Ask Big Dave: Money back?

pos, cash register, counter, carryout, line of customersQ: I’m a young guy in the pizza biz and not really sure where to get the answer to this question. If someone walks in and orders, then pays, waits 15 minutes until the pizza is done and ready to go out the door … they then ask for a refund for no other reason than the pizza was too expensive. ($16.99 for a five-topping Chi­cago style pizza) Do I refund the money?? Or can I legally refund only 50 percent to pay for food and labor? Let me know your thoughts please, and Thanks a lot!

Dereck Washburn
3 Style Pizza, owner
Leesburg, Alabama

A: Sounds like you have just bumped into the weenie of the week. You are legally in the right to keep all the money and send him out the door with his pizza, or not. His choice. You contractually, legally fulfilled your duty by providing him a good and service for a pre-determined price. If you send him packing he will bad mouth you and 3 Style Pizza, only telling his side of the story to anyone who will listen. I’d handle it this way:

I’d cheerfully refund all of his money. I’d educate him on why your menu price is fair and let him know how you use only the very best ingredients available, and plenty of them. I’d let him know that you take it personally when customers don’t have a wonderful experience at your place. I’d apologize and then I’d give him an additional free $20 gift certificate to your favorite cheap competitor down the street (I used to buy and have on hand a few, in advance, just for these kind of people). I’d let him know that you would be happy to personally call his order in to the manager and let him know you’ll be right there. I’d also advise him that you will be not able to provide any future pizzas to him for six months. I’d do everything I could to be as sweet, kind, understanding, empathetic and firm with the jerk.

Your reputation is worth more than $17. You have taken away his power to bad mouth you. You win. Donate the pizza to on-duty cops, firemen or paramedics. Tell them your story. They will thank you and tell people good things about you and your place. They deal with jerks every day. Make deli­cious lemonade out of this experience.

Ain’t being in business great?

Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.