Smoothie King, Bad Customer Service and a Lesson in Flexibility


I just paid $10.90 for a 32 oz smoothie. Yep, that’s right, a smoothie. And it didn’t have a filet mignon steak blended in with white truffle oil either. It was mango/peanut butter flavor (I know it sounds terrible, but trust me it’s excellent). The whole ordeal started during my trip to Florida a few weeks back where an employee at the Smoothie King in Destin talked me into getting their locally created concoction. I loved it so much that I wanted my local Brentwood, TN store to make me one just like it. That’s when it all went wrong and the lack of flexibility and customer service ended up losing me as a customer.

Since I knew the mango/peanut butter is not on the menu, I called the store in Destin and got the recipe: 7 squirts of water, 6 squirts of mango, 2 scoops of peanut butter and a serving of gladiator. As I place my order, the girl behind the counter at first would not accept my recipe. “The machine prints our order. You have to order one from the menu,” was her first response. “But I want the same product I had at the Smoothie King in Florida,” I pleaded. “I’m only supposed to give you only 4 squirts of mango. I have to charge you another dollar for the extra.” “A dollar for an extra 2 squirts?” I asked incredulous? “Yes and more for the peanut butter as well.” “Don’t I get two fruits with that order?” I tried again. “Yes, but peanut butter is not a fruit,” she said losing patience with me. So by now I realized that this was not going anywhere. This girl had no flexibility and she was not interested in helping me out. “Do I get a credit for having only one fruit?” “No.”

“Come on, give me a break,” I said in frustration. “You’re welcomed to speak with my manager but I don’t want to cheat my employer.” Wow, now she has played the integrity card. I tried telling her that I had this before several times and there has never been an extra charge, but it didn’t matter because now it was a matter of integrity and of her cheating by not charging me extra for deviating from the “printed” formula.

At the end of it all, I end up paying $10.90 for a smoothie that should have tasted a lot better than it did. Perhaps my bitterness over the inflexibility and lack of customer service affected the taste somehow.

As I ponder over my experience, I’m not sure that if it was the price tag, or the lack of flexibility that got the worst of me. I don’t mind paying more for something I really like, but inflexibility just drive me nuts. We’re all in the communication business, whether you’re a business executive, pastor, parent or clerk at the local Smoothie King, and when we can’t change the rules, we need to make the customer feel good about the experience.

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

Have you ever tried to order a egg white omelet at a Waffle House in southern Alabama? Please don’t. That’s another blog post for later.  

Have you faced poor customer service that drove you away from a business lately?

  • Mark Smith

    It's interesting that you talked about flexibility. There are certain personality types that are not suited for jobs where they can't follow the rules 100%. These people should work as inspectors and accountants and should stay way from retail for sure.

  • Sally Dubois

    Did you see the new show "Undercover Boss?" Last night the show was about the COO of Roto-Rooter. A call rep was training the boss and she had it figured it out. She said something like "We are not here to take calls and sell them on our product but to make them feel taken care." That's the spirit of customer service that even the boss didn't understand.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Mark, you're so right. Some people should not work in retail for sure.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Yes! I saw that part last night. That was a great insight.

  • Susan

    Maurilio, I do see your point (believe me!) but what if the employee was not empowered to deviate from the menu? What if she was convinced that she HAD to follow the rules or get fired? What if she was desperately trying to do the right thing according to her understanding? Granted, it could be just the wrong person in the wrong job, but maybe she was trying her best according to the parameters she had been given. Just wanted to put in a plug for those who don't feel they have the right or the authority to countermand a superior's orders.

  • todshuttleworth

    It is so much easier for people not to think. I wonder if her employer came down on her prior, or she just really prefers not to think.

  • Devin

    I feel that things like this happen too often with businesses, and I think these are a few of the reasons why.

    #1. Most employees in today's workforce are there for the paycheck and nothing more. I believe that this stems from having a lack of ownership in the company. They feel that they are peons in the grand scheme of things, they are the ones making upper management rich. I could see this leading to a mindset going "If I don't care about what's good for the company, and you present me with something that's going to take me more work, then why should I bother to help you?" I hear people all the time talk smack the company they work for, and I think it is impossible to not let that cross over to your work attitude.

