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My Worst Customer Service Experience Ever

Not OKSince I’m still out of town and really don’t want to be too serious on a Friday, I thought I’d share our experience from the birthday party we had for our six year old last week. We decided to have it at the bowling alley, mainly because I though it would be easy, and we’d have no cleanup. It’s funny now, but it was the worst customer service experience I’ve ever had. I still swear it’s going to show up on Candid Camera somewhere.

Birthday Plans

Because we’ve wasted lots of money on birthday parties in the past, I am all about planning ahead these days. I called in early March to get information. I spoke to a gentleman at the bowling alley. He used complete sentences, and seemed to know what he was talking about. I asked if they had kids’ birthday parties. He told me they did, and it was $10 per kid, which included an hour of bowling, shoes, two slices of pizza, and soft drink. Sweet! I asked if there were certain times or days we could schedule. He said really anytime as long as it wasn’t league bowling, which were on two week days. I called him a couple of times that day as we worked out details. We decided on a Friday after school. He even asked me what kind of pizza I wanted, cheese and pepperoni, please. We were all set, easiest birthday ever!

The Big Day

The party stated at 4:30, so we got there a bit after 4 to set up. When we arrived there was another birthday going on. Just after we got there, the Domino’s Pizza delivery guy shows up with pizza for this party. Hmm, maybe they didn’t sign up for the birthday package? I went up to the front desk to make sure we were set. I can’t remember the exact wording, but this is how the conversation went.

Me: “Um, I see that birthday party is having pizza delivered.  I was told pizza was included with the package.”

Bowling Alley Guy: “We don’t have pizza here.”

Me:“Well, I was told on the phone that we got bowling, two slices of pizza, and a soft drink per kid.”

BAG: “We’ve never had pizza here. Who did you talk to?.”

Me, getting a bit angry: “I don’t know his name, but we had two conversations about all this, and he clearly said pizza and drinks were included. Just what is included in the birthday package?”

BAG: “You get bowling and shoes. We don’t have pizza.”

Me: “Well was your employee high? He even asked what kind we wanted!”

Now, I try really hard not to ever be rude, but this was insane. Why on earth would someone tell me all about pizza if they never even had it. We only have one bowling alley. I could not have gotten the wrong place. At this point, I realize I am not getting pizza from this guy, and I have already got kids showing up, expecting to be fed. Crap! After a brief sideline huddle, my husband and I decided I would run and order pizza while he got the kids started with bowling.

Luckily, Domino’s is 2 minutes away. I ordered 3 large pizzas to be delivered in about an hour and ran to the Family Dollar store next door to grab some Capri Suns. So much for $10 per kid, but crisis averted. Phew!

I headed back to the bowling alley and tried to calm down and enjoy the party. About 15 minutes later, a lady we’ll call BA Broomhilda came over and told me in a very snippy voice that we were not allowed to have outside food and drink!!!

Me: “I just saw that last party have pizza and cake.”

BA Broomhilda: “They weren’t supposed to, and I talked to them about it.”

Me: “Well, I was told by your employee that pizza was INCLUDED. I have hungry children who are expecting to eat. Unless you have another solution, I am having pizza delivered here at 5:45, so you can kick us out in the parking lot, but we are eating our pizza and cake!”

She backed off after that. We bowled, ate quickly, had cake, and opened our presents. My husband and I were going around picking up all the trash and putting it in the car so we wouldn’t leave a mess with our outside food and drink.

By this time, we still had 15 minutes left in our originally scheduled package, but guess what? The bowling leagues (they only happened on week nights according to the employee on crack) started showing up and taking over all the tables! There was a park across the parking lot. My husband took the kids over there while I stayed so parents wouldn’t show up to find their kids missing.

To top it all off, when I went up to pay, there was a completely different employee who had no clue what to even charge me. I ended up with 7 kids, so it should have been $70. He asked if I was doing the $25/hour package. What??? Finally he said, “How ’bout $50?” Fine with me. It made up for the cost of the pizza, and I came out about where I expected financially.

