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Fat bill at Fatburger

fatburger1Have you met anyone who enjoys being nickel-and-dimed? Do you know anyone who embraces unexpected add-on charges? Of course not. That’s because these business practices are irritating.

Last week, I brought my family to Fatburger to enjoy a good hamburger (their burgers are delicious). Since this was my first time at Fatburger, I was especially attentive to things like cleanliness, customer service, value for price paid, etc.

I spotted a sign near the register promoting kid’s meals for $5.59. This included a hamburger, fries, and a drink. Since three of my four children were interested, I placed an order for three kid’s meals with plain cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate milks.

When I received the total, I immediately felt like it was too high (not the sort of reaction you want customers to have in response to their bills). After paying, I joined my family at one of the booths and began scrutinizing the receipt (again, this is not the sort of reaction you want customers to have after completing their purchases).

After adding up the cost of the $5.59 kid’s meals that I ordered, each totaled $7.36 before tax.

Here’s the breakdown from the receipt:

$2.79 Hamburger
0.79 Cheese
1.69 Chocolate milk
2.09 Fries
$7.36 Total

That’s $1.77 or 32 percent more per meal than I expected to pay! I felt nickel-and-dimed by the unexpected add-on charges. When I approached the manager during my meal to inquire about the charges (yet another reaction you don’t want customers to have), he graciously refunded me one dollar for each kid’s meal I purchased.

Now, I suppose a Fatburger representative would point out my own negligence in either overlooking the menu’s fine print (something else that irritates most customers) or failing to inquire about the price differential when ordering chocolate milk as opposed to a soft drink.

But she would be missing the point.

You don’t win these types of debates with customers. And even if you score more debate points, who cares? The customer ultimately decides who the real winners are because, in business, winning is influenced by factors such as repeat purchases, referrals, and other characteristics of loyal customers.

Personally, I am loyal to Chipotle Mexican Grill. Like Fatburger, Chipotle has clean restaurants and an amazing product. But unlike Fatburger, I’m not surprised by unexpected add-on charges and don’t feel compelled to scrutinize their receipts.

When I order a burrito with cheese and sour cream, the price doesn’t change. And if I order guacamole, the server will always announce the extra charge and gain acceptance before adding it to my burrito—avoiding an unpleasant surprise at the register.

In spending my discretionary income to dine out at a quick service restaurant, I will choose fat burritos with no surprises over fat bills with unexpected add-on charges.

How about you? Why do you choose to spend where you spend?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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