UPDATED (FINAL) A story of customer exploitation in Trinidad resolved.

To show how fighting for what is right online can make a difference –  here is the perfect example.  The company faced with an an online campaign that was starting to go viral responded by rectifying the problem. Time elapsed  – less than 48hrs.

At exactly 1:23 PM on Monday, December 12, 2011 I received a called on my mobile phone.  The person identified himself as Mr. John Wallis, Owner of Ma Pau and co-owner of Sweet Lime Restaurant.  I was livid and utterly speechless not anticipating what the conversation was going to be like.  I was very silent on the phone but Mr. Wallis proceeded to speak.  He apologized on behalf of his restaurant and offered some form of re-dress to the situation.  I responded very guardedly that a refund to the tune of the 7 extra meals be paid to which he responded in the negative.  Instead he indicated that a full refund would be made.  At first, I indicated my hesitance to do such but Mr. Wallis is a professional.  He understood my viewpoint and was very sympathetic about the outcome of the incident.  He re-iterated that on behalf of his establishment how apologetic he was for the turn of events.

Earlier this afternoon, around 5.20 PM, a full refund to the tune of $3038 was paid to me.  I am satisfied that through it all that the owners were very professional and did the right thing.  But here is a suggestion from which we can all learn:

  • On the part of the Restaurants – take it upon yourselves to establish a properly publicized reservation policy and ensure that managers implement it.  If it was known that I would have been financially liable for the 12 meals things would have been much easier.

I would like to thank my closer FB friends JD, VOR, TOP, SSA who encouraged me to make public what started off as a personal status update for my FB friends only.  I would also like to thank Mr. John Wallis, co-owner of Sweet Lime for his speedy resolution of the matter.  And the biggest thanks go to YOU, the FB community, who shared my pains of the last 36-48 hours and really took the time to read and repost.  Through it all, Trinidad and Tobago is truly a magical place filled with magical people.  I never thought that my simple note would have gone so viral that a matter, which I thought was dead, would have been resolved this quickly…

 

Compliments of the Season and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

Regards,

Bis Ram

ORIGINAL STORY BELOW

_____________________________

A FB friend in  T&T had a most unfortunate experience at a restaurant on Saturday night.   I find it totally unfathomable that  any restaurant  would  be so callous to a client.  I should mention that this is also a young person who was just trying to have an Xmas get-together with colleagues. I wasn’t there and I don’t know both sides but in this case I can’t imagine  what the other side would be.  I am posting his public post with no alterations. He wants word spread.

As some of you would realize by now – I was kidnapped by the management of Sweet Lime Restaurant on the Ariapita Avenue last night. Most of you all are wondering what I meant by my statement so the following is my account of the events leading up to my kidnapping and ordeal.

This year has been a challenging one for my co-workers and I, as such I thought it was best to have a Christmas Dinner to re-connect with them. As you all know, there are numerous restaurants offering a Christmas Menu this season. I made a seating RESERVATION for 12 persons, however, last night only 5 persons showed up for the Christmas Dinner at Sweet Lime. During our dinner, the manager asked to speak with me at the front. I obliged and proceeded to the front where I was told that I would have to pay for 12 meals as it was “specially” made for us and that I had made a “reservation for 12”.

I pointed out to the “manager” that a reservation is typically for seating and that the Christmas Dinner option was part of their A la carte menu that they have. FB – If I had known I was going to be billed for 12 christmas dinners @ $250 per plate then would I have still booked the reservation? At no point prior to the event did they make it clear that I would have to pay for 12. In no way was this event a booking either as no invoice was generated and sent to me. No legally binding document or agreement was signed by me to commit me to 12 plates.

I went back to our dinner table and my co-workers quizzed me about what had happened. I, hesitantly, told them about the claims Sweet Lime were making. Again, the manager requested that I meet her at the front. I have the best co-workers ever. We operated as a TEAM and went to the front. To our utmost surprise the Manager had called “Security” who flashed something resembling a badge/I.D. card. He told us that the meals were “specially” prepared and that we had to pay for all 12 plates. We told him that we are willing to pay for the meals we ate i.e. 5 plates and not the 12 they were forcing to pay for. He then proceeded to call the police…

Next in the scene, the cashier handed me a phone with “owner/manager” on the line. My co-worker took the phone and spoke to the manager trying to explain the situation and a lesson a CS relationships. He kept on insisting we had to pay and then insulted my co-worker before requesting to speak to me. I took the phone and tried appealing to the nobler motives suggesting that ultimately the Restaurant would get a negative review… that didn’t persuade him instead he said I had to pay for the 12 meals or face jail time “tonight”. I again re-iterated that I am willing to pay for the meals we ate and that I am in no way financially able to pay for 12 meals. He threatened me to call the “Police” and have me arrested to which I asked “for what?” He hung up the phone on me….

During this ordeal we were made to sit at a table essentially kidnapped with the ransom of having to pay 12 meals or face going to jail. We weren’t allowed to leave or get up from the table…

All the time I was on the phone, my co-workers had already called the police. However when the 3 police showed up they weren’t the ones we made the report to. In addition to which 2 of them were in plain clothes and only the WPC had on her uniform. The “Police” didn’t even talk to the management of sweet lime. Instead they walked up to us and told us that these meals were “specially” made for us and that we had to pay for them. We tried explaining our side of the event to them but they weren’t listening to us. They kept on insisting we had to pay for the 12 meals. One of the police officers who happened to be the most aggressive wanted to speak to me along to which my co-workers said that we came here in a group and that they weren’t letting me go anywhere. The “Police” eventually got me alone. He asked me why I was scared to which I replied “Sir, you may be a ‘good’ police officer but I read the newspapers everyday” He tried to instill fear to get me to pay the bill for 12 plates. Clearly, TTPS is not the only ones paying their salaries, as evidenced by the dismal refusal to give us their ID numbers and names. This was agreed upon by all of us based on how the entire event panned out.

In the end we were made to pay a bill of more than $3300 to Sweet Lime before being escorted out. No dessert, no food packaged to go, nothing. In addition to which the police took all our info: names, addresses and phone contacts, which I am inclined to believe is in the possession of Sweet Lime Restaurant.

So what do we do now? Well I paid the bill and I am NOT going to contest it. “Why Bis?” is the question all of you that read this will ask. And I will reply, that I am seeing the bigger picture here. Anyone who knows Sweet Lime/Ma Pau knows about the connections that they have. I am of a strong morale belief. While this event is most unfortunate and unfair, I cannot compromise the security and well being of my co-workers who I hold dearly to me for a couple hundred dollars. No amount of money is worth their lives. In the end I made the reservation and I will take this one and let it slide. Against all better judgment and argument, I love my co-workers who proved to me last night that at John D we are/were best friends and family…..we stuck it out and I love you guys. I’m sorry I cannot call out your names…you know who you are!!! God Bless….even those at Sweet Lime Restaurant

Regards,

Bis Ram

**UPDATE** Dec 12, 2011

…..” Mac Ward and I own Sweetlime. We were absolutely wrong and apologise for the way Mr. Bisnat was treated. We have no excuse and have apologised to him and will be making a full refund. We unreservedly apologise to himk and his guests and sincerely hope they will give us a second chance. We thank him for putting his comments on Facebook as this is the only way we would have known about our error. We welcome all comments that will help us build an better experience for our customers and staff.”

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