Jun 05 2013

Three Strikes, You’re Out!

It’s not the Blork Blog style to use this venue to issue screeds against local businesses, but in the case of Green Café I will make an exception, and the exception is based on the fact that Green Café has failed in three dimensions: food quality, web site, and customer service.

Food Quality

I went to Green Café (the branch on rue Drummond) for the first and only time on May 24, 2013, where I ordered a Niçoise salad to go. Green Café’s Niçoise salad doesn’t much resemble a classic Niçoise salad, but that’s an issue of interpretation, not quality. (Theirs is full of chick peas, has no green beans, and they give you a choice of tuna or grilled chicken.)

I returned to my desk and began to eat. The salad was tasty enough at first, but as I got deeper into the bowl the abundance of vinaigrette began to overwhelm. By the time I got to the bottom it was more like vinaigrette soup than a salad. Way too much!

So I thought I’d do the right thing and let them know that they need to reel in the vinaigrette a bit. After all, good restaurants encourage constructive feedback from customers.

Web Site

I went to their web site. As is sadly typical for restaurants, it’s a Flash-based site. Flash is bad for restaurant web sites for many reasons, including the fact that it fails on most mobile devices – and it’s while you’re mobile that you’re most likely to want to get the coordinates for a restaurant, or see the menu. It’s also a bad idea because it’s very likely no one in the restaurant’s staff or administration can update or change the site. This is the dirty secret of Flash-based web developers; once your hire them you’re usually more or less stuck with them for changes and updates. Regular HTML based sites – or sites that run on WordPress or similar systems – can be updated by virtually anyone with the correct login name and password.

In the case of Green Café, their site was not only Flash-based, but it contained an egregious error that no one seems aware of or is willing to fix. When you click the email link on the “Contact Us” page, where the email address is written in (Flash) text as “info@greencafe.ca,” a new, blank email message opens up with the “To” field automatically populated with their address. This is conventional, but in the case of Green Café, it populates the “To” field with the wrong address!

info@green.ca instead of info@greencafe.ca

I didn’t notice the error. So I wrote the following constructive email message and promptly pressed “Send.”

Hello. Today I had my first Café Green experience; I got a salade nicoise (chicken) from the store on rue Drummond. There was WAY too much vinaigrette on it; about triple as much as what I would expect. This isn’t just me being fussy, the thing was literally drowning in vinaigrette. I couldn’t finish it because it was so soggy.

There’s no need to reply, but please do a quality check at that store and give the preparers a reminder of how much vinaigrette is a normal amount. I’d love to try another Café Green salad one day soon, but if it’s as soggy as this one I won’t go back.

Thanks!

An hour later I got the following email from the Green Party of Canada (emphasis mine):

Don’t worry, Ed, your email went to the Green Party of Canada. We don’t serve Salade Nicoise.

Go to the Green Cafe contact page, and scroll down to where it shows info@greencafe.ca. Click on that link and look at the address on the email.

The domain “green.ca” is the property of the Green Party of Canada and is being used, to our continual petty annoyance, by the “Green Traiteur & Café” in Montreal. We have written to them repeatedly and have never received even an acknowledgement.

As you can see, this is not a new problem. Note that the address error occurs on both the French and English side of Green Café’s web site.

Customer Service

I promptly copied my original message and sent it to the (presumably) correct email address (info@greencafe.ca), with the following paragraph added:

One other thing: the email link on your website is broken. Although it says “info@greencafe.ca,” when you click on it it populates your email “To” field with “info@green.ca,” which goes to the Green Party of Canada. (They were kind enough to write back to me an tell me they had received the above comment. This is a re-send.) The same error occurs on both your French and English “Contact” page.

And then I waited.

Almost two weeks have passed. The error on the web site is still there, and even though I said “there’s no need to reply,” I would expect any decent company to reply as a matter of courtesy. I have not received a reply. I join the Green Party of Canada and doubtless many others in this club of people who receive no reply from Green Café when they try to contact them by email.

Any one of these infractions would be enough to warrant a frown along with the willingness to give another chance. Two of these infractions would prompt a personal boycott. But all three together add up to a frown, a personal boycott, and this public message to anyone who is reading – including, I hope, the management at Green Café.

Strike three, you’re out.

8 comments so far

8 Comments on “Three Strikes, You’re Out!”

  1. tbiton 05 Jun 2013 at 11:34 pm

    typically, a small business gets a website because someone convinces them it is needed and that the $1000 (or whatever) cost is low. they know nothing about websites and once they have it, they have no clue how to update or even that they are getting email. my suggestion is to check if they have a FB page. that is usually paid attention to. or twitter, if they are savvy.

