wenhaver (wenhaver) wrote in bad_service,

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not so much bad as... creepy and offputting

This happened about a year and a half ago. My husband and I were talking about it again today, and he suggested that I post the story here because it was just so strange.

Anyway, I had a yen for some bread from Panera. We stopped at a newer location that I had never been at before, because it was close to the grocery store and Blockbuster, and we were planning to go to both places that night anyway. While we were there, I decided I was hungry and wanted a sammich. My husband decided to get one, too.

So we order, no big deal. I tried to pay with my debit card, because I had just gotten paid that day and hadn't pulled out any spending cash yet. I had, however, logged into my bank account right before we left home and verified that my direct deposit went through correctly, because I'm anal and I like to make sure of these things. So I was suprised and embarassed when my card was declined. My husband didn't have any cash on him, either. So with flaming red faces, we apologized and asked the cashier (who was the manager on duty) to cancel our order. Chris (my husband) thought that we should run to the little ATM shack in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center, and see if we could get at least an account balance to see what was going on with our money.

The Panara guy started arguing with us about our order. He didn't want to cancel it, he wanted to give it to us and have us come in later to pay for it. Which is nice and all, but he didn't know us, and we felt very uncomfortable taking food that we hadn't paid for. He insisted, and basically refused to give my debit card back unless we agreed to take the food and come back later. By this time, Chris and I were truly weirded out, because this guy was SO insistant that we take this food, even though the card being declined had nothing to do with poor customer service or anything on his part, and there was no reason to give us a freebie at all.

While I waited for our sammiches, Chris ran up to the ATM machine, used his debit card and pulled out a $20. The balance was right on, and to this day I have no idea why the card was declined because I used it twice more later that night with no problems. Anyway. Chris got the receipt from me, and went up to the counter to try to pay the guy. He REFUSED to let us pay. He would not take our money. He just kept staring at us, telling us we were cool, and that we should come back more often. Remember, neither of us had *ever* been to that location before, and we had never met this guy before.

I don't know. I mean, we got $15 worth of free food, which was nice and all. But the guy was so creepy and so strange about refusing to let us pay for it that we were both seriously weirded out by it. I'm not normally overly-paranoid, but I half expected the cops to show up at our door later to arrest us for stealing or something. It was just a very, very weird and uncomfortable situation. I've worked retail before, and I know that you don't just give stuff away for free like that for no reason. And he punched it in, so his till had to have been off that night, and he had no justification for it.

We haven't been back since, and every time we pass it, we call it "The Creeeeeepy Panera".

What would you guys do in that situation? We were trying to be graceful and not cause a scene when he refused to give my card back until we stayed, but why wouldn't he let us pay?
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