Would You Boycott a Business for Bad Customer Service?

bad customer service, boycotting a restaurant, customer service


I love Subway, but there’s one location that I won’t visit again, ever.

My wife had ordered a Subway party sub for my birthday. When my wife picked it up, she immediately noticed that it was made with the wrong type of bread, and pointed it out to the manager. He apologized and gave her a certificate for another party sub to be used in the future. Since the bread is baked a day ahead of time, there wasn’t anything they could do for us that day.

When we redeemed our free party sub certificate, that same manager even thew in a cookie platter free of charge to make sure we were taken care of. We were very impressed by the manager, and his customer service skills.

About a month later, we ordered a party sub again from the same location for the Super Bowl. When I unwrapped the sub at home I noticed that even though I had ordered two different varies of sandwich, they had made the entire sub the same. I called the store, and again I was told they were sorry that nothing could be done on that day, but to call the next day and the manager would take care of us.

Being an avid viewer of Judge Judy, I knew that I had better document the situation.

I removed the top layer of bread from a few pieces and took a picture with my cell phone. The picture clearly showed the sub was all the same kind as pepperoni was exposed across the entire sub sandwich.

I left a message for the manager the next day, but he did not get back for me for a few days. When he did, he questioned my truthfulness. He stated that the sandwich artist was positive she made the sandwich correctly and believed her. I happened to mention the picture I took.

He was suddenly very interested, and asked that I email it to him.

I did as he had requested and waited to hear back, but I never did. I stopped in the restaurant and called a few times, but he was never available. I sent a few more emails, but he never responded.

Due to his lack of response, I decided to boycott that particular Subway.

My boycott has been in effect for over three years, and I will never go back. It’s unfortunate because this Subway is at a very convenient location, being very close to both my home as well as work. However, I happily drive a little further each time I want Subway to avoid that location. I was accused of being a liar, and even with clear evidence to the contrary, they still were not interested in correcting their mistake.

Therefore I am no longer interested in giving them my business.

Have you ever boycotted a business? How long did you boycott, and would you ever go back?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • You mention dealing with the manager. Did you try contacting the owner of the franchise? Most franchise restaurants have a little plaque somewhere on a wall that indicates who owns that particular location and their contact information.

    Also, you can always try going to the corporate customer service department. They are selling a brand to franchisees and want to make sure the local guys aren’t doing anything to diminish the brand value.

  • I don’t mind boycotting a business with bad customer service. That is our only way to vote for a business. If you don’t like them, then don’t be a patron. There are quite a few businesses on my list and I won’t give them another chance.

  • I went to Ruby Tuesday’s in Taylor, MI. I recieved my food with an inch worm crawling across a leaf of lettuce on my plate of food. The manager accused me of bringing “my little friend” in with me inorder to get free food. That was in 1998. I haven’t been back since and have shared the story anytime a friend offers to go there. I will not visit that location or any Ruby Tuesday because of it.

  • @Shawn – funny you should mention that….I did actually send an email to corporate through their webpage. The message must of gotten send down to the owner, as they called me. Coincidentally, the owner and the manager had the same last name (I remember the gentleman’s nametag, and matched it to the name on my caller ID). Unfortunately I wasn’t home when they called….they left a message saying they wanted to discuss what had happened and that they would call back – but never did. It just solidified my boycott.

  • I’ve done it many times, and will do it again as needed. As Grayson astutely pointed out, you have to vote with your dollar, or else nothing will change.

  • @Jenny – “mind-blogglingly bad” <- you make me laugh. 🙂 Here's a question for you....many times if you write a company they may send you a gift card to help make it right. If that happened, would you use it?

  • Depends on how bad. If it was so bad I didn’t want to deal with the company again, I’d SELL it! If it was so bad I didn’t want to give them any money but I wouldn’t feel like going in would be a huge pain, I’d use just a bit below the gift card amount. If it was bad but not THAT bad, I’d spend a little more than the gift card and would see if they could win me back.

    I did get one gift card once–just once–from a place that was so terrifically awful that I felt bad to even give the gift card to anyone or sell it, so I threw it away.