    #2. Things are becoming more automated. Companies are finding out that it's cheaper to have set standards and do stuff cookie cutter style. Everything is calculated down to the penny. If you try to break out of their rules, problems happen.

    #3. Companies are very short sighted in there approach to making money.
    My parents were at a mexican restaurant in Bellevue a few years back, after their meal they were chatting for a couple of minutes. Then the manager walked up and asked them to leave since they had finished their meal and had others waiting. My parents weren't to happy about this type of service. Now in the short term it made sense money wise for the manager, he had paying customers in line. But what he wasn't calculating was the hundreds of bucks his restaurant would lose because of my parents no longer eating there. In your case it was probably going to cost them an extra 50 cents to make your smoothie, but because they decided to charge you it's going to cost them $468 bucks in the next year… (assuming you go there twice a week.)

    I'll buy you a thing of JIF, then you will be all set 🙂

  • paulaswift

    Oh boy…. I worked at Nordstrom for years and this behavior would have been grounds for disciplinary action. Not so much the fact that she was unable to make a decision – more so just plain laziness – but the manner in which it was handled. No matter what our limitations were or were not as sales people – we would continue to kindly go up the ladder until we reached someone who could help the customer fulfill their request or take over in a final "no" – and in such a kind manner – offering other alternatives.

    I got to experience this a bit today when a sales associate at Home Depot tried to overcharge me for a plant that was clearly marked with signs otherwise. While getting the associates to understand the scenario, they were so bothered by the fact that they discovered I was right! No "I'm sorry" of any sorts…. WTH!!!!!

  • MaurilioAmorim

    I understand someone who has to do a job, but her attitude was the problem.

  • Debbie

    This makes me think of that quirky movie "Falling Down" when they can't sell the man a biscuit at 10:31 even though there is a biscuit because the biscuit button is null and void. Then he goes crazy and shoots the place up. Not offering this as solution or even suggesting you might go nuts. Simply employees are rarely empowered to be flexible. Gone our the days when our quirky requests can be easily accomodated by our regular server because we are regulars. I do agree with Devin; somehow it is a sale transaction and not a relationship.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    I spend a whole lot more than $468 a year. Often I buy other things while waiting online.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    I usually kill my plants and take them back to Home Depot for a refund. 🙂

  • Mike Christian

    Have you tried 9 Fruits in Cool Springs. I hear it is really good. Two young guys have started it with a twist on the 9 fruits of the Spirit. There is even a side ad running on Groupon Nashville right now a coupon for $5 for two medium smoothies.

  • Mike Christian
  • Evan

    Please call to discuss your complaint about this location. I would like to gather some additional information so I can help to correct the situation and work with the Franchisee to retrain the team members. Thank You.

    985-635-6973 ext 135

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Debbie, I believe some people have an innate gift of service, and others don't. Some people want to help and others want to perform a task. Successful businesses find a way to place employees with the gift of service on their front lines.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Thanks Mike.I'll check them out.

  • traci

    Oh yes, many places have lost my business over their attitude. If you just give me an "I'm sorry," or "We're working on it," I am fine, but when customer service doesn't exist – which I find more and more these days – it is easy enough to go somewhere else and shop or eat.

    The reverse also works for me. If I get amazing customer service, I wrote glowing letters and refer friends and family there, plus they get my repeat business.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Traci, I just had a great experience at Back Yard Burger after I ordered a chicken salad and substituted the chicken with their wickedly spicy chicken. The girl at the register had to figure out how to punch in the order. She charged me an extra 40 cents and made sure I got what I wanted. She was sweet and helpful and I'm very happy with that experience.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Thanks for following up, Evan. I plan on touching base with you soon.

  • srivera

    Glad to hear that they contacted you to follow up….are you getting a coupon? 😉

  • Melody

    Had a Blockbuster once charge me a late fee on a video game. I returned it, a week later they called and said the case was empty. I insisted that I checked it before dropping it off. They found it a few days later but insisted that either I or my husband must have found it and brought it back. They made me pay late fees for two weeks! I've not entered a Blockbuster since.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    I think I am.

  • Suzanne Franks

    I agree that it is ultimately a management problem. The manager should train, but should allow enough freedom for employees to provide good customer service. Unfortunately, we sometimes end up with quasi-robots that are neither efficient nor friendly.

