Chick Fil-A (1)

Customer Service in the age of the rabid fan

Author’s Note: Nearly a year ago now, October 16, 2013 I camped out in a Chick Fil-A parking lot. I did this as part of their First 100 Event for new store openings.

I was out of work at the time, due to the government shutdown. I didn’t know how long it would last (15 days) or if I would be paid for any of it (I wasn’t).
But Chick Fil-A and their offering of 52 free meals for the next year and something to do for 24 hours, including three free meals during the event, was too good to pass up. I could stay home and not get paid, or I could go and try to be one of the first 100 people and have something to do for the next 24 hours.

This is not about Chick Fil-A’s policies. I wrote about that already this is a chance for an out-of-work guy to get some free food while the government tried to figure itself out.


For 24 hours, 100 people are camped out in the parking lot of a Chick Fil-A restaurant. They are all camping out for 24 hours to receive a year’s worth of weekly free meals to the restaurant. Is 24 hours of your life worth 52 free meals? For these 100 people, the answer is yes.

I am one of these 100 people. I am #94.

Chick Fil-A cup

I am camped out to receive my year of free meals. Why am I camped out in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant with 99 of my new best friends? For the free food. Also because it is a good story and I’ve met some interesting people. Including a duo of other furloughed NIH people. This morning we talked about how we were handling the furlough. How well, or not we were doing.

It was interesting to see how it affected each of us differently. I am OK for now with savings, but not if this stretches on another week or two. The older guy with a family and kids who lives in Pennsylvania and commutes to work here in Rockville is struggling. The younger, single woman is doing OK too since she’s got some money and it’s just her. They’ll both be getting paid once the furlough ends since they’re government employees.

I still don’t know what’s going to happen with my pay check come the 15th for sure. No one seems to have an answer because I’m not sure anyone knows…


This evening, we were treated to dinner inside the restaurant. With this being their grand opening and our camping out, the staff is getting their final training today as well. They were all on hand to help with dinner and the service was excellent. We are 100 strong and we’re cold and wet from the rain but we’re all in good spirits.

We are being fed for free inside a nice warm restaurant. We are all here by our own choice. We are here to get the free food offered to the first 100 people to show up and camp out for 24 hours. We are the rabid fans if there were ever such a thing.

This is my first grand opening event. But there are some who have done this many more times. This is grand opening number 13 for a couple I met this morning. Another person I talked to has been to three in total. The big winner is a friend of the first couple, who has attended 102 events. They are not here today because there’s another Chick Fil-A opening 40 miles from here and that one was closer for them.

But I digress.

Dinner service was very fast. It helps to have a limited menu. But it was still very fast. Especially considering I was near the end of the line, being #94 out of 100. I received my meal and every few minutes an employee would stop, introduce themselves and ask me if I needed anything else. Do I need my drink refilled? Any more sauce? Is there anything they could do for me?

It was clear they were directed to make us feel well taken care of and I did. It was better service than I’ve received in many fancy restaurants. Now, I know this is not the normal procedure for a fast food restaurant. Nor are there usually 40 people running around the place. But it set a great first impression of the store and the staff.

When I eat here in the future, I will remember the smiling faces I met today. It was a great first impression for the restaurant. Clearly, I am already predisposed to liking the franchise since I’m literally camped out in their parking lot, but it was still great customer service. I am here, I am being fed, you have me in a good mood. It wouldn’t take much to sour the experience for me with sub-par service or rude staff.

But instead, everyone I’ve met and talked to has been very excited and happy to be working here, even at 5:30 this morning and at 2am the following morning. Different, smiling people, but still smiling and friendly.

**Customer Service could have made or broken this event. ** It’s cold, the high was 62 with a low in the 40s. It rained from about 5pm through the night. People are cold and maybe rethinking their decision to be here. But they’re still here and the staff really made us feel welcomed.

This entire event is a huge opportunity to squander the good will you have built up among the loyal 100 people, as well as those who have wandered by to ask what was going on. But they’ve done a great job in meeting my high expectations and from the Chick Fil-A opening veterans, they consistently hit those high marks for customer service and the experience is always positive no matter where the store is opening or the weather decides to do.

venus fly trap

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Every morning I open a new document in MarkdownPad. This is where I will collect all of my thoughts for the week.

