Dream Dinners, Bad Experience for a Long-Time Customer

I’ve been a Dream Dinners customer in Lancaster, PA for a few years, and have even blogged about my experiences. After last night, I may not be a customer much longer. I received a call yesterday afternoon, indicating that I was the only person in the 6:45 session, and asking if I could come in early.

Calls like that are bad business practice. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to reschedule or arrive early, because I’m the only person in a session. The last time, I rearranged by schedule to arrive early, but it meant adding a lot of driving to my day. This time, I simply could not arrive early.

Calls asking customers or guests to arrive early or reschedule are bad. Many of us opt for Dream Dinners because we’re very busy. Asking us to rearrange our schedule just adds additional stress, and part of what Dream Dinners offers is a reduction in stress.

When I returned the call, I indicated that I would be there when I could be there. I also said that if it was easier for them, they could start making my meals. I thought that telling them they could start on my meals would allow them to leave early, since it would be less I would need to make.

I drove home from work, picked up Mac, and left on the 45 minute drive to the location. I knew I was going to be late, but wasn’t sure how late, due to rainy weather and traffic. I didn’t call, in part because I thought I didn’t need to, since I’d told them I’d be there when I could, and if they wanted, to start making my meals. Should I have called? Yes, in hindsight, I should’ve called and told them I’d be far later than anticipated.

About 5 minutes before I reached the location, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer the phone, as I generally ignore numbers I don’t recognize. When I did arrive at the location, they were closed.

They let me in to explain that they were closed, because Dorothy told them to close. She was the mysterious phone call, but opted not to leave voice mail. The caller did not leave voice mail. Had voice mail been left, I’d have immediately called her and said where we were. There were 2 of us, and we had a total of 8 meals, counting at least one duplicate, so it was not going to take us long to make them.

She explained that, as I was 30 minutes late, the employees had been standing around, not doing anything for 30 minutes, and she made the decision to close. Her solution was that they will make the meals for me, and I can pick them up at my convenience next week.

I’m very frustrated at this situation, for a number of reasons. Yesterday was the only day I could be there, and I wanted the meals for this weekend. In fact, picking up the meals next week doesn’t help, as Mac will be out hunting for much of October, so we won’t need the meals.

I drove 45 minutes in each direction, and accomplished nothing. I wasted an evening, and more importantly Mac wasted an evening, when he has a honey do list a mile long (splitting and chopping wood, refinishing my car’s headlights, removing the air conditioners from the windows, etc.), and leaves in less than a week for almost an entire month.

Perhaps my biggest frustration though, is that when I said to Dorothy that I’d indicated they could start making my meals, she said they were too busy to do that. Then, she said they’d been standing around, not doing anything, waiting for me to get there. I’m confused. Which is it? Were they too busy, or were they not doing anything, waiting for me to arrive?

What it comes down to is that, in their rush to leave early, the employees lost sight of how to provide customer service. When I was not there by 6:45, instead of wondering, “What do we do?” the employees should have said, “She said we can start making her meals. Let’s work on those, and she’ll take less time to assemble what remains. We can still go home early.” Instead of solving the problem in a way that would benefit all involved, the employees chose to solve the problem in a way that upset a long-time customer, and sends the message that customer satisfaction is not a consideration there.

I was frazzled, stressed, and was looking forward to having my session and spending an evening with Mac. While I like to assemble my own meals, I’d have even been fine with showing up and having all of my meals assembled. Instead, I was upset, stressed even more, and don’t have the meals I need for the weekend, but will end up with meals I don’t need sometime next week.

As it stands Mac wants me to cancel this order, and I probably will. He also suggested that we not return, and I will admit, I’m toying with that idea. We’ve struggled to find 36 servings to order with many of the recent months, between menu items that just aren’t appealing or menu items that seem priced way over their actual cost. My experience last night is just one more negative against a concept that I once loved.

As an update: Mac and I spoke at length, and I’ve cancelled the September order. I can’t justify having 8 meals sitting in the freezer for much of October, when at best, we’ll have about 4 days where we’ll need dinners before my next session. We’re still trying to figure if we’ll keep the October session, or if we’re walking away completely.


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