The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

If it’s true that mistakes are nothing more than opportunities, then Ben’s Deli blew a big opportunity with a little mistake.

My sister was hosting the first night of Passover this year. She’s a woman of many talents, but none of them have anything to do with the kitchen, so she ordered the entire meal from Ben’s. She’s used Ben’s numerous times before, with no problem.

Until Monday night. She’d been given a several-hour delivery window. Well after the window had been slammed shut, she phoned the company and was told that her food was on the truck and on its way. The person on the other end of line didn’t ask for her name and address, mind you, and in fact didn’t even take down the information when my sister volunteered it. All the orders are on the truck, my sister was told.

And she was told this repeatedly. Because when another foodless half-hour passed, she called Ben’s again. Then again. When she called just before 5 p.m.—several hours after the delivery had been slated to arrive and just minutes before the guests did arrive—Ben’s told her that the food was on the truck, on its way, and sorry, but Ben’s was closing at 5 for the holiday.

At least one of the guests had brought some kugel.

Fortunately another guest (that would be me) had the brilliant idea of ringing not the local Ben’s phone number but the toll-free number. And someone did answer, and upon hearing our tale of woe she got in contact with not only the truck driver but the chief executive of Ben’s, and when she rang us back to give us an update on the location of our food, she said that if need be, said exec would bring us his Passover meal himself. 

Happily the food finally arrived, and while we ended up sitting down at the table 90 minutes or so later than anticipated. True, that hardly compares with having to wait 40 days and nights for a meal. But this was hardly the carefree meal that my sister had paid a premium for.

So here we have a longtime customer who is disgruntled for good reason. Not only was her order delivered unreasonably late, but she was given a run-around for several hours. 

Which means we also have here an opportunity for Ben’s to win her back and regain her loyalty by more than making up for the mishap. Not charging her for the meal would probably be the most magnanimous gesture. If that were too costly, extending a sizable credit for her next order could work. At the very least, a phone call the next day from someone at Ben’s or a handwritten apology from a top honcho, either of which costs virtually nothing, would have been appreciated.

So far she’s received nothing.

Which means Ben’s will no doubt be receiving nothing in the way of future orders from my sister. And from my sister’s guests, and most likely from the myriad people that my sister and her guests will be telling this story to.

Here’s why I find the lack of follow-up on Ben’s part more galling than the original mishap: The late delivery was a good intention gone wrong. Failure to apologize or make amends shows a lack of intention. And I’d rather someone at least intend to do the right thing than not even care enough to bother.

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