Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Highway Nostalgia Revisited

Hi, everyone! I’m still trying to juggle way too many projects this week – and I might have to keep some posts short to save time – but you knew I couldn’t stay away for long...

I’d like to begin today’s post, though, by saying thanks to my hubby, Dan, for helping me out yesterday – and thanks to all of you for being so gracious to him!

Last month, I told you that Dan and I would be leaving Michigan by the end of September. Well, that hasn’t happened yet. For a number of reasons, we decided to extend our “summer” stay to the middle of October. Anyway, in that same post, I shared my dismay regarding a formerly frequent stop along the highways and byways of America: Cracker Barrel, a nostalgic, country-style restaurant and gift shop that was once a staple of my road trips with Mom but has since become a haven of lukewarm food and slow service. According to the comments that day, it seems that I wasn’t the only one that Cracker Barrel had disappointed. Stephanie Faris, whose had several bad experiences there, even suggested that I visit their website, comment on my poor experiences, and link CB to my site.

In response, I wrote:

I’m totally with you, Steph. I don’t think this is simply a case of romanticizing a place of my youth – I think the food and service at Cracker Barrel HAVE declined in recent years. And you’re right – I should let CB know about my disappointment – instead of simply venting my frustrations on a blog (although, as a side note, a blog is a terrific place to vent one’s frustrations). And I think it’s great that you’re planning to follow through with the CB survey. How else will they know that they could be losing long-time customers? The servers I’ve met recently certainly wouldn't care. Maybe the corporate office would?

Then, I took Steph’s advice. I left a heartfelt comment on the CB website, linking it to my post, to which I received this reply:

Thanks for visiting our website. We’re glad you wrote, giving this Old Country Computer a chance to say “hi” back. Please know that a “real” guest relations representative – a person! – will take a look at your message, sharing your thoughts with the right people, and will e-mail you back if that’s what’s needed.

As expected, I never heard from the “Old Country Computer” again. Then, just the other day, I received a long-awaited packet of mail from my New Orleans postal address – and lo and behold, I discovered a letter from Cracker Barrel (dated August 20, 2009 – the day after I received the automated email reply):

Thank you for bringing to our attention your recent concerns regarding visits to various Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations. Please accept our sincere apologies for any disappointment you have experienced.

Please be assured that steps have been taken to address the experiences you had and to make certain the necessary corrections are made. I have contacted our Operations Department and they will be addressing your issues to ensure that proper procedures are being followed.

Please accept the enclosed complimentary meal card as a token of our appreciation for your patronage. The gold card may be used at the Cracker Barrel location of your choice. We hope that your next visit to Cracker Barrel will be much more pleasant.

Now, while I’m tickled that someone actually paid attention to my complaint, the cynical side of me knows that it’s just a ploy to lure me back to the Cracker Barrel fold. So, here’s the question: Do I swallow my pride and use the “gold card” the next time I spy a Cracker Barrel on the road, or do I follow my instinct and forget the card exists? Dan, naturally, says we should stay away and avoid further disappointment. But I'm curious – what do you say?


jbchicoine said...

I'm hard pressed to turn down free food. Besides, you'll probably get excellent food and service with little gold card--it may be the last time!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Bridget! Thanks for sharing your opinion. I'm inclined to agree with you - it's usually a good idea to take advantage of any FREE stuff that comes along (especially in this economy).. although, as someone who's been to her share of "free" movie screenings that were a royal waste of time, I'm sometimes wary. Even with a free gold card, the time wasted might end up being more valuable. Still, I'm willing to take a chance - now, I just have to convince the hubby.

I'll let you know how it goes! ;-)

Martha W said...

Okay, I am of two minds here.

One - I wouldn't go back. I have been to 4 CB's in 3 states within the last 6 months and all of them have been terrible. Not even worth hitting their site to complain. As such, I wouldn't endure more.

BUT Two - jb is right. The gold card will probably give you some excellent service. And it is free food.

And BTW, your spell check works for me. Does that mean I'm just a really bad speller? lol!

FictionGroupie said...

I rarely turn down free food, especially if there are biscuits involved. Hopefully, the gold card doesn't signal "this person registered a complaint" to everyone though, lol.

Becky said...

