The following is a copy of a letter I sent to the 3 named officers of MOD Pizza on May 13, 2021 regarding an astonishingly-bad experience we had at their Missoula location on April 27, 2021. After 10 days went by with no acknowledgment or reply, I uploaded it to my website, emailed a copy to the company’s “feedback@” email address, and sent them feedback via their web form. As of now, we have still not received any acknowledgment or reply from them whatsoever. Needless to say, this is very disappointing, given how great all our other MOD experiences have been and what glowing write-ups they get in the trade press for their ethics and how well they treat their workers and customers. I would have expected, at the very least, an auto-reply to the email or web form.
the behavior of the staff at Missoula that day is acceptable to
“corporate”, at this point they might as well just sell
out to Yum! Brands and change their slogan from “Made on
demand”, to “Order off the menu board or we’ll call
May 13, 2021
To: Scott Svenson, C.E.O.
2035 158th Ct NE
Bellevue WA 98008
To: John Maguire, C.O.O.
2035 158th Ct NE
Bellevue WA 98008
To: Kristen Driscoll, V.P. of Operations
2035 158th Ct NE
Bellevue WA 98008
From: David Sherman
<Contact info redacted from this public copy>
<Contact info redacted from this public copy>
Dear Mr. Svenson,
Sally and I recently had an experience at your Missoula restaurant that reflects so seriously on your image and operations that I believe you would like to know about it personally. We’ve been fans of MOD Pizza since we happened to stop in front of your Lewiston, Idaho restaurant on a 2019 road trip and decided to check it out. We had never heard of MOD Pizza before, and were wonderfully surprised by the super-friendly staff, the excellent quality of the food, and the great price. Since then we’ve made MOD our after-shopping relaxation almost every time we go to Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, or Missoula. The experience has been uniformly positive, even when a just-opened restaurant was obviously ironing out the kinks in their operations, when there was a huge dinner rush, or when new covid restrictions had everyone wondering how to make it work. Without exception, the staff handled the situations gracefully, and no matter what else was happening, the pizza was always great. Round numbers, I’d say we’ve eaten at MOD 30-40 times (649 points on our Rewards app at this point), including many times in Missoula in past years, and we’ve always enjoyed it.
We recently went camping for a week, planning to stop in Missoula on the way back for some “big city” shopping (we live in a small town), and then cap off the day and the camping trip with a MOD pizza. The date was Tuesday, April 27th and the time was approximately 3:10 PM. When we entered your restaurant, there were no customers anywhere. The first thing we noticed was no friendly greeting. There were three women working, later identified as Siera Paige (identified as “manager #1”), Brie Fox, and Saphire Scherrer (identified as “manager #2”). There was also a male employee slouching at a table and working his phone.
When we walked in, one of the women behind the counter said “Do you have a mask?”. I said that I didn’t, and she told me I had to have one. I asked if I had to have a mask just to order a pizza and she said I did. This surprised me because even in Spokane at the height of the lockdowns, that wasn’t the policy, but I understand Missoula has strict city regulations and businesses must comply with them. At that point I said I didn’t want to order a pizza and we both left.
However, we had really been looking forward to a delicious MOD pizza, even if we had to get it to go, so Sally found a face shield and went in without me to order our usual. I won’t bore you with the details, but we always split a certain combination, made to order and we know how to order it quickly to keep the line moving when there are a lot of customers. On this particular occasion, though, there was no one else in the restaurant except your employees and Sally.
When Sally went back, there was no one behind the counter, and, again, no greeting. An employee (Brie) appeared and immediately laid out two sheets, apparently assuming Sally was going to order one pizza for me and one for herself. Brie’s first words were, “You’re getting this for takeout?” Sally, not knowing the two sheets were for her order, said, “Yes, one cauliflower crust pizza”. The following exchange ensued, with all words mumbled through masks and having to be repeated:
B – “What’s
the name on this?”
S – “Sally. But why are there 2 papers?”
B – “You wanted one of them cauliflower.”
S – “No, I want one cauliflower crust pizza.”
B – “Do you want a classic? Red sauce?”
S – “No, I want to build my own. But I want to start with red sauce on the whole thing.”
B – “Red sauce is classic. Mozzarella on it?”
S – “No. Was I supposed to say classic because I want to start with red sauce?”
B – “Classics are on the board.”
S – “Yes, I know. I want to build my own.”
B – “Mozzarella?”
S – “No, I want to build my own. I’ll tell you what I want next. I’d please like a whole lot of garlic over the whole thing.”
B – (slides pizza down the counter to the meats, giving it to Sierra Paige)
S – “Come back. After that nice garlic, I’d like basil over the whole thing.”
SP – (slides it to meats)
S – “No, come back”
SP – “You said no cheese, do you want meat?”
S – “I’ll tell you what I want next. I’d like mozzarella on half.”
SP – “You’re being rude.”
S – “No, I want to build my own pizza. You’re not listening to me.”
SP – “You’re being rude. I don’t have to serve a customer that’s being rude and disrespectful.”
S – “I’m not being rude. You’re the one to provide customer service.”
SP – “I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You’re being rude.”
S – “Really?”
SP – “You’re rude and I’m asking you to leave now” (repeated).
