Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Signs That Really Annoy Me

I know that Darrin is the signage guru around here, but this week of staff training reminded me of a sign that I saw at a restaurant in Lake Placid when I was there for a meeting a few years ago: "We cook your food to order. Not responsible for overcooked meat."

Then there's the Lake Placid bakery that had THE most annoying sign on its wall - 35 "stupid" things that their customers have asked, and their "clever" responses:
"Do you bake everything here?" "No, we have it flown in from Chicago. The plane lands right on Main Street to deliver daily."
"Aren't you hot in here?" "Yes, but we can eat what we want and sweat it off."
"What's a Snickerdoodle?" "There is a sign in the showcase. It is in front of a Snickerdoodle."
"Is that ALL you have?" "No, we keep the really good stuff for ourselves to eat later."
And my personal favorite:
"Do you have any water?" "No, we lick our dirty dishes clean."
My wife wouldn't go back there because of this rude "humor" (and despite the quality of its pastries), and I absolutely agreed with her on this. Telling your customers that they're idiots is a bad marketing plan.

I was on Central Avenue in Albany last month in a rainstorm. I stopped under an overhang at a building, then looked at the window, which read: "Please do not stand here." And there were two of them, one on either side of the entrance. I didn't stand there, and I didn't go in. In fact, I don't even know what kind of store it was. It was only those signs I noticed.

My brother-in-law and I were in a pleasant family restaurant a few years back somewhere southwest of Albany when we saw his huge sign telling us that, while they accept credit cards, we are not allowed to put the tip on the card. This was problematic for a couple reasons. It seemed chintzy, as it was almost certainly the hard-working wait staff that suffered the consequences of the policy. It was also in violation of the agreement the restaurant has with MasterCard and Visa. I know this because I called both MasterCard and Visa and asked them. If the merchant accepts the card for some purchases, he or she must accept it for all purchases.

In fact, there are lots of signs that merchants generate, such as a minimum purchase requirement to use the cards, that are specifically forbidden in their credit card agreement (see here for Mastercard, paragraph 9.12.3, on page 49 and here for Visa (top of page 15).

It was either Ann Landers or Dear Abby who recommended avoiding negative signage ("No shirt, no service") in favor of a more positive spin ("Shirt and shoes required for service").

Gee, I have some song by the Five Man Electrical Band stuck in my head.


John said...

Dear Rog-Iagree with you for the most part, with the exception of the credit card sign. Remember, the wonderful credit card companies are charging over two points to the restaurant owners for their service. This is on top of charging the cardholders up to 21% interest on their accounts. The owners obviously don't enjoy paying the 2 points on tip money and I can't say that I blame them.

Leslie, Stony Brook said...

(1) I (like John in Comment #1) agree with most of what you said. Sarcastic, snappy repartee like those signs belongs in columns by Dave Barry, the late-great Irma Bombeck, etc., NOT done by people who are trying to elicit my business. Say it amongst yourselves, under your breath, but don't post it, for goodness sakes!
(2) John, thank you for the info (charging restaurant owners points for putting tips on the card!) I had not idea!
(3) That IS a really great song!