Business Would Be Great If It Weren't For The Customers


It is the long-held tradition of the restaurant/customer relationship that while paying customers are free to be rude, obnoxious or outrageously impossible to please, restaurant personnel can only bite their tongues and pleasantly thank such cretinous clients for their valued patronage.

For the moment, that table will be turned as Payson's eatery entrepreneurs recall their most nightmarish run-ins with diners from Hades.

Shawn Sloan, manager of Kentucky Fried Chicken and co-owner of the soon-to-open Famous Sam's, has a corker of a story that he calls "The Police Department Incident" -- a spine-chilling tale of evil incarnate which unfolded in, out and around KFC about a year-and-a-half ago.

"This guy came up to the drive-through window with his sister, and they ordered something and drove off," Sloan recalled with a shiver. "A few minutes later he walked in, wanted something different than what was in the dinner he'd just ordered ... and he just went mental.

"He threw his cole slaw across the counter and at the wall, and when some customer asked him to leave, he threw his drink at her. It took six police officers to take him down.

"Apparently he'd had various problems with law enforcement; the police knew him very well. In fact, they called for backups before they even decided to take the guy down."

It goes without saying that the worst kind of customer a restaurateur can ask for is one whose mere name prompts calls for police backup.

Bill Youngs, who co-manages Country Kitchen with his wife, Sharon, has a horror story of a more common sort -- about a customer we'll call "The Malevolent Malcontent."

"There was one guy we could never satisfy," Youngs said. "We don't have an all non-smoking restaurant, and he'd complain the whole time he was here if somebody was smoking. If there was nobody smoking, he'd complain about the food. He'd come in and ask us to make something that was completely off the menu. We'd make it, and every time, he'd complain that it wasn't right.

"The waitresses would fight over who'd have to wait on him," Young said. "When they saw this guy coming through the door, they'd run."

Youngs said that Country Kitchen hasn't been graced with this customer's patronage in quite a while. Is he sad about that?

Since Youngs' response to the question was drowned out by his own uproarious laughter, we may never know the answer.

Granted, it's hard to tell when Don Garvin is telling the truth or pulling your leg. But the owner of the Rye Creek Bar and Restaurant sure sounds veracious when he tells the story of one young customer who wasn't so much rude or obnoxious as ... well, "The Dimmest Bulb in Gila County."

"We had a portable phone in the bar we let the customers use, and one of the gals dropped it in the water. So you had to dial it real slow in order for it to work.

"This little gal about 16 came in one day and said, 'My car's broke, can I use your phone?' I said, 'Of course, but you have to dial it real slow.'

"So she did just like I told her, she dialed it real slow. Then she got her mom on, and she said, 'Hello? ... Mom? ... I'm ... out ... at ... Rye ... My ... car ... broke ... down ...'

"I guess she felt she had to talk real slow, too," said Garvin, bellylaughing at the memory.

As for more troublesome brands of customers, Garvin was happy to report, "We haven't had a fight in here in 11 years. But if it would get us some free publicity, we can start one!

"Oh, once in a while we get a complainer," Garvin finally admitted. "But we just take 'em out back and educate 'em."

Perhaps Bill Youngs of Country Kitchen should consider attending the Don Garvin School of Customer Relations.

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