This is where all of my Dispatches from the Trenches take shape. This is where the bits of text, video and pictures get saved. This is where my thoughts begin to take shape.

As the week goes on, I pick pieces that speak to me. I rearrange. I replace. I edit. I try to find the why. Why am I taking the time and attention to share it with you, my lovely readers?

I try to find stories that moved me in some way. I try to find something that hasn’t been linked to a thousand times. I shy away from anything too popular. I don’t want to find something new to you.

If it’s trending, you likely won’t find it among my archives. There are of course, exceptions where the nostalgia is strong.

I dislike the trend of twitter-via-blog that has manifested itself in link blogging. And yes, I realize it predates Twitter. I know it’s so much easier to write a snappy sentence and post a link. It’s warming to bask in the glow of favorites, retweets and replies.

I miss longer-form pieces. I miss the minds behind the writing. Anyone can share a link with a snarky comment. I want to read the words behind your thoughts. I want to read your why.

Update

This is now a challenge. I challenge you to write more words! Let me hear your beautiful voices through your sexy text. Shine your MarkDaggers and stab at your text editors!

via Unsplash

Dispatch from the Trenches #10

Today has been a long day. It’s been the last long day of a very long week. This week’s dispatch is about getting away from it all and being outside in the sunlight and fresh air. Thank you for reading this and for reading me. I am thankful for every one of you to read my work. When you share or comment on my work it fills me with pride and gratitude. Thank you all.

The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit

One of the best stories I’ve read this year is The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit. A man who decided he no longer wanted anything to do with society so he turned to the hills. Living off his wits and stolen goods, he remained undetected for decades. It’s an interesting tale from the man himself.

When, said Perkins-Vance, was the last time he’d had contact with another person?
Sometime in the 1990s, answered Knight, he passed a hiker while walking in the woods.
“What did you say?” asked Perkins-Vance.
“I said, ‘Hi,’ ” Knight replied. Other than that single syllable, he insisted, he had not spoken with or touched another human being, until this night, for twenty-seven years.

He explained about the lack of eye contact. “I’m not used to seeing people’s faces,” he said. “There’s too much information there. Aren’t you aware of it? Too much, too fast.”


Patrick Rhone recently shared this wonderful film. It’s a beautiful look at taking the long way and doing something because you can. Because you want to. And not taking the easy road. It’s wonderfully narrated and the music is perfect. I really enjoyed this bit of escape and I hope you will too.

“The Questions We Ask” – Bruce Kirkby in a Kalum Ko film

In the spring of 2013, Canadian adventurer Bruce Kirkby crossed the Georgia Straight from Vancouver to Victoria on an inflatable standup paddleboard. In this award-winning short film, he contemplates the true meaning of adventure.


To Yosemite, With Love

Living, climbing, and working in Yosemite Valley, California with Mountain Hardwear athlete Cheyne Lempe.
For most of us — it’s a distant dream. Live full time (legally) in Yosemite Valley, California. Climb some of the best granite in the world as part of your job. Live in a small tent cabin in the famous Camp 4. For Cheyne Lempe — it’s just another day in the life.

I only spent a day in Yosemite and I fell in love with it. I can’t imagine living there full-time. It’s a spectacular part of the world. I never thought about Search and Rescue teams living in the park full-time. But it makes sense. Who better to know the area and be available than people who live there full-time climbing the peaks and hiking the trails.


Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wlodi/2253868335

GamerHate

Who is Phil Fish? This is Phil Fish.

This 19 minute video talks about Phil Fish, who those in the indie gaming world hate because he is talented with strong opinions. But people don’t hate Phil Fish as much as they hate the concept of Phil Fish.

You’re asking yourself, Who is Phil Fish?

He created Fez. A much-loved and well-received video game. He was also heavily featured in Indie Game: The Movie where he and others talk about their long, hard road to creating a game.

Phil Fish is hated the same way Nickelback is hated. Because they’re not being famous the right way. Or because they’re famous and shouldn’t be. Either way, people hate them more for the concept of them, rather than the real person or band.