At least the kids had no idea what was going on, and they had a blast. We had some really sweet kids there and a set of great parents (Thanks Andy and Crystal if you’re reading) who helped out. However, that will be the last time I ever set foot in that bowling alley. On the way home, I asked my daughter what her favorite part of the party was. Her response, “Playing at the park, Mommy,” Arggh!

Have you ever been a victim of horrible customer service? What would you have done with 7 kids and no pizza?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/ideago

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry after reading that. It reads more like something out of a sitcom than something that could ever happen in real life. Then again, I am consistently impressed by the complete inability of people to do their jobs. I suspect that someone at the bowling alley knew what they were doing, I just can’t figure out who it was.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..A Brief Primer on Options: Part 1 (What are options?)My Profile

    • He or she was obviously not there while I was. It’s pretty funny, now but not so much when I had 7 kids and no food!

  2. Sounds like a nightmare! At least you got some of your money back.
    I am so used to bad customer service now that it is almost the norm :(
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Top Personal Finance Articles #8My Profile

  3. Ugh, that’s awful. It sounds like birthday parties happen often enough that they should have it down to a science by now!
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..PoP Balance Sheet - March 2013My Profile

  4. It sucks when stuff doesn’t work out in these situations, and it sounds like you had absolutely no control over it! I know getting an employee’s name is a great habit to get into, but I’m terrible at it. It’s amazing that this person was so un-accommodating! It’s like they don’t care whether you go to their business or not. Unbelievable.
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  5. Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom

    It’s funny how kids don’t judge what is “most fun” by how much things cost. I took my four year old on a date to Niagara Falls, we went to the chocolate factory, walked by the falls, went to the butterfly conservatory, went shopping, and in between grabbed a bite at McDonalds. When I asked her what her favorite part was she said the snacks in the car! Man, next time I’ll give her some snacks and drive around the block :)
    Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom recently posted..Four Tips to Prepare for an Uncertain RetirementMy Profile

  6. Ok, you’re right: totally sounds like something off of Candid Camera, or some crazy dream! You handled Broomhilda just the way I would’ve Kim - way to go! :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Motivation: The Frugal Farmer 2013 GoalsMy Profile

  7. Wow, that sounds awful Kim. Sorry to hear that. You handled it much better than I know I would. Your daughters response is classic, I can picture ours saying the same exact thing.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Frugal Friday: Missing From a Wal-Mart Near You EditionMy Profile

  8. I cannot beleive that one of the employees didn’t do something to try to make it up to you!! Was there a manger there? I am usually rude either but I would have asked more a manager and asked that he make it up to me.

    At least you got to pay what you were expecting in the end. Bad customer service gets me fired up!!
    Alexa recently posted..Success: Everyone Starts at the BottomMy Profile

    • It was the manager who told me they never had pizza. I swear I could have walked out and never paid, and likely, no one would have noticed. I would have felt too guilty, but it was terribly disorganized.

  9. Haha, how does that place even stay in business? It sounds like a rolling train wreck. Actually, I’m starting to wonder if all bowling alleys suffer from the same affliction of poor customer service? Everyone I’ve been too seems to suffer from a lack of customer service skills of some sort.
    Jose recently posted..Investing in Stocks and Technical Analysis - An IntroductionMy Profile

    • I believe all their business must come from league bowling, and since there is only one bowling alley within a 60 mile radius, the bowlers have to go there. It’s sad because catering to kids would be a great way to increase income, but obviously these people aren’t the sharpest business people.

  10. Ummm WOW! What bad customer service. Was the person you originally were talking to on drugs?
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  11. That’s so frustrating! And weird…why would that guy say that?? I would follow up with call to the owner/manager, and it that doesn’t work, then get on yelp and write a review so someone else doesn’t have to deal with that in the future. Ah the power of yelp!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Link Love/Week in Review 4/5/13My Profile

    • One sad thing about being in a small town is that no one really looks at online reviews. I will tell everyone I know, very loudly, never to go to the bowling alley.

  12. Bad customer service is always so upsetting and stressful. Sometimes you have to just let it be and realize that the ruining of an activity isn’t worth the fight. Glad to know that you came out on top financially and that the kids had a great time!

