Awkwardly, I had been asked to be a part of a good friend’s wedding party that weekend; so my partner and I decided to have a celebratory breakfast, instead of an evening meal out.
As it happens, we had a very nice meal out later that day, at Julios in Halifax, with some of the guests who had traveled up for the wedding; the wedding itself being a rare Sunday wedding.
Normally we breakfast at a lovely little local café, in Salendine Nook, called the Nook Café. Not that we normally breakfast in that manner, you understand.
Earlier in the week we had seen a two-for-one offer on breakfast at our local Toby Carvery.
I’ve not had a good experience of the Toby Carvery in the past; I’m not a fan of carveries in general and the Nag’s Head, situated a few hundred yards behind the Toby Carvery, has a far better menu to supplement their carvery.
Still, “what can go wrong with a cooked breakfast?” I thought. And for two breakfasts at £4.95, it would make for a frugal treat for my other half on her birthday.
How wrong I was.
The problem came when we tried to pay.
The full tale unfolds in the letter of complaint that I submitted to Toby Carvery through their complaints site.
Dear Ainley Top Toby Carvery,
I only leave 1 star because I feel I have to leave at least one, lest you think I have just forgotten to rate you. I am disgusted!
My complaint pertains to Professionalism (lack of), Pricing (being overcharged beyond the advertised price) and Theft (being short changed).
For my partner’s birthday we decided to try the £4.95 breakfast on your current 2 for 1 offer. We were hurried through to a table and told that Tea & Coffee were included but fruit juices were not.
After enjoying a moderate self-served breakfast (the sign told us to help ourselves to the eggs etc. but nobody was serving the meat so we had to help ourselves to that also) we attempted to make payment and head out for the day.
After being ignored by the solitary member of staff and being unable to find an alternate means of payment, my partner and I approached her directly and asked if we could pay.
“Yes!” she says sharply, “That’ll be £13.65” she sneers.
I produce payment, thinking it strange that two breakfasts at £4.95 would come to £13.65. I also produce the voucher that I had printed out and completed yesterday.
“Tchoh! Is that a voucher?”, she stroppily exclaims.
“Yes… erm… yes it is”, I reply politely.
“Well! You should’ve shown that before I sat you down.”, she replies with a condescending sigh.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”, I reply sheepishly, thrown by the aggressively confrontational tone that the lady had used.
“£8.65!” she barks. I hand over a ten pound note and the lady rumages in a purse for change, which she thrusts into my hand with a look that could pierce diamond.
As we leave I look at my change… three five pence pieces and a ten pence piece.
It is at this point that my partner asks me why the £4.95 breakfast cost us £8.65. I reply telling her it didn’t. It actually cost us £9.75 – a grand saving of fifteen pence on the cost of two breakfasts without the 2 for 1 voucher! I guess the coffee and tea, contrary to what we were told, were not included in the price.
It is too late to go back and demand correct change and no point in making a scene in front of the other customers about being overcharged – the lady you had working that morning is obviously not somebody skilled at dealing with customer service in a professional manner and I didn’t want to upset my partner on her birthday. So I have decided to actually make a formal complaint.
I haven’t been to this Toby carvery for over 18 months now, ever since the poor service declined to the point of staff spilling meals on us. We thought we would give it another try, the breakfast idea is a really good one – attractive to us.
I doubt I will ever attend a Toby Carvery ever again. I have been insulted, conned and robbed. I hope other Toby Carveries are not run like the Ainley Top one but I am loathe to take the risk.
Yours in Disappointment,
A little melodramatic I grant you but all exactly as I recall it happening. It really irritates me when people treat customers that way. For the record, both my partner and I do make a point of writing to places when we’ve had good service also.
I remember having problems submitting the complaint as the site insisted I include a telephone number. I had no desire to waste more time on the venture and so edited my letter to include a post-script to that effect, explaining that I was left no choice but to set my telephone number as 01111 111111.
I quickly received an automated response.
Thank you for your feedback – we really appreciate you taking the time to contact us. Once your feedback has been reviewed, we will contact you.
Guest Services Team
It was four days before I received an actual response.
Dear Mr Sugden
Our Ref: XXXX
I write further to your communication with us regarding the TOBY CARVERY HUDDERSFIELD.
Our Manager is keen to discuss the issues raised with you personally. He has tried to contact you several times by telephone on the number provided – 01111 111111 however this number appears to be incorrect. Could I please ask that you call our Guest Services Team on 0845 XXX XXXX or you may respond via return of this email, and provide an alternative contact number and a convenient time/s when you can be contacted. Should we not hear from you within the next seven days we will assume you are happy with our assurances that the issues you raised have been taken on board.
I would like to reassure you of our commitment to continual improvement and how your feedback helps us to take appropriate action to ensure we are providing the consistently high standards that our guests expect. For this reason we believe it is imperative that we speak to our guests to discuss their comments so that we really understand the root cause and can take action to rectify the issues raised.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Guest Care Representative
I’ve made complaints about eateries before and had the establishment’s manager phone up to offer meek platitudes and a free meal as compensation. I always decline, I’ve worked in kitchens and whilst I’ve never witnessed it, I’ve heard stories about what goes into the meals that are offered out to moaning customers.
I hate talking over the phone. It’s bad enough these days fending off scammers and spammers over the phone, without having to articulate myself verbally, repeating something I have spent time setting out in writing.
So I replied.
Good Morning XXXXXXXXX,
Your Ref: XXXXXX
Thank you for your response.
As I believe I stated in the postscript to my feedback, I have no desire to discuss this issue over the telephone; I also believe I explained that this was why I left the obviously incorrect number. My apologies if this was cut out of my original complaint.
I am somewhat disappointed that you only accept complaints or commendations with a valid telephone number.
I do not wish to discuss the matter with your guest services team either. I am not looking for some kind of freebie as an apology; nor am I looking for platitudes.
What I would like to know is:
Why was I given such a poor reception by the solitary member of front of house staff?
Why was I charged £8.65 for a 2 for 1 £4.95 breakfast, during which time we had no fruit juice to incur an extra charge?
Why was I short-changed?
Furthermore, why should I trust the Toby Carvery at Ainley Top again?
I appreciate that you may feel the need to discuss these issues over the phone but I do not have the time to spare, to speak over the phone. If the manager has specific questions regarding my complaint, I am happy to answer them by email.
It is now nine days later, two days over the seven mentioned in their only reply to my complaint. I have heard nothing more.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m being unfair.
The lady on service that day had probably had a hellish morning, dealing with idiot customers and not getting the support she needs from her employers. Likewise the support staff that dealt with my complaint had probably had a hundred other complaints to deal with too. I get that and I honestly feel like a bad person for wanting to complain…
Then again, if people reported when service was good and bad and their comments taken on board. Service would improve and there would be no need for people to complain.
One thing is for sure though. I won’t be eating at a Toby Carvery again.
If you’re in the region of Ainley Top, just off Junction 24 of the M62, looking for a good carvery. Take the next turning left after the Toby Carvery, as you approach it from the roundabout, and follow that road on to the end; then turn right and you’ll see the Nag’s Head… a far better establishment with good food and more importantly, great service!