Dunkin’ Donuts Causes Outrage With a Staggeringly Distasteful Approach to Customer Service

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

How many weeks since we had the joy of watching a Manhattan lawyer yelling at and threatening staff in a deli, just because they happened to speak to each other in Spanish?

Well, here we have a Dunkin’ Donuts that might have rewarded that lawyer.

You see, a Baltimore branch of the chain featured a sign near the counter.

It made for fascinating reading:

If you hear any of our staff SHOUTING in a language other than ENGLISH Please call 443-415-7775 immediately with the name of the employee to receive a coupon for FREE Coffee and a pastry.

Ah. Oh.

So it’s OK for staff to shout in English, but not, say, in Spanish? Or Polish? How about Welsh?

What about English with a heavy Scottish accent? 

And what if the customer is from abroad and doesn’t realize that Baltimore-accented English is, in fact, English?

Then there’s the whole business of shouting versus speaking.

Dunkin’ Donuts can be a noisy place. What if someone is speaking loudly because they want to be heard and somebody — perhaps clutching a Noise Level Meter — deems this shouting?

The sign was first spotted by WBAL-TV producer Gillian Morley, who posted it to Twitter

Some might think that a general manager of anything who’d think this even vaguely sensible ought not to be a general manager of anything.

Still, I asked the corporate Dunkins what they thought of it.

A spokeswoman for the chain replied: 

Dunkin’ Donuts and our franchisees share the goal of creating a welcoming and hospitable environment for all guests. The franchise owner has informed us that the sign was posted by their general manager based on her own personal judgment to ensure those standards are being met. While her intent was to address a customer service and satisfaction issue, the franchisee determined her approach was inappropriate and confirmed the sign has been removed. 

How many customers would be satisfied to see such a sign, especially in our racially troubled times?

How could it possibly be welcoming and hospitable if guests are encouraged to snitch on staff — and, who knows, get them fired — for the blessed reward of a free coffee and pastry?

What sort of hospitality would staff be willing to offer if they know their boss wants customers to spy on them?

I asked Dunkin’ Donuts for the corporate view of the sign itself and this approach to customer service. Sadly, I didn’t get a reply. Or a free coffee and pastry.

Who knows what the full backstory to this might be?

But whatever issue you might have with your staff, co-opting customers suggests that you’ve lost that managing feeling.

Yes, a franchisee can determine the environment presented in their store. It’s the job of management — not customers — to ensure that happens.

Sometimes, too, the corporate controllers can admit when a local store has it wrong.

This happened in the case of Starbucks, with an infamous incident in Philadelphia that led to a complete policy change as to the use of bathrooms.

But this sign seems so devoid of basic humanity that it might make one or two people bow their heads and weep.