Once upon a time, I was enjoying a salad at our local Friendly’s (now closed) when I discovered half of a caterpillar in my bowl.

I politely waved over our waitress.

“Excuse me,” I said, “but I found this half of a caterpillar in my bowl, and I think you might want to have someone in the kitchen check the lettuce to see if they can find the other half.”

The waitress apologized and headed back towards the kitchen. A few moments later, the manager came to our table and said very sharply, “I hear you have a problem.”

I was taken aback by the accusation in his voice.

“Um, yes,” I said, “you see, I found this half of a caterpillar in my salad… and I just thought that…”

As I trailed off, the manager abruptly explained that lettuce grows outdoors, so it’s only natural that caterpillars are found in produce from time to time, and there was nothing he could do about it.

It was then that my story changed from, “That time I found half of a caterpillar in my Friendly’s salad” to “That time I found half of a caterpillar in my Friendly’s salad, then got yelled at by the manager.”

And of course, that is a story I would share with anyone who’d listen.

 

(“Please don’t eat me!”)

Mistakes happen – it’s just part of being human. But how you handle an error can make all the difference between winning a customer’s loyalty and losing them forever.

When mistakes happen, here are three things you should NEVER EVER do.

1. Assign blame.
Let’s just remove the word “blame” from our dictionaries altogether, shall we? Nothing good ever comes from blame. There’s this misguided thought that by accepting fault we’ll somehow come off as less professional. In reality, just the opposite is true. It might be tempting to blame circumstance, a coworker, or even the customer, but here’s the thing… IT DOESN’T MATTER. The mistake is already out there, and instead of worrying about whose fault it is, all of your attention should be focused on what you’re going to do to fix it.

2. Avoid the problem.
It’s never fun to face our mistakes, but the best way to turn a bad situation around is to immediately tackle it head on to the absolute best of your ability. If I’m running behind and get a dreaded, “Have you worked on this yet?” email when I haven’t even started a project, I will drop everything and do my best to make sure that they’re so blown away by the quality of the work that they’ll feel it was worth the wait.

3. Make the same mistake again.
Once the crisis has passed and the world is right again, THAT’S when you should look back and examine what went wrong. Ask yourself what you could have done differently to avoid the problem. Then one day when a similar situation presents itself, you’ll know what steps to take to bring a better outcome. Even the most costly of mistakes can be worth it if you’ve learned something.

How you handle yourself when things go wrong tells your customers a lot about the way you do business. So if you take the opportunity to go above and beyond to make things right, there’s a good chance that they will come away from the situation even more impressed than if everything had gone perfectly to begin with.

Of course, those stories aren’t nearly as much fun to share. 😉

What was the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in your food? Let me know in the comments below!