Abyssinia Cafe: Customer Service FAIL

Abyssinia Restaurant

One of the reasons we’ve been able to afford eating out since Paul has been unemployed is because of WTTE’s Dining Out Deals, where area restaurants offer discounted gift certificates in return for advertising on the news – because of that program, we’ve had quite a few great meals (at places like Barrio, Gallo’s Tap Room, etc). We saw the advertising for the one at Abyssinia Cafe on the news, and knowing that we had those gift certificates, we decided to pick up my mother yesterday to treat her to a belated birthday lunch.

We arrived early yesterday afternoon to a completely empty restaurant, and were directed to seat ourselves – upon sitting down, we noticed a sign saying that they weren’t accepting gift certificates. Seeking to get clarification, we showed the woman at the restaurant our certificates (which are supposed to be valid, having not yet reached the expiration date), to which she responded that she would not honor them. I explained to her that we had spent $25 for them (for $50 face value in certificates), and at the very least we expected reimbursement (in the form of food would have been fine) for the money we were out. She said no, it’s not her problem, that they couldn’t afford to honor any certificates after 3 people came in with them in the first couple of days, and that they did not authorize WTTE to give out any gift certificates – they had not accepted them after the 3rd day they were issued. Not wanting to argue with the woman, I basically said, “it’s sad that you’re willing to lose my business over $25-$50 – I won’t be surprised if you’re out of business in a few months if this is the way you operate” and got up to leave – she started yelling at me, told me that God was on her side and I was the devil, with me yelling back that she was a liar for saying that she wasn’t aware of the certificates since I had seen her on the news pimping them, and that she was getting the benefit of the advertising while anyone who shelled out good money for the certificates (100 people, in total) got screwed. It got ugly, folks. And now I’m out $25. Lovely. What a ripoff. When I twittered about it, I got a response from someone holding one of their GC’s wondering if they would get the same reception at the restaurant? So consider this a warning – both of the poor customer service at Abyssinia Cafe – who were happy to take WTTE’s advertising without honoring what they were contractually bound with WTTE to provide, and for those of you who have also bought the gift certificates, which are absolutely worthless. I’ll be contacting WTTE tomorrow to see how they’re willing to resolve this, and will update accordingly.

Update: Alls well that ends well. WTTE/IncentRev was great about the situation, and let me exchange the worthless GC’s for gift certificates of equal value from an open Dining Deals offer. I encourage any of you who are also in this situation to contact WTTE/IncentRev directly.

33 thoughts on “Abyssinia Cafe: Customer Service FAIL

  1. Arron

    So i went to the same restraunt with a cupon that i recieved and had a chat with the women as she explained to me what has been happening. Sometimes its better to see both sides of the story. Apparently she was given no hint of anyone recieving cupons and paid around $250 for advertising. I sat and listened to her story about how she has 2 kids in colledge, one to take care of at home who is a teenager and desperatly looking for a job to help pay for the restraunt debt due to this rcession. So i am sorry that your husband is unemployed but considering what i have heard of their situation, you can not compare. Their story has touched me and she offered to take my phone number so she could fix the situation she has with WTTE . I decided it wasn't worth it. A HUNDRED people eating 50 dollar meals is hard on a small buisness. I have a hard time beliveing she said all those things to you but i would like to say, sometimes instead of assuming about peoples lives and how mcuh money they MUST be making just because they have a buisness… Listen to their stories. I'm a journalist and that is one of the greatest things i have learned in life, is to listen befroe i assume. Understand rather than judge.

  2. columbusfoodie Post author

    If she told you that she wasn't aware of the promotion, then she's lying to you – someone above was kind enough to post the video of her spot on WTTE: http://www.myfox28columbus.com/shared/newsroom/fe… As you can see, she's standing right there when the anchor tells people to log on to buy their half price gift certificates.

    Nonetheless, she could have very well handled the situation in a different way. I'm not an unreasonable person – I would have been more than happy to accept what I paid for the gift certificates ($25) in the form of food, and instead of using my forum to complain on how they received something (obviously more than $250 in advertising, given the reach of Good Day Columbus) when I received nothing, I maybe instead would been writing a positive review if the food and service were good, which would have been posted here, on Twitter, and on Columbus Underground. Given that the life of these gift certificates were 6 months, 100 of them staggered out over that time would have been an acceptable business expense. Instead, she stopped honoring them (which no doubt, she contracted to do with incentRev/WTTE) after the first couple of days.

    She had control over how she handled the situation, and she handled it poorly. Even more so when she chased after me when I was going to leave and started yelling at me. I don't wish failure on anyone in this economy, but if she does fail at this venture, she has no one to blame but herself.

    Oh, and maybe you can just throw $25 to the wind, but our family is not in a situation where we can. Eating out has become a bit of a luxury this year, and since we had promised this meal to my mother for her birthday, it became a bit of a disappointment that we weren't able to do this for her. Instead, we'll give our business to Blue Nile, even if it does cost us a bit more without the gift certificates.

  3. LMJ

    This is a terrible situation and I'll probably never go there because of how that woman treated customers.

