Update: The owner of the California Tortilla left an excellent response, republished inside in full.
Reader Mark is a California Tortilla fanatic. He slept outside the Ranson store so he could be their first customer, earning a year of free burritos. Mark kept patronizing California Tortilla even after he fractured his back in a car accident and started wearing a bulky back brace that limited his ability to move or bend. On one visit, Mark accidentally knocked over his tray. When nobody came to help, Mark asked the cashier for assistance and was startled when she replied, “So I guess you want me to clean it up?” She then managed to further embarrass Mark by loudly explaining to other customers, “Sorry I kinda have to clean up when someone makes a mess.”
Mark cc’d us on his email to California Tortilla headquarters:
I wanted to convey my recent dining experience at the Ranson California Tortilla.
I have been a long time customer and was extremely excited when the Ranson location opened in the summer of 2007. Heck I was so excited I slept outside the restaurant and managed to be the 1st customer in line on opening day garnering the fame and awe of my friends and co-workers and even random strangers I meet when I tell the tale of that fateful night, how awesome and spunky California Tortilla is and the fact that yes they may shake my hand since I have earned the prestigious honor of free burritos for a year!
Ever since that fateful day I have been religiously eating out at California Tortilla, admittedly spending way too much money (Damn you and your gimmicky marketing ploy!).
In early December of 2007 I was involved in a serious car accident fracturing my back and leaving my incapacitated for several weeks. When I finally regained the ability to move I was placed in a brace that runs from my lower back up to my neck. As you can imagine this not only made life not so fun it also limited my ability to do simple things like bend or move, isn’t it amazing how much these basic activities play a roll in your daily life? Needless to say I neglected my duty to eat at California Tortilla for almost two grueling months.
Upon receiving your monthly Taco Talk© (Issue 150!) (or as I refer to it as your ‘Call to Action! Newsletter!) detailing the plight of the worst sales week of the year I decided it was my duty as a loyal spunky customer to support your American dream of a bigger vacation home or possibly a new sports car, and had to act!
Despite the fact that I was still unable to fully function and had limited mobility I took the family to the Ranson California Tortilla and ordered 1 kids burrito, 1 chili taco bowl, 1 Caribbean Jerk burrito combo and 1 Kids MYO platter at 12:20pm (order #221). I received the food and began to prepare to eat having the usual joyous time picking out a new hot sauce and to get a drink. Upon attempting to sit down in my seat my body brace made contact with my food tray and spilled my entire meal ($19.57 after discount) onto the floor spilling the drink on the floor, throwing the chips and queso around and destroying the meals. After the customary cursing at myself for being so stupid and figured your normally awesome, attentive and friendly employees, several of whom were walking around the restaurant would come to help me out, none did. Several fellow customers offered napkins to help me clean up but obviously making such a mess required more than several napkins, not to mention the fact that I could not bend over to attempt to clean up. Seeing that no one was helping me I approached the take out cashier station and began to explain my predicament to the female behind the counter (white female, 18-22 years old, 5’3”), she yelled ‘what I can’t hear you’. I again told her that spilled my food and drink all over the floor, she rudely sighed and stated ‘so I guess you want me to clean it up?’ A short while later the employee trudged over to began to assist in cleaning up the mess, when another customer attempted to walk by the employee yelled to him ‘sorry I kinda have to clean up when someone makes a mess’. Needless to say if I didn’t feel enough like shit for ruining my family’s meal the comment by the employee and her entire reaction to the event pretty much sealed the deal.
The employee than left the area, neither her nor any other employee approached me and offered any replacement food items or any other type of encouragement. I allowed my children to finish their brownies and drinks and promptly left feeling about as big as an ant, still hungry after paying $20 to throw food on the floor.
I understand that this incident is not your employees fault, but as awesome as employees, managers and store owners have been in the past helping refill drinks and other needs I was a little shocked at the treatment I received. I’ve received friendlier and warmer customer service from the employees at McDonald’s when such an event happens there then I received from the employees on this visit. Knowing how you strive to provide an exceptional customer experience I’m sure you share my disgust with the treatment I received on this visit. If this is going to be the type of treatment I receive from your employees I think I’ll take my business elsewhere!
Owner Larry Herman responded with the following:
My name is Larry Herman, Owner of California Tortilla in Ranson, WV. Thanks so much for the post. Two minutes ago was the first I became aware of your story as I was forwarded an email from someone who read that post. It was the first time that I have been made aware of this incident. I was never forwarded the email sent to headquarters. Not an excuse, just an explanation as to why I am commenting now. I want to immediately respond. I apologize for our failure to communicate and accept all responsibility. In spite of the fact that I have many, many wonderful emails explaining great experiences (a few references were made in yours), anything less than the finest service on every visit with every customer is unacceptable. Plain and simple. Even one instance will not be tolerated. I would like to know some more details from you so I can address and deal with the employee and any other staff that were involved as well as ensure that any and all future visits were just like all the others that you have had. I appreciate the comments suggesting possible scenarios. I accept NONE of them! We employ people to do the exact opposite of this and think they all do. Obviously, someone did not this time. Once is over my limit. 100% concern 100% of the time for 100% of the customers is our ONLY acceptable type of behavior. This type of attitude, EVEN ONCE, is something up with which we will not put! There is NEVER a reason to treat anyone with this or any type of disrespect. I will personally make sure that this employee and situation is dealt with swiftly and immediately. Please contact me at the store 304-728-7500 or email@example.com. YOU and all of our customers are the reason we are here. We appreciate you and will only employ people who treat everyone with the most superior respect, care, and courtesy. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks. Larry