created trouble for themselves with their head office. They got themselves all upset and bothered. For what? Two slices of cucumber? Wasn't that worth an exception?

Sometimes when a customer asks for something a little out of the ordinary we can dig our heels in and insist, "We just can't do that." But before you say no, ask yourself, "Is this just a cucumber?"


The Author


Darlene Pineda is a contributing editor of The CEO Refresher, Vice President Operations at High Performance Retail, co-editor of 1001 Ways to WOW Your Customers! customer service specialist and breakthrough trainer! Contact Darlene by e-mail: .

Many more articles in High Performance Retail in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2004 by Darlene Pineda. All rights reserved.

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