  13. So much stress for a kids party! glad it turned out ok eventually and they didn’t notice. When things are smooth I never think about writing down the employee’s name and regret it later when it all goes wrong. If that guy was on crack anyway, he would probably give you an alias…
    Pauline recently posted..Friday recap, a fire and rich snippetsMy Profile

    • I have a feeling if I’d had a name, they would have never heard of that person. Makes me wonder if some random guy didn’t answer the phone and give me a story, but I talked to him twice!

  14. That is terrible! My wife generally was in charge of these, but I think we stuck with venues that others have tried. This is not a situation where you can experiment or take any chances.

  15. You held it together better than I would have. I’m normally a happy, tolerant person, but I cannot stand rudeness. I am glad you’re daughter still had a wonderful birthday party and now you know next year to have her party at the park. :)
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  16. $10 is pretty steep for an hour of bowling and shoes. Even with three games, that shouldn’t be more than $8 at regular rates.

    My brother had a bowling birthday party once as a kid. There was pizza included in the price, even thought that particular bowling alley didn’t have any food preparation facilities themselves. They simply bought it from the pizzeria next door and included it in the price.

    As far as no outside food & drink, I’ve only ever seen that at places with their own grill. The bowling alley I always went to as a kid had no problems with you bringing your own food in, as long as you didn’t have it in the bowling area itself.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Could You Live on Minimum Wage?My Profile

    • It could have been so simple. I think they could make out like bandits if they promoted birthday parties and did it right. I would never have signed on at that price if I thought food wasn’t included. It was almost like being in the twilight zone.

  17. This is a situation where I would become an ass. I hate companies that have no idea what they are doing. It amazes me that they are actually in business. I think you handled it well, but I wouldn’t patron that establishment any longer. It sounds that this place was run by a bunch of morons.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Feeling Good Friday: I’m Gaining SteamMy Profile

    • It was like Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Cat in the Hat. I will never go there again, not that I went often, but I will also tell everyone I know never to go there either.

  18. Sounds like a bad sitcom! UGH! At least the kids had a lot of fun and were fed (eventually). I didn’t know bowling alleys were so uppity and clueless at the same time. Reminds me, I have a coupon from my wife for a bowling date soon (coupon stating that she would not complain about bowling with me, because she hates it. Bday gift) :)
    Jacob @ iHeartBudgets recently posted..Budget Friday: Submission 8My Profile

    • If you could see the place… It isn’t fancy at all. You’d think they would salivate over birthday parties. Easy money, but Nooo!

  19. Wow! That is horrible! I can’t believe how disotganzed that business is run.
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  20. Oh man Kim, you picked the wrong bowling alley. I honestly was laughing out loud but I know it must have been frustrating. I did like the “was he high”… omg … they do say you get the munchies when you are stoned so maybe you had the bloke dreaming of pizza… lol. Glad it worked out in the end an no I’ve never had a crazy experience like this before.
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Saturday Weekend Review #14- Credit Card Surcharges, Would You Pay Them?My Profile

    • It was the most bizarre thing. The guy on the phone sounded like he knew all about it, but he was either terribly confused or just making stuff up. New lesson of the day, always get the guy’s name!

  21. I am responsible for checking equipment and calling for service. Due to monetary considerations, they decided to move the contract with a new company. The first few calls were great, they showed up on time and did a good job. On a particularly bad day, I called them five times ( for five different calls), I was told they would not come. I told them we had a “one-hour call” on our contract so that meant they had to show up (and we paid extra for it). He told me that they couldnt come every day if something broke. I told him in plain English “My name is xx and I am going to do everything in my power to cancel your contract — he laughed at me. The boss called him within 10 minutes and asked about the last call I made and then he cancelled the contract right then! I wish I was a fly on the wall at that company that day when they realized they had signed and thrown away a $75K contract within three days!

  22. Good thing you didn’t have a meltdown. If you were my parents they would have to leave the place to transfer to another. That’s the worst customer service I’ve ever read.

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