One Bad Experience

by Alli Polin on June 17, 2014

Your attitude can turn one bad customer experience into a positive one

Today was a great day.  There was a huge rainbow over the town in the early morning and after school my son found a $50 note on the ground.  We were having such a lovely day, I decided to take the kids for a big treat at the local sweets shop; definitely a shock to the children.  This is the kind of shop where bins of every lolly imaginable line the walls.  It’s kid heaven and unfortunately, not somewhere I’ll be returning.  One bad experience has written them off of my list for good.  It’s not like my kids need gobs of sweet treats anyway, so giving it up is hardly a hardship.

One Bad Experience That Didn’t Have to Be…

My son was checking out the different items on a wall that was designed to attract children like a magnet.  He pulled down a few Pez dispensers to show me and I asked him to stop touching everything since we’re focusing on filling up our bags from the bins.

I heard him say with delight “oh my gosh!” as he touched a bag with the biggest gobstopper you’ve ever seen.  I felt his smile and wonder at this enormous mystery object but I wasn’t going to buy it.  Unfortunately, it was just an open plastic bag and in his attempt to hang it back up, it fell out and dropped on the floor.  He looked shocked and immediately sorry.  As he reached down to pick it up the shop worker nastily stated “He touched it, you have to buy it.”  Nice.  Kid feels like crap, Mom’s annoyed, and I’m ready to go, immediately.

My kid’s candy treat came to a whopping $7.50 and that gobstopper from hell added another $10 to the bill.  Ten dollars and it was already in the trash.  I understand that small businesses may be unable to give away their inventory when someone drops an item by accident however, attitude makes an enormous difference.  My son can’t be the first person to drop an item since the bins on the walls pour out lollies at approximately 100 miles per hour.  I’m willing to bet a lot of money that their floor has seen its share of candy.

Here’s the kicker, her attitude infected me.  I stomped out of the store and back to the car with two kids in tow that wanted to be happy, holding bags of sweets, trying to figure out how to make their angry mother happy again.  That stinks.  Yes, I know I could have immediately brushed it off, but it stuck with me, like glue, and it took a while to shake my frustration.

Everything Has a Price

I paid $10 for a gobstopper that hit the floor, but the store paid a price too… I’m sure we would have returned.  Over time, that store would have made dramatically more than $10 from our family.  I’d also spread the word about a positive customer experience when something went wrong.  Unfortunately, now I don’t have a good story to tell.   It’s not that I had to pay, I was prepared to do that, it was how she made me feel.  Was it worth it?  

Leaders Create Positive Experiences

It happens all the time in business too.

  • A hard working employee deletes a file by accident.
  • A client realizes half way through the job that what they bought isn’t what they need.
  • A customer who gave the wrong prescription to the eye glass company and wants their money back under the satisfaction guarantee.

The real question is, how will you handle it in your business?   Will you turn one bad experience into an opportunity for exceptional customer service and personal leadership?

Here’s the thing… stories are the fabric of our experiences all woven together.  Create a great story and people will tell their friends and family from the rooftops.  Create an average experience, or worse, a negative experience, and they’re still going to tell their friends and family the story.

I could have done better with my attitude post sale and that’s one for me to work on.  It’s my job as a parent to not let small moments like this impact my children and their happiness.  If every time I’m frustrated by poor customer service, they’ll pay too high of a price and things will not be fun around here.

Here’s What It Comes Down To:

Attitude can turn one bad experience into a positive one.  

Yeah, I may need to pay $10 unexpectedly but I promise you, there’s a way to make the customer feel good about that and a way that will make them feel nothing but bad,  Up to you.


Before you speak, think about the impact of your words, not only what you have to say.  Attitude impacts everyone’s experience. Check in with yours.

I need your tips… Instead of getting frustrated with a negative customer experience, how do you let it go?

For coaching, consulting or speaking Let’s Connect!


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Gintas June 17, 2014 at 5:40 am

I feel sorry for your son.Store owner always has insurance. But he become just greedy for money.Accident so happens. This is part of life.


Alli Polin June 17, 2014 at 7:04 am

Accidents do happen and their reaction tells me a lot about the way they seem themselves vs the customer instead of standing with the customer. Thanks so much for your comment!


John Bennett June 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

Your highlighted item says it all!!! Interesting for me at least that certain words or phrases seem to pop up across the blogs and tweets that I read regularly, at least for some period of time. Choices and attitude are two of them! You are absolutely correct! It ALWAYS comes down to choices – with attitude being one of them.

As for the incident, I’d like to think I’d keep my cool and – if time allows – talk calmly with the owner and employee. But when our kids are involved, we’re already at a higher level. Likely do something similar to what you did … But if I were the owner, I’d want to know and thus a note or return visit by you alone probably would be a good thing.

For sure you got it right that it’s NOT the money! Indeed, if the owner offered goods or money in response to your follow-up, to me that’s just as bad as the first incident!!!


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 8:53 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about choices lately and how they not only define who we are but also how the world experiences us. Even when people make “bad” choices, we still get to choose how we react too (love how that works!)

I tried to keep my cool but let my frustration seep through. I appreciate that you understand “when our kids are involved, we’re already at a higher level. ”

I asked my kids to wait outside while I spoke to the shop owner alone to express my disappointment and that I would not be back. Still, little sad that my kiddos will miss out moving forward!

Always appreciate your insights, John! Big time!


Bill Benoist June 17, 2014 at 9:01 am

Hi Alli,

Many people advise us to write things down in order to release those pent up frustrations. I do. I write Yelp reviews.