  2. Zekeon 06 Jun 2013 at 9:19 am

    Howdy!

    Call Marcel Hachem at 514-935-5553. Sometimes old school technology works…

  3. Blorkon 06 Jun 2013 at 10:50 am

    Zeke, tbit, you’re missing the point. I’ve already done my part. I’ve tried twice to contact them. They struck out. I’m not going to try any more. If this company is failing on all three of those dimensions, then to Hell with them.

    It’s no longer about me offering them constructive criticism. Now it’s about me exposing how lame they are.

    I mean seriously. They can’t even answer emails sent to the address on the “Contact Us” page? (Not just from me, but emails sent “repeatedly” from the Green Party.) FAIL.

  4. vieux banditon 06 Jun 2013 at 11:35 am

    I’m with you, Blork.

    Someone around here owns all around our lot and made it into a private reserve. He says he has big plans, blah blah blah. Comes to see us a few years ago, makes some vague promises and some not so vague, says we’ll keep in touch and why don’t we email him through his website. Great. So we visit the site. It’s built as a blog (first thought? One of his kids put it together for him).

    There’s one comment. It says This is a sample comment; remove it, etc. So I leave another. Three years later I guess it’s still being moderated. And the emails we sent to his address found on that site have remained unanswered. It told us an awful lot about the person in question… and every interaction since has confirmed that impression. (And come to think of it, I wouldn’t eat his food either!)

  5. The Beer Gypsyon 08 Jun 2013 at 10:33 am

    That is absolutely horrible, communication is key in the hospitality industry! I couldn’t imagine sitting at my desk ignoring emails or having an area brought to my attention and not have it corrected. There were times I received some not so nice emails, but I always responded no matter what and obviously compensated. It’s just good/proper business practice, I guess apparently that isn’t very common though.

  6. Nicholas Robinsonon 13 Jun 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I dream of the day when creating a website is not up to someone with any specific knowledge. Like in the old days, when no one really had anything on their personal computers except for a word processor and maybe — maybe — a paint program.

    Certainly when I designed the first-ever websites for both Air Canada Cargo and the Montreal Symphony orchestra — SINGLEHANDEDLY — I was absolutely the ONLY PERSON I KNEW who knew how to code HTML. Let alone manage graphics or layout on a computer.

    Now, your neighbor’s dog’s fleas have UltraBooks installed with everything including anti-anti flea powder, so I’m hopelessly outclassed and outgunned by ASPs and SQLs.

    But consider the poor restaurateur — he just wants to be up there with everyone else. He knows how to cook, how to do the accounting. But not how to maintain a commercial presence via the Internet. He puts up a clean-looking Flash page (I actually thought it was nice and thin) and then gets back to cooking.

    Now what if he could make a fantastic-looking Web page by himself, say, with modular constructions instead of code? Have 50 templates. Plug a photo into Slot X and a block of text into Slot J. Assign fonts and sizing and colors and justification. Not EVEN as complicated as that.

    And have it ending up looking like the green cafe site. Then just type a new paragraph and slot it on top of Slot J, which gets wiped. No tech knowledge at all. Just like using Microsoft Word liberated all the former hunt ‘n’ peck pasteup guys, this magic program would make making good looking, modular, user-changeable sites as easy as one two three.

    And I just KNOW you’re going to say something like “There already IS something like that! It’s called WordPress!” or something similar.

    It ain’t there yet, just trust me. And Facebook makes my eyes bleed, as Twitter makes me want to rip out a small child’s thymus gland — as Blork knows very well from my previous comments.

    If I were a restaurateur I’d just hire it all out, but not everyone has the bucks.

    That all said, sock it to ‘em, Ed! Maybe next you can take on the people who make NAMBLA’s web page.

  7. blorkon 13 Jun 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Nick, I’m not saying they need to build the web site themselves. I’m saying they need to do it in something other than Flash. Check the links in my post for reasons why Flash is bad for web sites — restaurant sites in particular.

    So hire someone, but hire someone who knows how to make a clean and useful web site that (a) is viewable on a mobile, (b) is easy to update.

    And answer your goddamn email! (Not you, the restaurant.)

  8. Roshanon 20 Jun 2013 at 12:53 am

    Terrible service. Although I do agree with you. I’ve had some good responses by companies or corporates contacting me after I either posted the bad service/product/experience I got on either my Blog or on Facebook. Indian companies haven’t really started responding properly to Twitter, atleast in my experience. But I was pleasantly surprised that a large bank, coffeeshop chain, online shopping sites etc contacted me back either through email or comments and fixed my problems. A lot of them don’t.
    Even if you don’t plan on ever eating from there again, see if you can go see them in person and complain. Just so that they know.