Trust Lessons from Pho Ga

A Vietnamese Restaurant restored my faith in customer service.

I had 39 minutes reserved to pick up lunch for my husband and me, drive home to consume said lunch with afore-mentioned husband, and then return to the office to prep for a 1:00 team meeting. I called ahead to Jade Dragon for the take out. The food is wonderful and ready in 10 minutes every time. Exactly what I needed.

I arrived at the restaurant with debit card in hand, mouth watering at the thought of sneaking a dumpling or two (okay, probably three) before I got home. There was a new girl, Tillie, at the till. Fit well.

We chatted for a few moments until my order was ready, then I handed over the card to pay for my goods.

“I hope this works,” was Tillie’s reply. After telling her I was good for the $18.95, she said that their credit card machine was acting up that day. She ran the card once, error. Again she tried, time out error. One more time for good measure, nope. She then apologized and asked if I had cash or a check.

I’m just not a cash person (only know my ATM password because I got a new card last week), so I retreated to my car to see if by chance the check book was there. No suck luck.

At this point I had 26 minutes left before the start of my meeting. As I walked back into the restaurant I mentally calculated my routes to see if I would have time to run back to the office for my check book, back to the restaurant for the food, home to my waiting husband, eat, then drive back to the office.

Not a chance. Something was going to have to give.

I decided to drive back to the office, then have my husband meet me for a handoff. I started to tell Tillie my plan when she said the most glorious words of the day.

“Why don’t you just take the food now and come back later to pay.”


I’m a fairly regular diner, but the kitchen staff is nowhere near calling out “Norm!” as I enter the room (I guess technically they wouldn’t yell that name, but anyway). Tillie was totally ready to trust that this perfect stranger with a hankering for pho ga and steamed dumplings would come back in a few hours to pay.

Amazing, right?

I showered her with thanks and promised up and down that I would be back at 4:00 to settle my bill.

I hurried on my way, made it back for the meeting and a couple other things, then headed over to Jade Dragon.

Before I entered the restaurant, I decided to write them a thank you note. I sat in my car and wrote that as if their food didn’t merit it already, they now had a customer for life. I wrote how amazed I was at Tillie’s trust and willingness to help me. I wrote how happy I was that she felt empowered to make that decision. I wrote how extraordinary it was that she took responsiblity for a fluke system error, rather than making it my error. I wrote how I would share this story personally and professionally.

And now I’m making good on that promise.

This restaurant and Tillie have reaffirmed in me how important trust is. We don’t always know how things are going to work out, but isn’t it amazing what you learn when they do.

Who knew that a small display of trust could make such an impact?

I do now.

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  1. Bonnie Robertson says:

    Beautiful story Jenny…I believe one of the up sides of this economy is a resurgence of customer focus…I have had some uplifting experiences myself – even with – yes believe it or not – the airlines :)!
    When I am in Fargo I will stop by this restaurant…probably with cash, just in case.

  2. Pearl R. says:

    It’s amazing the impact of a “small” gesture like that. Little did Tillie know that her trust in you not only made you a happy customer that day, but makes all those who hear about this story (or maybe witnessed the event at the restaurant) feel a little “warm and fuzzy” that can turn into further acts of kindness/trust down the line to others. Thanks for sharing this story!

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