At that point, Sally left, fairly stunned by the experience.
After speaking of it a bit, Sally went back in to talk to the manager. Based on some good conversations we’d had with the manager of your Coeur d’Alene restaurant when they weren’t very busy, we assumed that you hire professional managers and that Sierra’s hostility was spurious and not representative of company or store policy. That’s where the following events began:
Sally asked to speak to the manager and Siera said that she was the manager. Sally wrote down her name and then was told that a third woman was also a manager.
With no further conversation SP told Sally, “I asked you to leave and if you don’t, I’ll call the cops.”
S: “What is the other manager’s name?”
SP: “Sapphire. I’d have to look up her last name.”
S: “I’ll wait and ask her when she’s free.” (she was serving one customer at that point)
When Sapphire was
done, S: “What’s your name?”
S: “Last name?”
S: “What’s the name of the other worker?”
SS: “Brie Fox”
S: “So, will you make me a pizza, please?”
SS: “I’m sorry I can’t serve you because you disrespected my other manager.”
S: “I wasn’t rude. Why can’t you take my order?”
SS: “We don’t have to serve customers who are rude to us” (SS walks away)
At that point, Sally left again.
This is per notes that Sally wrote shortly after we got home. If your Missoula employees dispute that this is substantially what happened, please review your surveillance video for that date and time. We were so disappointed in not being able to get a MOD pizza in Missoula that we drove all the way to Coeur d’Alene, a 90 mile round trip out of the way, instead of just going home, to get the pizza we had been anticipating. That’s why I’m taking the time to write a paper letter to you personally rather than just write a bad Yelp review and flame MOD on social media.
Sally and I are both in our 60s. We do not raise our voices or argue or make demands of service workers. If the restaurant was jammed, I could understand a counter worker wanting to hurry people along, although I’ve never seen any worker be brusque with customers in any other MOD restaurant. Sally owns and operates an “art and chocolate” gallery (her card is attached) and is well aware of the difficulty of finding and keeping good help these days. She’s also well aware of the basic principles of customer service, including listening to customers.
What your employees in Missoula did was beyond the pale of anything either of us has ever encountered at any other restaurant or store. If this had been our first experience with your restaurants, we would have left in shock, never to bother your workers again by asking them to make a pizza to order, or even let us inside their building.
It’s easy to throw bad reviews up on the Internet everywhere, but because of our past good experiences and what I’ve read of you and your company in the trade and financial press, I want to give you direct and detailed feedback. Ultimately, this is a failure of your company to properly train your workers. I checked to see if Missoula was a franchised location, thinking that may explain the hostility of the workers, but it appears to be a company-owned store. Franchisees pay a substantial up-front charge for training. Do company stores get the same instructions?
To be clear, I have no issue with mask requirements, although a friendly “Hello” prior to “Do you have a mask?” would be nice. I only mentioned it as a possible explanation for Brie initially assuming Sally wanted two pizzas. We all have to work with whatever regulations the local government has in place.
The issue here, though, is quite simple. Your employees, faced with only one customer in the entire store, tried to rush Sally through her order, repeatedly making assumptions, refusing to listen to what she wanted, and then accusing her of being “disrespectful”. Sierra then very quickly demanded that she leave, and even though Sally’s only response was a shocked, “Really?”, Sierra immediately repeated her demand. Watch the surveillance video. There was absolutely no excuse for that.
By the way, I have never been in a MOD location when there weren’t at least a few other customer in there. It might be a coincidence, or these women might be driving many customers away. By the way, the two “managers” defended each other and neither was the least bit willing to listen to Sally. If you hired these women for the purpose of keeping customers out of your restaurant, I’d say they’re doing a good job. We certainly won’t be bothering them again.
If you have instructed them that they do not need to serve any customer they deem “disrespectful” or “rude”, I would respectfully suggest that you define what you mean by that a lot more clearly. It seems odd to me that a company whose very name is “Made On Demand” would deem it “disrespectful” or “rude” for a customer, especially a sole customer in an otherwise empty restaurant, to ask your employee (a manager, no less) to slow down and listen to her order. Threatening to call the police on a tiny 60 year old woman who has neither raised their voice nor refused to leave is utterly astonishing. Is this really what you train your employees to do? Do you train your managers to threaten to call the police when a customer wants to speak with a manager about a service issue?
Given how hard it is to find and keep good help these days, in all sincerity I think you’d be better off closing your Missoula restaurant rather than let employees like that totally destroy your brand. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and if this had been our first impression of MOD, we’d never venture back. Everything they did was completely contrary to the “pizza with a purpose” image you’ve been cultivating. Paying four people to stand in an empty restaurant and threaten to call the police on a customer for having the temerity to ask for a pizza to be made the way they want it is of negative value to your larger operations. Perhaps you’re expanding too fast and are losing control of quality. Perhaps this is an anomaly and has never happened in any of your other stores or to any other customers. Or perhaps it’s a symptom of deeper issues.
I’ll leave it to you to evaluate the significance of our lousy experience in the larger context of your entire organization. But please take this letter as constructive feedback from what’s happening out in the hinterlands of your operations. I hope you can get a handle on this sort of thing and get your customer service back on track, because what we experienced that day in Missoula looks really bad.