  • Amber Bay

    9 Fruits in Cool Springs is fantastic…and they use fruit, not "squirts". Also, their pricing is far more reasonable than Smoothie King's! My husband was spending $10 a day at Smoothie King but was able to get the same thing for half that price at 9 Fruits, and felt better physically as a result.

  • Mitch Ebie

    Maurilio, you have got to get your next smoothie at Nine Fruits in Cool Springs. I am positive that they will do it right.

  • MaurilioAmorim

    Since then I've been to Nine Fruits a couple of times and absolutely love their product as well as their concept. Just met with Kevin Banks today and we're working on a couple of projects for them.

  • ninefruits

    Maurilio, I hope your 9 Fruits experience was more pleasant than this one was. I must say, your Mango Peanut Butter smoothie surprised me. I didn't think I would like it but it was actually pretty good. Thanks to those who praised 9 Fruits in the comments above!

  • Is the theme you use for your site available anywhere?

  • dave

    i had a bad experience at smoothy king they suck

  • Jim

    I work at Smoothie King and honestly after reading this, I can tell you with certainty that lady was just being a bitch. This is not usual for Smoothie King Employees, she was either new or had sand in her vagina. 

    I’m always up to give people extra stuff if they ask for it nicely and if I think they’re genuine people. I tend to not do it as much if we’re in a rush or I’m just in a bad mood (which is rare) but I usually help people out. I’m sorry you had a bad experience, if you came to my store, I’d hook you up. Your problem was for that particular store, so keep your panties on! Every person I’ve ever worked with at Smoothie King has been really nice to me and the customers and we’re always willing to help someone out if they’re nice. Tipping us will earn you more respect so the next time you come in, we’ll make it extra good for you (We know the secrets to making the perfect Smoothie!).Hope this helped!Jim. 

  • smoothie queen

    i work at smoothie king and she was only doing her job. you are loaded and if you are going to bitch and moan about paying a few extra bucks like EVERYONE ELSE DOES you need to relfect on what is really imporant in life. you think you deserve the red carpet because you are rich and drive a maserati or whatever, well guess what you get the same treatment as everyone else. i get charged extra when i add cheese to my burgers and when i add flavors to my coffee. all you brentwood moms and dads go insane when you don’t get your peanut butter, but we are laughing at your pettiness. i am not going to take the time to figure out what you do for a living, but i’m sure you would not jsut GIVE AWAY items or your time or anything else that you paid for or is yours. you should delete this entire post because YOU STILL GO TO THAT STORE.

    ps-jim, you should be fired (if you already are not). and maurilio, you should tip to get better service.

    smoothie king employees RULE

  • SK dude

    Having been a part of the Smoothie Kingdom for many years, I’d like to say a couple things that might help. First of all, you got to understand that the dude in Destin was not “technically” right to not charge for you all that extra stuff the very first time. This obviously set a precedent that was misleading. I agree with Jim in that the girl you dealt with should definitely have been nicer and tried to explain the situation to you, but she may also have been brand new, fresh off the training floor, and just trying to do her job and not get fired. The objective of any retail establishment is always always always to please the customer. If that means maybe cutting them a break on occasion, so be it. That’s just something management may not have communicated to her, which is obviously a problem. But do please understand that you were indeed asking for special treatment.

    Now, that having been said, Smoothie Queen also makes a good point. Smoothie King’s target market is folks of the upper-middle or upper class. This means we have to deal with a lot of rich douchebags on a daily basis. They’re used to being catered to, and when we’re simply not able to do that, we don’t care if they throw a fit or not, because frankly we don’t feel they deserve special treatment. I am in no way saying you’re a rich douchebag, because I don’t know you and that’s not fair. I would encourage you however to put yourself every now and then in our shoes, and realize that we simply can’t break the rules for everybody that asks. I will also say that when you get a special drink, if you throw a couple bucks at whoever rings you up and return to order the same at another date, if the employee is able they will almost always hook you up every time. Tipping goes a long way, my man.

    Hope that sheds some light on your situation. I don’t think you’re a douchebag, and you should have been treated better at the store, but don’t get too keyed up when you can’t get the hook up everywhere. If you don’t treat us like we’re special, we’ll treat you the same.

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