ON SERVICE || One Bad Apple

One bad apple can ruin an entire batch if you let it sit. If you let it expand its rot to its surroundings. If you let the ‘disease’ propagate.

On a recent vacation, we stayed at an immaculate 5-star hotel in Mykonos. The hotel is the recipient of a slew of international awards for its management team, design, and service. The view overlooks the beautiful ocean with gorgeous views of the sunset. The outdoor pool area connected to the fine dining restaurant offers similar fabulous viewpoints of the tiny white houses dotting the landscape.

So what went wrong?

One. Bad. Apple.

We were down at the restaurant enjoying a quick coffee and snack before heading into the Mykonos town centre (our hotel was in Platys Gialos).

When we asked for the bill, the server brought the bill, and even though they saw we only had three cups of coffee on our table, they neglected to even double-check the amount and items on the bill, which came to 59,00 euros. I glanced at the bill and immediately saw the amount was incorrect.

I got the attention of one of the servers and told him the bill was incorrect, even though there were just two tables in the dining area at the time, he asked us what we had, at which point I pointed to the three empty glasses on the table, "three coffees" I said.

He went inside to check and came back out and simply crossed off the 3 additional food items. We asked why he couldn't just issue a new bill without those three food items because they clearly weren't ours. To this, he responded, "I cannot change the bill, but I crossed it off here so in the end, you will pay 12,50 euros instead of 59,00 euros."

I have never heard of such a thing, especially in a renowned, award-winning 5-star international hotel. After a few more moments of awkward conversation where he continued to proclaim that he could not change the bill, he finally went to the back... and changed the bill.

My interpretation of this course of events is:

1/ There was no dedicated server to our table, making it hard to check and verify our order. It became an embarrassing episode of he said she said when there was an issue with the bill.

2/ The server simply wanted to avoid the extra effort of correcting an incorrect bill and dismissed the error as something he 'cannot change'. If a customer issue can be rectified with an extra thirty seconds of work, your staff should be more than eager to correct the issue.

3/ He ended up taking both the top and bottom copies of the receipt we ended up signing, which is also weird, because why can we not keep one for our records? When we inquired as to why we cannot keep a copy, he just stated that ‘he keeps both’ and walked off.

It is a shame to have one bad apple taint our otherwise fabulous stay at this hotel. If you are the business owner, this is why it's important to check daily operations and service on the front lines. You must be aware of the experience your guests are receiving, and not simply relying on management to paint you a rosy picture. Hire third party secret shoppers to test the experience if you feel you can’t get a 100 percent accurate picture if you visit the locations yourself.

Every interaction counts, and one bad interaction sadly undoes all the right moves you made previously.

So what if your staff make a mistake? Take responsibility and correct it quickly. In this case, the server did not do either of these things and instead insisted on arguing whether he had the ability to change the incorrect bill.

If you spot a bad apple in your company, fire them, fast; because their toxic attitude will spread like wildfire; you allowing them to stay already says something about what your business and culture will tolerate. This is not good for staff retention and team morale, because your best staff will see this and feel discouraged, your worst staff will also see this as an affirmation of their own toxic behavior.

You must act. Now.