Thursday, September 11, 2008

Insults and lies: Dodge City yet again

I spent a number of years as admin to the head of legal departments back in Silicon Valley. One of the things you learn in that kind of environment is to be careful what you put down in writing, especially if it can be perceived as unflattering (or worse) to another. It was with this knowledge that I undertook to write the management of Dodge City to express my dismay and displeasure at the abysmal service we received Sunday morning. (Copy of letter below, two entries down.)

My personal recollection is that we left the restaurant at about 10:20. I have this impression because my husband is diabetic, he was very late eating that morning, and as we left the restaurant, I was concerned about finding another one in the mall that was still serving breakfast, thinking we needed to find a place by 10:30 and feeling pressured as a result. The manager informed me, via email, that his videotape of the incident shows we arrived at 9:44 and left at 9:59, putting us in the restaurant for 15 minutes rather than the 30 that Hubby and I had estimated. With no reason to not take his word for it, I adjusted the time frame in my second blog entry on the topic (immediately below this one).

A subsequent email from the manager said “The 6 minutes it took to get the coffee to you was slower than standard time allowed. Problem was that the milk had not been foamed in advance. Re the Canderel - they did have the product in the store but could not find it. No excuses - staff should no known [sic] where it was kept… The Franchisee has been advised of your grievance and has assured me that remedial action will be taken to get product delivery times back to Franchise standard.” The email closed with a voucher for a return visit and an apology.

Silly me, I thought this was the end of it. We estimated a time incorrectly, we were corrected, I published a correction. So, imagine my surprise when I received the following email this morning:

“I would like to ask that you please consider the merits of amending your blogg [sic] regarding Dodge City.

The justification behind my request for amendment is as follows:
1) Video footage suggests that your blogg [sic] does not reasonably represent the facts or sequence of events surrounding your service experience.
2) It is reasonable to suggest that the blogg [sic], in its current form, would do unreasonable damage to the goodwill of the Dodge City brand and the investment of the Canal Walk franchisee.
I would really appreciate your understanding and co-operation in this regard.”

I replied:

“Yesterday I posted a follow up blog entry in which I corrected the time difference, acceding to your time of 15 minutes for our entire visit and 6 minutes for delivery of our drinks.

“In what way do “the facts or sequence of events” differ in your video as compared to my blog? Assuming that I am willing to make an amendment, I cannot do so without knowing the points of contention.

“It is not reasonable to suggest that my blog, in its current form, will do any kind of damage whatsoever to the Dodge City brand. The blog is not a restaurant review site nor does it have a high search-engine page rank. A negative review appearing on such sites as Food24 or What2night, both of which allow patron reviews, could potentially be very damaging as they target the South African diner and also appear on the first page of a Google search for Dodge City (restricted to South Africa), whereas my blog doesn’t even show up on any of the first ten pages. If a negative review appears on Food24, which is much more likely to influence a diner’s decision about eating at a Dodge City location, will you suggest that they amend the review to cast your establishment in a more favourable light?

“You have concurred that your staff’s actions were below your own standard and you have further concurred that your staff could not find the sweetener: should I amend my blog to imply something else? The service was poor…so poor that we left rather than endure more slow service en route to getting our meal. Are you expecting me to amend my blog to indicate that the service was swift, positive, and without flaw?

“Part of being in the restaurant business is getting reviews, both formal and informal. Our experience was negative…should I have blogged positively anyway? (You may want to note that I remarked favourably about the food…the burgers and shakes are among the best in town.)

“We had a bad experience. I blogged about it. To the best of knowledge and recollection, my blog is correct. If you can demonstrate where it is not, I will take amendment under consideration.”

Frankly, I expected the whole thing to drop right there, since he had to be bluffing. I hadn’t stated anything untrue and I had corrected our error in the estimation of the time, so there couldn’t be anything wonky about either the facts or sequence of events in the blog.