On the flip side of things, when I get good service (thankfully, that is most of the time) I always try and get the person’s first name so I can acknowledge them in my review. There are few things that can make one feel better than filling another person’s bucket 🙂


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 8:56 am

If only they had Yelp in my town!

I LOVE that you not only write negative reviews but also acknowledge great service by name. I’ve been tweeting my happiness about great service recently. Some have actually used social media to strengthen our relationship too. However, I’ve yet to tweet out any negative reviews… yelp is a much smarter way to go!

Thanks, Bill!


LaRae Quy June 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Great post on the importance of being positive in the midst of a bad day, Alli!

The key is to intentionally choose to be positive…we automatically go negative when confronted with a situation like that.

Our brain can process emotions very quickly…annoyance, or even anger, at the clerk’s reaction would be appropriate. The challenge, and key, is simply choosing to remember that your son found $50 on the playground and this was a special event with your kids.

Sticking with the negative is always our choice 🙂


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

It’s so true, LaRae. As humans we’re much more likely to see the dark side of any situation than the light. Knowing that, we can make an intentional effort to change our experience and our attitudes.

Learning from the bad (including my bad response) changes choices the next time around.

Thanks, LaRae!


Lolly Daskal June 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Unfortunate incident for everyone. But much to learn from…..

You will remember this incident and make different choices in the future.
Your son will most likely remember the incident and think bitter sweet incident at the sweet shop
But I am hoping the shop keeper will remember this incident and do better next time. We can only hope.



Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 9:01 am

Absolutely true, Lolly. We’re going on a family holiday soon and I know that there will be many mishaps and challenges and things that will press my buttons, but my commitment is to creating an exceptional memory for our family… that will guide the choices I make.

This shop is a special spot in our very small town and I hope that she sees the potential and makes the choice to make the experience equally sweet in the future.

Thanks, Lolly!


Terri Klass June 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm

What a stupid store clerk! It is crazy that they were willing to lose a customer and make a scene for $10!

I have seen these “temper tantrums” that managers have over the tiniest imperfection from an employee. First of all, if things go awry, leaders should handle the issue privately, not in front of an entire team. Secondly, my hero, Big Bird would say: “Everyone makes mistakes, so why can’t you?”

Tell your son it’s ok and tell yourself it’s not that important.

Loved the post, Alli!


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 9:05 am

We spent a lot of money on our visit prior to this one. Let’s just say when kids are filling bags with candy that then gets weighed, it can add up quickly! For now, I’m holding a grudge that’s stealing joy from my children. We’ll see when I can let it go and give the store another chance.

I can’t tell you how much it makes me smile that you quoted Big Bird!!

I’ve told my son many times since then that it’s not his fault and he’s a good boy. Even today he still feels shame and sadness about how it was handled. I think what will be more interesting than when I’m ready to return to that shop is when he’s ready to return.

Thanks so much, Terri!


Kelli June 18, 2014 at 2:54 am

Hey Alli
I really enjoyed this post, and your story illustrated the point you were making perfectly. There is always a way to handle a sticky situation better, and achieve a more desirable outcome for all. Dealing with something that may be a bit sticky does not necessarily mean it has to be troublesome and uncomfortable. How we communicate makes all the difference. Being cognizant of how I speak is something I work to do all the time.


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 9:06 am

There is ALWAYS a way to do it better and make people feel OK with the outcome instead of hurt or ashamed. I think it starts with letting go of the need to be right and seeing other people as human beings, equal to ourselves.

A sincere thanks for your comment and sharing your insights, Kelli!


Ryan Biddulph June 18, 2014 at 4:43 am

We create the experience as we go along Alli. We frame, or put on different sets of glasses, to color reality. Smart share!


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 9:07 am

So true, Ryan! It’s all in our attitude… and perspective both of which we can shift and are within our control.


Karin Hurt June 19, 2014 at 9:01 am

I think so often people and businesses stay stuck in “being right” and miss the point that they are investing in a long-term relationship that is much more valuable than the incident at hand. Leaders must always take the long view.


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 9:08 am

Absolutely! Short term choices impact long term relationships. It’s easy to reactive and much harder to be responsive.

Right on, Karin!


Samantha Hall June 19, 2014 at 1:40 pm

What an excellent example Alli! I’m going straight over to my last customer service post and adding a link to yours here as an additional resource!


Alli Polin June 19, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Thanks, Samantha! Your experience at WholeFoods is definitely the anthesis of this one. I’ve had good, bad and GREAT experiences with customer service recently and the good and the bad both change my energy and attitude… not only solve (or don’t solve) a problem.

Appreciate you!


Bonnie June 23, 2014 at 10:35 am

Good attitudes are contagious but so are bad ones. Above you said that the candy comes out of the bins very quickly and your son can’t be the first to drop candy on the floor. Here’s what I immediately thought: Many children drop candy on the floor everyday so management developed a policy that this must be paid for by the customer. Management has pressured employees not to make any exceptions to this rule. Now the employees spend much of their energy each day dealing with parents who object to paying for candy that landed on the floor (I know you were willing to pay but it is not difficult to imagine parents who aren’t). This causes a build up of frustration in employees until the start every conversation in an defensive ans frustrated way.

I don’t think this makes the employee’s behavior excusable but it is how I let these things go.


Alli Polin June 24, 2014 at 5:19 am


First of all, welcome! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

I think you’re spot on. When people are anticipating an uncomfortable or confrontational situation, we create an uncomfortable or confrontational situation. Interestingly, I believe that this was the owner, not one of her employees. Maybe opening a candy shop wasn’t quite as much fun as she thought it would be and all of that comes pouring out in her customer experience.

Thanks for giving me a new perspective to consider!


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