“Whatchutalkinbout, Raul?” (An Expensive Lesson in Communication)
By: Patrick Henry
I recently coached a client in presentation skills and as a token of appreciation, he sent me a $150 gift card to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. My wife and I decided to use it to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. I have eaten at Ruth’s Chris before, and fully intended on tearing through the gift card like Caesar through Gaul, but what happened next was a very expensive lesson in the power of communication.
When we arrived at the restaurant, my wife and I requested a booth in the corner so we could be fully present with each other. We ordered wine and perused the menu. I wouldn’t call myself cheap, but I have yet to look at the prices on the menu at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and not wince ever-so-slightly.
Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the mood of the moment, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and order the whole Maine Lobster. I love lobster. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my father returning from business trips to New England with a crate of live Maine lobsters. I can remember being woken up at eleven o’clock one night because my father’s plane had been delayed, and that wasn’t going to stop us from having a lobster feast. My mother started boiling a pot and we dined into the wee hours of the morning. That’s where my love of lobster began and now I was continuing it at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
The waiter described the specials, raved about the filet, and finally I asked, “How’s the Maine lobster?” His eyes lit up as if I’d asked about his children. He went into a description that had me giddy with excitement. Our conversation ended with me saying, “How much? $37.00? Bring me a Maine Lobster!”
It was every bit as good as he described. The succulent morsels dissolved in my mouth, the butter dripped from my chin, and my smokin’ hot wife stared lovingly at me from across the table. I was in heaven. We enjoyed the evening all the way through the after dinner cordial.
When the check arrived, I pulled out my gift card to see if we had fulfilled the limitwe had. Maybe it was intentional or maybe it was a language barrier, but apparently, when I asked how much the lobster was, he left off the words PER POUND. I ended up paying $120.00 for a beady-eyed shellfish! I was speechless. I should have become suspicious when the manager came over to shake my hand and thank me for ordering the lobster. I now know why the kitchen staff was lined up at the door. They were saying goodbye to an old friend. That damned lobster was probably soaking in a tub for years, growing fat waiting for a sucker like me to come along.
What would you do if you were in that situation? I am not afraid to express myself when I feel taken advantage of, but in this case I didn’t complain; and I didn’t cause a scene. I simply paid the bill, tipped the waiter well, and left with my wife. I figured the lack of communication was as much my fault as it was Raul’s.
I learned a valuable (and expensive lesson) that night. There are two parts to effectively communicating. Listening is as important as speaking. My fault was in my assumption and not asking questions. The waiter’s fault was not presenting all of the facts. Did Raul benefit from the lack of communication? Yes and no. He made about thirty dollars more on his tip, but he lost the opportunity to create a profitable, ongoing relationship. Every time you interact with a customer, it is an opportunity to seed the relationship. Had Raul been more forthcoming with the information, he would have created an emotional debt that I would have paid at a future date. Maybe with friends, clients, or a party of ten.
Are you clear with your team about the importance of communication? Have you created a culture of open communication with protocols and best practices? When dealing with customers, employees, or co-workers, poor communication can cause more than just stress — it can cost you profits.
Patrick Henry is an Author, Humorist, and Gitomer Certified Speaker who makes audiences laugh out loud while teaching proven methods of making customers smile. He can be heard daily alongside Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy on SiriusXM Blue Collar Radio and is proud to announce the release of The Pancake Principle: Seventeen Sticky Ways to Make Your Customers Flip for You, which can be found on Amazon.com.