I have to admit that I was rather taken aback at the suggestion that my little blog, which does not draw a readership of people looking for restaurant recommendations and which has a very low search engine page ranking, could do any kind of damage to the franchise, unreasonable or otherwise. The thinly veiled threat…praise us or get sued…left a bad taste in my mouth. How dare he try to hijack my blog and demand that I publish untruths!

But I am a reasonable person and, if he could demonstrate to me where my facts or sequence of events were contradicted by his video footage, then I am just as interested in correcting the errors as he is.

Unfortunately, his most recent email did not supply me with any discrepancies between his videotaped “facts and sequence of events” and those in my blog. In fact, that next email didn’t address the correction of errors at all:

“Thanks for amending the service times recorded in your revised blog.

“Dodge City staff mentioned that you were engaged in a loud verbal altercation with your husband outside the store before entering. Their impression was that you were being unreasonably abusive towards him.

“I would have thought that, as an objective and balanced critic of human performance, you would have added this snippet of information to your account of events - or is that you take pleasure in finding fault in everyone around you but are blind to you own deficiencies.

“I would appreciate you amending the blog to add the objective opinion expressed above.”

First of all, this is an ad hominem attack and has no bearing whatsoever on the issue at hand, the dismal service we received on Sunday morning. “Ad hominem abusive (also called argumentum ad personam) usually and most notoriously involves insulting or belittling one's opponent, but can also involve pointing out factual but ostensibly damning character flaws or actions which are irrelevant to the opponent's argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent's personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent's arguments or assertions.” The ad hominem attack is usually employed by the losing party in an argument to change the subject and put the opponent on the defensive.

Secondly, the assertion is a complete and total fabrication, an unmitigated fiction, a bald-faced lie. My husband and I seldom quarrel and when we do it is always in privacy. We won’t even argue with each other if another person is in the same house with us! My husband is a reserved man who would eat glass before he would engage in a public quarrel, and I was raised in the Fifties, when little girls were imbued with the belief that one did not do such things as making public scenes. I may be many things, but I am not a drama queen and I simply would not embarrass myself or my husband in such a manner.

The truth is, my husband and I were walking together and we were either holding hands or my hand was tucked into his arm, and we were discussing the relative merits of one chain restaurant over another with respect to breakfast. We stepped into Dodge City and, once seated, resumed our conversation. It was no more and no less than that.

I haven’t responded to this latest salvo. I haven’t decided what I want to say. I cannot allow it to go unchallenged, however, because silence is tacit consent, even in the law. I’d like to say I was open to revisiting the location and give them another chance, but after this last email, I’m not so sure that would be a good idea.

One thing, though…considering that the information in that last email was a series of whoppers, I am now calling into question this alleged video footage. I haven’t seen it, after all, and I accepted the 15 minute service time from the manager, thinking there was no reason to lie to me about it and Hubby and I had simply not correctly estimated the time. In light of the lies and insulting personal attack to which I have just been subjected, however, the truth of that 15 minutes versus my original estimate of 30 must now be called into question.


  1. Refer them to this article if they contact you again.

  2. Oh SV, this is simply too weird. Is there something in the water in SA that promotes customer abuse or outright lying? If this manager were training his people better he wouldn't have time to do a search for negatives on blogs, nor would he then need to. I know in the US we have a view of customer service that is contrary to the British view. We assume that the person with the cash is "right" - right or wrong; but this latest salvo about recording abuse of your husband is just plain sick and invites legal retaliation on your part. I say, subpoena the tape - have at it, and consider coming back home. I am sure there is more than one person (me) who misses you. I bet we'll like your husband, too. :-). Norine

  3. Hmm. It puzzles me. Even if you and your husband had had a full on physical altercation outside their restaurant, what does that have to do with their service?

    It seems that demanding resonable service, and getting annoyed when your waitron is inept is 'over reacting' and being 'unreasonable'.

    Because we should just all shut our mouths and shake our heads, and accept that it's "Africa"!


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