I never turn down free food! :-) Well, take that back. I have when it's being served in a school cafeteria by dozens of 8 year olds in the middle of winter.... OK, now spell check is working. Maybe it's me?!

Steph Damore said...

I thought the same thing as FictionGroupie: gold card = registered complaint?

Who knows. I probably wouldn't go back, but rather keep the card as a reminder of Cracker Barrel's disappointment and the lesson you learned.

Although I would also like to add that I really hope CB gets their act together soon because I used to love that place.

Bane of Anubis said...

I think I visited a CB about twice in my life -- got a caramel milkshake both times -- ummm, ummm, good.

Lazy Writer said...

Go use the card. It's free food. But then, never go back again.

Strange Fiction said...

I've only turned down free food once--I ordered a pizza and it arrived garnished with small pieces of blue Arborite, freshly chopped from the counter top?! So I couldn't actually bring myself to eat the offered free one of those...

In your case though--I would present the coupon with an explanation of how you came to be in possession of it--lukewarm, slow service--go for it :)

The cowpoke's POV-He says he'd give the coupon to a homeless person. I know, ahhh. I thought he was being all philanthropic, I'll spare you the dirty details, but I think he was just being a little vengeful.

Laura Martone said...

Martha - I'm of those two minds, too. On the one hand, CB has burned us so many times. OTOH, maybe the gold card would be worth it... once. (As for the spellcheck, I don't get it. I didn't change any settings yet. *shrugs, then grins*)

Roni - I rarely turn down free biscuits either. But I'm also concerned that the gold card promises not good service but, "Let's spit in the whiner's food!" LOL indeed. ;-)

Laura Martone said...

Becky - Yeah, sometimes "free" food is anything but - if you have to pay for it later, I mean. Ahem.

The spell check issue still confuses me. Maybe it IS just you! LOL.

OMG, Dan just told me that Biko got a mouthful of quills tonight! What happened? Did he try to tango with a porcupine in the woods?! Poor Biko. :-(

Strange Fiction said...

OMG--Super Troopers!

Laura Martone said...

Steph - You and Roni might be on to something. Hopefully, the gold card isn't ONLY given to a whiner. Keeping the card as a reminder is a good idea... hmm, now I'm confused again. I used to love that place, too - that's why I went through the trouble of complaining officially. I don't typically do that with other joints, but CB still has a special place in my heart.

Bane - Maybe that's my problem. I always order fried okra - which is no good cold. Maybe I should be ordering the milkshakes instead.

Susan - You've hit my plan exactly! Use the card, then never return. Even if we have a good time. In the immortal words of the Who, "We won't get fooled again."

Laura Martone said...

Deb - Pizza with countertop?! Ick! And I thought avoiding the pineapple topping was safe enough. I could totally understand not wanting a repeat performance of that. ;-)

Oh, so you think I should explain the coupon? Hmm. That's a thought - but then, they'd know for sure that I'm a registered whiner.

I have to meet this cowpoke one of these days... his twisted mind sounds a lot like mine. Although I'd actually hesitate to give it to a homeless person... wouldn't want him/her to take the risk I'm about to. ;-)

Laura Martone said...

Teehee, Deb!

Farva: Give me a double bacon cheeseburger.
Dimpus Burger Guy: [into mic] Double baco cheeseburger. It's for a cop.
Farva: What the hell's that all about? You gonna spit in it now?
Dimpus Burger Guy: No, I just told him that so he makes it good. [into mic] Don't spit in that cop's burger.
Farva: Yeah, thanks.
Second Dimpus Guy: Roger, holding the spit.
Farva: Gimme a pie... apple.
Dimpus Burger Guy: Want me to hold the spit? Hah, just kidding officer Farva.

Strange Fiction said...

Stop your evil shenanigans!!

Laura Martone said...

*impish grin* I can't help it!

Martha W said...

Super Troopers? OMG, LMAO!!! Too funny!

Steph Damore said...

Bane - a caramel milkshake? Now that does some yummy!I also like the java ones at Arby's - delish!

Laura Martone said...

Yeah, Martha, I love that movie - best thing that Broken Lizard has done, IMO.

Steph - You and Bane must be on to something. I've never had a milkshake at either place!