    Also, I would not be surprised if "Arron" worked for or knew the family. It sounds suspiciously like an attempt to clear their name, despite evidence that the Cafe knew about the gift certificates.

  4. David

    Are you sure is she said those words? I am a regular customer for long time, I admired her approch and service, I don't know what is going on there.

  5. Kelsie

    I have been bringing my husband and kids to this restaurant for three years now and they love the food, and i happen to think the owner is a kind women. Ethiopian people in nature are the kindest people you will ever meet. For you to make the owner seem like such a terrible person is a shame. She might not have known about the coupons or might not have understood the deal but her approach to the customers is more than humble. I think anyone that has went there before would agree the food and service is wonderful. You can say im lieing or believe this lie of a review posted on this page but i gutantee you if you go check this place out for yourself, it speaks for yourself. It was also out in a newspaper review for its great customer service as well as its unique tasteful dishes. Just go check it out. You will not be treated as written terribly above.

  6. Lori

    I take my kids and my husband there every sunday and i never had any problem. The women is actually a very sweet lady and very much liked by the communty so unless there was a language miss communication or something i cannot imagine her calling anyone a devil.

  7. columbusfoodie Post author

    Lori, David: Her exact words, in my response to telling her that if this is her idea of customer service, that I'd be surprised if she's still around in six months, was to yell at me, "No, God is on my side and you are the devil, so I will still be here".

  8. Food4life

    Hey I know that restaurant and they got pretty ripped off! they were on the news for 2 minutes to promote and had to serve people for free with no profit. they don't have a chain of restaurants and they will probably close soon because of the economy. there food was actually great. sorry about your luck but they got screwed with no contract if i were them id sue fox.

  9. columbusfoodie Post author

    You don't think there's value to a 2 minute spot on a major network? You don't think that's worth at least $5,000? (I'm guessing you haven't checked out what ad rates on WTTE go for these days, right?) So they're not serving people for free with no profit. They took a business risk by trying this avenue of advertising – just because it didn't work out for them the way they had hoped doesn't make it right that they rip off people who have bought those certificates.

    Without customer service, you are nothing. Had she handled the situation with grace (and tried to work something out with me so that I wasn't left holding the bag), I would have stayed and eaten and probably enjoyed it and maybe even become her biggest advocate. Instead, I was treated with indifference to my situation and verbal abuse. When she closes, I don't think it will be because of the economy, because many other small restaurants with equally limited funds are doing just fine because they know how to treat customers.

    Sorry, no apologies for bringing this situation to light, given that there are at least 96 other people in the same boat – anyone know knows me knows that I am nothing but fair, in both my reviews and my dealings with people, and will speak out about this because I do have a forum to do so and it is something that needs to be brought to light.

    As Southwest Air learned from the Kevin Smith debacle, you have to be careful who you treat badly – some people have more reach than others. I'm curious to know how many other people she also treated this way who don't have the outlet I do?

  10. Food4life

    Your right that might have been a risk but as the lady explained coming from a foreign background she didn't understand much of it and have sold ore than 80 of those certificates. it's not easy being a buisness owner but playing the victom is not goin to help your situation ans southwest? compared to a small ethiopian restauruant? i feel like you took it personally and i hate when one peson tries to bring a whole system dow because of there experience. i'm sur you didn't give her a hance and telling abuisness owner there restaurant will probably close in 6 months is pretty rude. critique all you want but if you don't give respect you ill not gt one back.

  11. Morgan

    I second the food4life i get take outs there all the time i love that lady and her husband. i have never experienced anything like that. she does have a little english problem but she is a very religious person. i have a feeling you came off as rude becuase that place has great food and service an i'm sad it closes soon.

  12. Sweet-tater

    If the business is indeed struggling then now, more than ever, she should have honored the coupons. That's 100 customers that would have come in and dropped some cash. Many would probably have been first time customers using this opportunity to check the place out. If their experience had been a good one then they may very well have become regulars, to come back and spend money over the years, and bring friends to try the place who in turn would become regulars, and so on. That's how you lay a foundation for a long lasting business.

    I've lurked on here for a long time reading reviews and trying out recipes and being very jealous of your garden! I've always found you to be really fair with your reviews. I'm really sorry you had such a bad time with this. I hope WTTE is willing to work with you and the others who were ripped off by this place. Good luck!

  13. columbusfoodie Post author

    Her daughter (who was present for the spot on WTTE) speaks perfect English, so please don't give me this excuse about her not understanding what they were saying. Her English was just fine when I spoke to her – I understand her perfectly and vice versa. I am not playing the victim in this situation, I am just speaking as a consumer who was treated badly. And yes, it is a similar situation to the Southwest thing. I suffered embarassment in front of my mother, who both witnessed the whole thing go down, and who I had to take somewhere else for her birthday lunch. And like Southwest, they didn't realize that I have a forum to vent about the situation. i.e. how you handle customer service may either work for you or against you. In this case, she made a bad situation worse. Not trying to bring a whole system down – from what you're saying it sounds like her restaurant was on the brink of closing even before I walked in the door, and I'm just wondering how much of that had to do with her handling of people with these certificates. She may have alienated other potential customers as well.

