Customer Encounters #16 – Counterfeits

Now this week you may have heard of the brilliant news that Sir Winston Churchill will replace Emily Fry as the new face of the back of the £5 note (personally I’m surprised that they didn’t ride the Thatcher wave but then again that would be pretty controversial).

Whilst being the face of the £5 carries some cultural significance the main reason why it’s done is so that the Bank of England can update some of the security features of the £5. As they are more widely circulated compared to other notes they have their fair share of battering and bruising. I’ve even received notes that have actually been sellotaped together and some people have even asked to swap notes because the one I’ve just given them was too worn out.

I received my first counterfeit when I was about 15 years old, it was quite late in the evening and the customer in question came in and asked for a can of coke. A perfectly innocent request. He then pulled out a £20. I understand that under some circumstances that can be normal when someone doesn’t have any loose change to hand, but where that happens you have to be cautious, and as I understood at the time this person was coming into the shop for the first time.

I took the note and instantly knew something was wrong, it didn’t feel like a note. I went inside to tell my mum and said that it was a fake, checked it under the light and returned it to the customer and said we couldn’t accept the note because it was fake.

There are two ways in which people can react to this: one is where you will go “really? Oh my goodness I can’t believe I was fooled, it had to be the guys from McDonalds”. The second is where you start to get angry, insist that the note is real and go “I just got it from the cash point just now, why would I lie?” If your reaction comes under the latter, the inclination for me would be to think that someone is intentionally using a counterfeit note to sneakily nab some real money off us.

In this instance the man opted for the latter. What I would’ve done differently was to check the note in front of him as opposed to taking it inside and then coming out with the same note to avoid any suspicions that I may have swapped notes (which I haven’t and never will do).

The previous night (I wasn’t there at the time), a pregnant woman came in and ordered a bag of chips, she paid for it with a £20 and in this case the note was real, and £18.70 or something around that value was paid back as change by my mum. Later that evening however a man came in and brandished a £10 going “my wife just came in and ordered a bag of chips, you gave her a fake £10 note.”

He demanded a refund for the chips (but from my dad’s account actually specifically demanded for the return of the £20 that his wife used to buy the bag of chips), he then accused my mum of being a liar, said that the shop was conning them out of money, demanded to see our CCTV footage and even threatened to call the police. He then left and said that he will bring the bag of chips back for a refund. He never came back.

Advertisements

Customer Encounters #15 – Usual?

It’s nice when you frequent a place so often that the person behind the counter knows what you’re going to order before you even say it, and it does make you feel a bit special

I used to work for in Westminster and every week I would go into the Starbucks near the station and order a caramel macchiato. One day I went in, quickly popped into the loos, came out and decided to order something different until the guy behind the counter pulled out a cup and said “I just prepared your usual” (”ooooh the Starbucks guy fancies you!” Squealed my friend).

Like every takeaway we have our regulars, and I’d say about 80% of the time they will order the same thing over and over again. 

Rob always orders a king prawn chow mein, chicken with cashew nuts and egg fried rice. Judy always has a king prawn curry with egg fried rice. Lucy always wants the special chow mein without beansprouts, green beans and pork and so on and so forth.

The funny thing is that the “usual” orders I normally forget are from the people who expect you to remember what their usual is, and when I don’t remember it makes me feel awful, but at the same time you cannot help but feel somewhat irritated that they somehow feel special. “How dare you forget my usual? Don’t you know who I am?” their expression will read once they register the blank look on my face.

It even happens over the phone, some people even get offended that I sometimes can’t remember their usual based on the sound of their voice.

The only reason why I forget someone’s usual is because I see God knows how many faces at any one time in the takeaway that I often forget. The main reason really is the fact that I don’t work at the takeaway every day, only the weekends, and whenever a customer asks me for a usual it normally is because the days they normally come in are the days when I’m not actually there on shift.

Last night we had a guy who came in, don’t know what his  name is, but let’s just call him Ian for now. Ian had a worn out tracksuit with a baseball cap sporting a logo of some form, grey stubble and looked quite tired.

I served Ian before probably a month or so ago, and that was the first time I served him. He just simply said “usual”. I just looked at him blankly and said “sorry?”

“You don’t know what I want do you?”

He then realised he was confusing me for my mum who normally knows what Ian’s regular is. He then asked for my mum to serve him instead because she knows what he wants. I’m kinda stuck here because mum has her hands tied preparing the order of another customer, so I can’t exactly pull her away from the kitchen.

But he was so adamant that my mum serve him that he wouldn’t even tell me what his regular was – which was spare ribs with sauce, two pancake rolls and king prawn on skewers, the latter item is something we don’t have on the menu.

Another customer, also carried about him this air of self importance and “don’t you know who I am?”-ness. We’ll call him Keith. The first time I served Keith he did the same thing and assumed I knew what he was going to order the minute he walked into the door and spent a lot of time giving me a weird look when I didn’t know what his usual was. After a few minutes he eventually told me he wanted a spicy king prawn fried rice.

“That’s £5.50.” I said.

He tossed a £5 note onto the table.

I asked where the 50p was and he gave me a strange look and simply said he always paid £5 for his order. I went back in feeling slightly confused and discovered that my mum offered it to him for £5. She would just give him fewer prawns.

This is the 21st century, why don’t you take card?

chip_and_pin_040413On a few occasions we have had a few customers come in asking if we accept card only to be met with disappointment that we don’t have a chip and pin system installed.

Fortunately across the road from our takeaway is a cash point and we often direct customers there if they need to withdraw cash, and most if not many do so without uttering a complaint.

Last night a customer came in and the first thing she asked me was if we accepted card. As usual I said no and politely directed her to the cash point across the road. She left the shop and went in the opposite direction, leading me to assume that either (a) she worked nearby and was going to take out some cash, or (b) she decided to find another food outlet that took cash.

A few minutes later she came back and brandished two crisp £10 notes and went into a bit of a huff about the fact she had to take out £20. She also did that thing that people do when they get annoyed, which is to repeat the same thing at least three times as if to prove a point (yes, I get it, you had to go and take out £20).

Whilst I accept the case for installing a chip and pin payment system, I also have to consider the case against and it isn’t simply because of pure laziness (which it isn’t).

Firstly consider the area the takeaway is based in: it’s in a relatively poor area near a council estate school and a couple of other small shops you’d normally find on your road (petrol stations, supermarket, newsagents and other bits and bobs). It’s not exactly in a city or high street and so you wouldn’t expect people to be queuing around the block for lunch. The normal demographic of our customers aren’t exactly the city slickers in a hurry, and even if they were they’d normally want sandwiches instead of a full blown greasy Chinese takeaway.

If we did deliveries we would install a chip and pin system but as we don’t do deliveries there is no reason to install one.

As many are aware a lot of small eateries will state a minimum spend on card payments for food, quite often this will be within the region of around £10, so even if said customer wanted to pay by card she wouldn’t have been able to as it was considerably less than £10.

It is widely known that banks will take two per cent commission from transactions made from card payments. As the business isn’t exactly at the height of its boom years two per cent is a considerable amount for a small business that can’t afford to keep the heating on.

The average spend of customers at our takeaway is quite often around the region of around of £10 and most customers will normally pay with a £20 note. We do occasionally get big orders around the £25 mark, sometimes more, but where that happens those customers will always pay by cash instead of card. In fact we found that customers who pay by cash often spend more, occasionally after giving change they will normally ask for a little bit extra to be added on.

And finally there hasn’t exactly been a huge demand for a cashless system, we hardly ever get complaints about the lack of a cashless system and we rarely get asked if we accept card. Maybe about once a month someone will brandish a card but let’s face it, cash is better.