Teachable Moment: Resolve Guest Problems


Two women have been waiting for their brunch order. They flag down the waiter, and one of the women complains, “we’ve been waiting an hour for our food! What is the problem?”

The waiter protests, “It has not been an hour.”

The woman defensively insists, “Yes it has. Well, it almost has. We ordered at about 1:15pm.”

The waiter starts doing the math and says, “It’s only been 40 minutes, but I can go check on your order.”


  • The waiter made the mistake of responding to the woman’s words—rather than to her intended complaint. The woman was upset because she had been waiting a long time for her food. The exact amount of time was not important.
  • Arguing with a customer does not alleviate the problem and does not move you closer to problem resolution. By disagreeing with his customer and challenging her honesty, the waiter made his customer defensive and more upset.
  • One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton states, “I own and immediately resolve guest problems.” The waiter had the chance to turn the customer’s frustration into a positive, memorable moment. However, he did little to ease the customer’s dissatisfaction.