  • @Jenny – Selling it is a good option, but I have to say, I’m a bit surprised that you would consider giving a place a second shot. I would have pegged you for taking the hardline and throwing them away. 🙂

    I don’t plan on ever going back to this Subway location regardless of what they do (not that they’d do anything at this point). It wasn’t just bad service in the restaurant – they accused me of lying, insulted my integrity, and then failed to deal with the situation at all.

    I’m completely done with them.

  • Hey Brock,

    Another great posting. For sure I wouldn’t give them another penny of my money. It seems like they keep messing things up for you.



  • Eh, everybody can have a hard day, and sometimes the training just plain doesn’t stick with an employee. If management are complete jerks, forget it, though.

    I also try to blame who’s really at fault–like in a restaurant, it may be the waiter, it may be the management of the kitchen, or one cook, or it may be the front of house management.

    I don’t reduce a waiter’s tip if they’re working their backsides off against a terribly managed kitchen, but I will fuss at the back-of-house manager and tell him that he’s hurting the wait staff by doing such a terrible job back there.

    I also ask to speak to the manager if the service and food is great, just to tell them how wonderful it is. 🙂

    My local Lowe’s used to have terrible, terrible management, but they fired the old manager and hired someone new, and in three weeks, it was like a miracle. I told every employee and member of management I found how much of an improvement it was. I even called corporate to tell them they made a great move with the hire and had won me back. (I had called twice in the past because it was so very bad–like completely unable to get loading help of any sort for a full hour bad.)

    My own very worst experience as an employee was being put behind a register at a department store with no training except “You can figure it out!” for the FIRST TIME EVER the day after Christmas, dealing with all the returns.

    After the first couple of impatient customers, I made a spiel: “I’m sorry, but not enough employees came in today to cover the registers. I’m a seasonal employee, I’ve been here one week, and I’ve never operated a register before, so please forgive me if I’m slow. Management thought it was better to have me try to do my best than to have no one covering the register here at all, so I’m moving as fast as I can.” That helped enormously, and no one was brusque with me after that! 🙂

  • @James – It’s really the manager that I have the issue with. Recently they closed the location because they built a brand new building – about half a block away (the previous location was a “shared” building with another business and the drive through configuration was horrible). I thought about going in and seeing if the same guy still worked there – as if he’s no longer associated I would have no problem going back.

  • @Jenny – I’m glad you brought up the point of identifying who’s really at fault. As I wrote in my comment to @James, it’s the manager I really have the issue with. If I found that he no longer worked at that location I wouldn’t have a problem going back.

    That’s a great personal story about you working the register – it IS amazing the difference it can make to explain to people the full situation.

    Always great to get your thoughts, Jenny!

  • Without a doubt! I would not think twice about boycotting a business and letting them know about why I am doing it. The reality is that the market is pretty saturated with the majority of products and services and usually the deciding factor in the mind of most consumers is customer service.

  • @Timothy Mobley – Very true – which is why it’s not really that big of an inconvenience for me to drive to the next Subway. It does take a little extra time, but I always smile as I drive by the boycotted location to get to the one I now give my business to.

  • I’ve been boycotting American cars since I went to buy my first one in 1982 and the American car dealers were uniformly rude to me and the other dealers were helpful. For example, the Ford dealer’s sales guys, sitting around, did not want to take me out for a test drive: “Look, lady, you are either going to buy the car or not; you don’t need to drive it.”

    The fun part is that at the time, I did not know that one did not pay the list price on the window: if I could have driven that Mustang and it made up the long hill I drove every day, I would have paid that list price that day. (Fortunately, in recounting my car hunting travails on Monday, a friend explained the whole process with me and went with me to negotiate on the Toyota Celica I eventually bought.

  • Oh, and businesses that use hazelnut scent (those candles) or where the manager or the employee uses way, way too much after shave or cologne…I get stuffed up. I will mention the candle scent before I leave, but I haven’t figured out a tactful way to mention the aftershave…if the place is convenient, I will try twice before I cross it off my list.

    I am giving businesses my money; of course customer service makes a difference.

  • @Sassy – Wow, that is a LONG time to be boycotting American cars! They were definitely rude to you, and I would have walked out too. Would you ever think of giving them another shot after 30+ years?

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