November Ruminations & Ronnifications
November 2016 (Greenvale, New York)
I naively thought that college and later a tour as a VISTA volunteer (the domestic Peace Corps now known as AmeriCorps) would prepare me for the new world I was about to enter 44 years ago. How wrong I was! Nothing would make me smarter than the business interactions I encountered over the years.
I still remember the time a man delivered a huge crate to the bagel store next to the only Ben's location at the time. The owner's son called up his dad (the owner of the store) and, when he did, the person who delivered the package said he'd like to speak to the father. On the phone, the owner told the delivery person that he never ordered anything and told the man to take it back. But, when the delivery man got off the phone (and made certain to hang up the phone), he told the son that his father recalled ordering it and that he, the son, should pay for it. After the man collected $100 and left, the son opened the package. Much to his consternation, he found a little toy about two inches long in a box that was well over three-foot by four-foot!
Moral of the story: Never believe anyone or anything, get confirmation from your superiors, make certain that you see the merchandise and ensure that it is delivered as advertised.
This proved a very useful lesson when Ben's had an order for 50 filet of sole dinners delivered to a specified location and the recipient said he wasn't paying $7.50 per dinner as agreed upon but would only pay $5 per dinner. The driver then called me at the restaurant and I immediately told him to return to the restaurant and, if the man asks to get on the phone with me, not to listen to anything that he might say. The last direction my delivery person heard from me was to take the order back! Sure enough, when he returned to the restaurant, the driver told me that after the customer spoke with me, he told my driver that I had said it was okay to leave it for the reduced price of $5 per dinner. The driver took it back. To this day, I always wondered what that customer told his 50 Friday night guests. He probably ordered Pizza! But, I wasn’t about to turn my business into an auction or a Lebanese Bazaar!
Another time, I had left the restaurant briefly to purchase stamps. When I returned, my neon window sign was gone. I asked the counter man, “what happened?” and he said a man had come in with a paper indicating that he could take the sign out of the restaurant. As I threw my keys on the counter in disgust, I said to my employee: “if he had a piece of paper saying he could take the register, would you have let him?!”
But, nothing beats the time a man appeared at one of the stores and showed the manager a service order for a slicing machine (a slicing machine that didn't need service). The service order stated that the machine had to be taken to the shop to be serviced. Since it was extremely heavy, the manager and other Ben's workers held the door open and helped him carry the $1,200 slicing machine (the cost of the machine 22 years ago) to his station wagon. I am still looking for that slicing machine over 20 years later.
Now I ask you, what college course could prepare you for this?