    I most certainly gave her a chance – as I've said, she wasn't willing to work with me AT ALL. Said it wasn't her problem. I would have been more than happy to have accepted what I paid for the certificates ($25) in the form of food rather than the $50 face value, which I think is more than generous, considering I would have been out of the $3.75 in s/h charges in that case. I said what I said to her as I was walking out, and it is the truth. Considering the way I had been treated up to that point, it was a reasonable thing to say. It wasn't as if I said it in front of a room of customers, considering the restaurant was empty. As I said, it got pretty ugly.

    Done arguing with you. You've said your piece, I've said mine. Not sure what more there is to say.

  14. columbusfoodie Post author

    I'm sure others (who don't hold the worthless gift certificates) get perfectly lovely customer service from her. What matters though, in the grand scheme of things, is how she treats those who do have the certificates. I didn't get rude until she started yelling at me. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am 99.999% of the time a perfectly lovely person to deal with, ESPECIALLY to small business owners and servers. For me to have gone off on her, you *know* she had to have said something really out there.

  15. columbusfoodie Post author

    Thank you, Sweet-tater. That is my point exactly. Had she handled the situation differently, I would have stayed and eaten and written a fair review which wouldn't have only been posted here, but on Columbus Underground as well. If the review was positive, it may have brought her new business, and I would have probably gone back again and again, because I love me some ethnic food. 🙂 And that's what I meant when I said to her that "if this is the way you handle customer service, I won't be surprised if you're closed in 6 months". I wasn't even looking for face value on the certificates once I heard her side, I was just looking to make sure that I wouldn't be out any money (since with both of us unemployed, things have been really, really tight around here – we're OK, but have to be much more careful about eating out than we used to be).

    WTTE/incentRev is being great about this. I've mailed the certificates back to them, and they've said they'll contact me to choose replacement certificates from another open or upcoming offer. So it will all work out in the end, no thanks to Abyssinia Cafe.

    And thank you for the compliments. I'm looking forward to gardening this year (since we'll have a lot less $$ to spend at the farmers markets), and I've loved getting back to my cooking roots. Thanks for keeping up with the blog. 🙂

  16. columbusfoodie Post author

    A curious postscript to those interested: something seemed oddly familiar about many of the comments (writing style, that is), so I checked IP addresses of the posters – the IP addresses of Lori, Food4Life, and Morgan are an exact match, so it means that they are from the same computer. The one for Kelsie is in the same class B network, which means on the same physical node (probably in the same physical neighborhood). Knowing that, I''d personally take "their" support of her character (of what a great and honest person she is, who would never do such a thing) with a grain of salt. I, at least, don't need to hide behind multiple psedonyms.

  17. Fred

    They could also be using a library computer, an internet cafe, or sitting behind a NAT firewall @ their house. Hell they could even be wardriving from the neighbors. If you had the MAC address you would definitely know.

    BTW – Thanks for the Buffalo Chicken Chili (AWESOME!)

  18. Elizabeth

    Thank you for this post. I also have $50 from WTTE for Abyssinia Cafe. I just did a quick online search to find a menu before we headed out and your post came up. I called Abyssinia and the gentleman said that there was a problem with the gift certificates and that they were not accepting them. I sent an email to WTTE and will not be patronizing Abyssinia. The suggestion to contact BBB was good if I can find the time… I'm not that pissed off yet (I'll wait until I hear back from WTTE). Too bad, I was in the mood for ethiopian tonight – I'm new to Cbus, any reccommendations for other ethiopian restaurants?

  19. Mary

    I go to Abyssinia once a week. That lady is so nice and I love the food there! I'm sorry to hear about the problem with the coupons. That happened to me before with a restaurant in the Entertainment Book, and I was mad! But there really are two sides to every story. I don't believe that she acted in a characteristic way of herself much as you're saying that you did not act in a characteristic way of yourself. I had never been treated badly at this restaurant and I crave the food almost everyday! I've been there about 15 times.

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  21. Rochelle

    Aaron, I have been to this restaurant many times. The poeple there are wonderful and have always been very kind and generous. They have a monthly buffet for families who have adopted Ethiopean children so that they might come together and meet and the children know each other and their culture. I believe you are correct in seeing both sides of a situation. I would be upset as well if I purchase a coupon and it was not honored. But I am sure I would not get into a verbal altercation with someone over it. I would contact the seller for a refund.

  22. columbusite

    Yikes. It's a shame they didn't want to honor your certificate and lash out with personal insults to top it off. At that point it doesn't really matter how good the food is. The good news is that there are plenty of other Ethiopian restaurants to choose from. Of course you have Blue Nile and then there's Lalibela, Mesob, Selam and even Addisu, an Ethiopian bakery, all on S Hamilton. Darbo also serves Ethiopian in addition to Somali.

  23. Hugh G. Rekshin

    Lalibela at the corner of Hamilton and Main. I eat there at least once a week.

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