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Marsha! Marsha! Marsha! Hits the Mark

Legends It's been an interesting week watching a news story evolve over a customer service gaffe turned ugly here in Des Moines.  You can read the long version if you wish, but here is the shortened version:

A group of teachers are on lunch-break during an inservice day last Monday.  They decided to go to a local establishment downtown, where one of the teachers found a hair in her salad.  She pointed it out to her server, who responded sardonically, "Don't blame me. I didn't put it there." The manager was too busy to talk to her.  On the way out, she and the owner had a confrontation, which ended with the owner gesturing and screaming at her and her colleagues that he never wanted to see another teacher in his restaurant.  She sent an email that night to a few of her friends and colleagues detailing her ordeal.  Within 24 hours, the story had spread across Des Moines faster than a corndog virus at the State Fair.  The owner apologized, and the Operations Manager released a written statement providing reasons (excuses) why the owner behaved the way he did.

It's been a week since this happened.  The Facebook page boycotting Legends continues to grow.  People have taken sides.  Being married to a teacher, I heard in no uncertain terms about the solidarity of the profession.  To offend one teacher is to offend them all.  I've also heard the other side, which basically implies the teacher was being whiny and demanding.

However, a few important observations have been lacking in this battle.  Both sides have accomplished a lot.  Mark Rogers has alienated many in this town against him, but he's also galvanized a few of his supporters.  Marsha has galvanized even more supporters, but has also drawn some fire.

But here's what's missing:

  1. What about the server? If you're going to hire a restaurant server, it seems that customer service 101 should be: "Oh, I'm terribly sorry. Let me get you a new salad right away." I would hope that server (who has conveniently remained nameless) is now jobless and looking for a position which does not require interaction with other living humans. The "middle man" who fired the first shot was allowed to slink into the shadows while two major forces arose in battle.  And in office politics conflicts, we see the instigator escape to wreak havoc another day. 
  2. It boils down to communication. Mark Rogers claimed he tried to make Marsha Richards happy, but she wouldn't hear of it. She claimed in her email that she tried to keep him focused on the server's behavior but he just grew more belligerent. To quote Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." When learning the basics of male/female communication (anyone who's been through couples sessions knows this one), you learn that SOMETIMES women do not want problems solved as much as they want to be heard, validated, and affirmed first and foremost. My guess (based on the sides of both parties) is that Mark tried to short-circuit this part of the communication loop and just wanted to solve the problem to make her go away WITHOUT LISTENING to her. And he learned it didn't work very well, got frustrated, and blew a gasket

In our quest to accomplish great things for ourselves and our organizations, sometimes the little details get lost.  We forget what the real issue is.  And we then go to battle.  And both sides are ill-prepared to win, because it becomes more about ego than engagement.  And no Facebook boycott page or press release from an operations manager will solve the root cause of what's really wrong.

Personally, I was never a big fan of Legends to begin with, so I doubt the teacher boycott will affect my dining decisions one way or another.  But as far as entertainment goes here in Des Moines, it's been a great week.

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Comments

Pete Jones

Funny, I just got done doing one of our corporate trainings where they "teach" us about social styles and using our newfound knowledge to "flex" our conversations to adopt to the differing styles. This case study could have been case and point to their class since it appears neither the Manager nor the Server realized they were dealing with a Socializer who just wanted to be heard, as you pointed out. Had they understood that and just listened, it would have gone away.

Dal Grooms

I think you hit it on the head, Tim. Ego drove both sides, but the same solution couldn't serve both egos. And, as I see it, they are both losers...I have no respect for either because of the way each handled the situation.

I doubt any of the players learned a lesson since the fight has become so public. Now their energies are focused on defense rather than reflection. It would be great if each of them got your synopsis, with a request to take some time to think about it and move on. The damage is done...and are either of them happy?

Ms. Admin

It’s too bad Mark did not LISTEN to what was being said --- instead of having “man attitude” buttoned-on and tucked in. (To be fair, sometimes women wear that attitude also.) Marsha’s a teacher; I’m guessing she was actually trying to instruct/discuss how she was treated for the betterment of the restaurant, server and next customer. Mark didn’t want instructions; my experiences with Mark are -- he’s not a listener. He already has all the answers. (Hence the comment about "man attitude."
As a former "server" who received excellent tips -- it was about communication and the ownership of any inconvenience to the paying customer (very few of which were unreasonable). Response to the customer, "I'm very sorry. Please allow me to get you another salad or would you prefer something else?" with the offending hairy salad crisply removed from the table. The manager would have been informed so he could advise the kitchen to get their hairnets on (have you noticed hairnets are no longer used?). As the meal started to conclude a complimentary dessert would be served. (Servers even receive tips when they right the wrong of the kitchen as most diners realize servers only deliver the product). However, in this case the server was not appropriate.
I'm not a Legend's fan but it's because I've tried on multiple occasions to deal with Mark Rogers--his communication skills lack greatly as far as I'm concerned. I "vote" with my money; I don't spend it at any of his businesses. There are many fine locally owned restaurants which I do enjoy.
Tim, I'm surprised you didn't pick up on a comment he made about not knowing there was a large meeting being held downtown therefore he'd not staffed correctly. When I did event planning I used a local website to assist w/planning dates so I'd know which venues were available and who I'd be "competing" against for restaurant/hotel space (which is very limited in Des Moines). Perhaps Legends' PR people should do a little research and promote themselves to the downtown visitors.

Timothy Johnson

@Pete - amazing how we assume everyone likes to be communicated with in the same way we do... and then we're surprised when that assumption is disastrously wrong.

@Dal - it gets interesting when people dig their heels in and take sides.

@MA - spot on. I did pick up on the comment, but that's a completely different blog post... can't pick on the guy for too many things.

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