I write about this today because of another event in the news. Microsoft bought Mojang, the creator of Minecraft. As this news was announced, the founder Marcus Persson, better know as Notch posted to his blog he was leaving the company.

He posted this to his blog.

I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

Just as Phil Fish was attacked endlessly, eventually driving him to cancel a sequel to Fez and close all of his social network accounts. Notch is retreating from public life for similar reasons.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.


The creator of Flappy Bird, Dong Nguyen removed his outrageously popular game because of the death threats and abuse being hurled at him. He was accused of ripping off other games and artwork. He refused to give interviews or even talk about his game to the media. He then did the unthinkable.

— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014

Pulling Flappy Bird, a punishingly hard yet highly addictive game from the App Store spawned a legion of clones and imitators. He is back now with another game, Swing Copters. It appears to be just as hard and addicting as the last.


In all three cases, we have creators working hard, putting things out into the world hoping they’ll be liked. Video games, especially one-man shops or small teams can pour months or years into a game. Only to have it fail or worse, be ignored entirely.

But the cost of fame may be even higher. The cost of being thrust into the public spotlight. To be threatened by hundreds or thousands of anonymous people from all across the internet. How would you handle it if you were sent death threats and negativity every place imaginable?

With internet lynch mobs springing up, why would anyone want to be a public figure? No one controls the mob and to become a target is a miserable and terrifying thing.


I haven’t written about GamerGate and the hateful attacks on Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian because I honestly don’t know enough to do it justice. If you want to hear a good discussion on what’s happening, listen to Isometric 18: Rainbows and Sunshine. They provide a good overview of it. In short, it’s women being attacked on the internet for being women on the internet.

I did not intend to write about only men experiencing problems on the internet. They are stories I already knew. I attempted to find the facts of how GamerGate got started and all I can tell is an ex-boyfriend of Zoe published information about her that may or may have not been true. I don’t know. And her game Depression Quest was released on the day of Robin William’s suicide. Something Zoe wrestled with.

After a long uphill battle since getting Greenlit in January, Depression Quest was planned to, and approved for, launch on Steam today. Literally minutes after we got the notification, beloved actor Robin Williams was found dead from a suspected suicide after a long struggle with depression. We were all ready to hit the big red button the minute that the news broke.

So now I’m left with the question – do we launch, or not? I turned to twitter and my most trusted friends for advice because I can see going a few different ways. It’s not an easy decision.

She did decide to publish it. And that drew ire as well. I’ve watched a couple of Anita Sarkeesian’s videos on Youtube, and didn’t know who she was at the time. Her offenses appear to be pointing out the poor treatment of women in the gaming industry and their depiction in games.

In short, it’s a terrifying look at internet lynch mobs.

Photo credit: włodi on Flickr

Dispatch from the Trenches #9

Michael Salisbury’s Images of Apocalyptic Fog Over Chicago

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Though the Polar Vortex reared its ugly head across Chicago this past winter, it brought with it something incredibly beautiful if not apocalyptic–lots of fog. Fog can always make for great images, and that’s what photographer Michael Salisbury was able to do. According to a Chicago Tribune article, the fog that was over Chicago back in June of this year was a direct result of the Polar Vortex. Lake Michigan was frozen over for much of the vortex and as a result the water temperature was much cooler than normal. When you combine this with warm air above, it creates lots of fog.

It reminds me of some foggy days we have in Richmond, VA years ago.

Vanishing Point


DuckTales Theme Song With Real Ducks

This is adorable.


I’m Good – Curious Rat

I’m trying to be less reachable. I enjoy checking Twitter throughout the day, but on my schedule. I love that I have numerous ways to communicate with people all over the world, but only when I want to. When I come home, I like to leave my phone on my desk and spend time with my wife and son. Let the notifications chime. Let the calls buzz. I can’t hear them and I love it that way.

I know I’m in the minority when it comes to tech. I want just enough to get my work done without it getting in my way.

I love this perspective and agree with it. Tech is a tool. It should work for me. As I step away from it, I don’t want it to follow me. I want to dip in and interact on my terms.

In my life, it should not be always-on. If that’s what you want, great. Do it! It’s not for me. So I’ve taken steps to turn it off or ignore it.