Thursday, 4 September 2014

How not to turn away your customers

Last week, I had the occasion to take my lunch at the Old Town White Coffee outlet in Kampong Baharu, Bukit Mertajam. Normally when I have a meal at Old Town, I would order their steamed ginger chicken rice set. Last week wasn't any different. I quickly ticked the item on the order chit and signaled one of their workers to come collect it from me.

However, the moment he came to my table, my system was assailed by one of the most pungent body odours that I have ever experienced from a civilised person. Talk about personal hygiene, or to be more accurate, lack of personal hygiene. It was as if this worker had, (a) not taken a bath for a very long time, or (b) hasn't changed his work clothes for a very long time too.

The moment that I got home, I searched for the Old Town website and shot off a feedback to the company. What's the use of having a nice spick-and-span restaurant when their workers stink to high heaven? At that point of time, I couldn't care less whether there would be anyone at their end reading my message.

It surprised me when about two hours later, someone called me from the Old Town's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. And it was another few hours later than another person, who identified himself as the area manager for the northern region, called me too, sounding apologetic. I told both of them the same story about their worker's lack of personal grooming habits and that in the food industry, cleanliness and hygiene should be top priorities if they want to ensure that their customers do not run away.

Normally, I would have forgotten about this incident already but something struck me during the weekend when my wife and I were having lunch with my sister-in-law. It was something she said about her son - our nephew - working part-time for two months in one of the big fast-food chain restaurants in the country before his admission to the local university.

According to my sister-in-law, her son had been given only one set of uniform when he started working in the company. The company had promised him a second set of uniform but despite constant reminders, they never did give it to him. Therefore he had to make do with only one uniform and every night, he had to wash it before wearing it again the next day.

Effectively, the workers were given one set only and if anyone were even a little lazy to wash their garments daily, well, he would be wearing the same dirty and smelly clothes day in and day out. Could this also be the case at the Old Town fast-food chain? Are their workers given only one set of uniform until they stink to high heaven? You tell me, who is responsible if customers stop coming in to eat at their restaurants?

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