Blue Frog: Condescending Attitude, Offensive ‘Customer Care’

I haven’t had a reason to write a ‘What Not To Do‘ post in awhile and I wasn’t complaining. But you can always rely on one of the uber-cool, high-priced services to let you down, I suppose.

What Not To Do: Expect Blue Frog‘s security personnel and customer care to respect its customers.

Blue Frog is a hip nightclub in Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel. They have a stage which showcases musical acts (and occasionally other events). There is also restaurant-style seating and a bar. I’ve attended a few gigs before at Blue Frog.

My Friday’s plans sounded interesting. A friend mentioned that Blue Frog was hosting an experimental performance involving music & film. So we decided to catch the show after work. We got there around 9 and lined up for the mandatory bag-checking and security frisking. The security personnel asked to see identity proof. Two of my friends pulled out their company ID cards (a reputed Tata company). I didn’t know these were valid ID proofs till they told me that these had been accepted at airports too. But the security personnel refused to accept them. Here’s how the conversation went thereafter:

Security: These are not valid.

Us: Why not? Airports accept this.

Security: No, these are not valid.

Us: These are company ID cards (with photographs). It means we are employed by them.

Security: We need age proof.

Us: It is illegal to employee minors. Look at the ID card. The fact that this company employs us means that we are over the legal age, right?

At this juncture, another man strode up. He did not identify himself but his demeanor seemed to suggest that he was senior to the two people who had stopped us. He demanded to know what was going on and we explained. Here’s how the conversation went after that.

Him: At what age are you an adult?

Us: Why are you taking that condescending tone with us?

Him: Tell me what is the legal age?

Us: You’re a minor till 18. Legal drinking age is 21.

Him: 21? *snigger* Are you sure?

Us: Look, what’s the problem? Why are you being condescending?

Him: You tell your people to behave.

Us: Let’s take this down a notch. There’s no need to be condescending about it. You’re not making any relevant points. You’re just saying this to look cool.

For some reason, at this juncture we were allowed to go past. The entry fee (not the cover charge) turned out to be Rs.500 a head. This did not seem reasonable to me, especially in light of the unpleasant conversation just before so we walked out.

I tweeted the following,

Here’s what I received in direct messages:

The problem:

  • Blue Frog is a premium nightclub. They showcase musicians and this sets them apart. What they charge is their prerogative. If I think it is not worth my while, I am free to not go. I have no issue with their high prices. But I don’t expect to pay to get insulted.
  • The first problem was with the security norms. It seems odd to me that a service outlet would refuse to accept a document that airports deem valid ID proofs. But I’m willing to see that this is a process they have in place or that their security personnel are not equipped to handle any situations outside the script.
  • The second and bigger problem was the senior security/bouncer’s attitude. I cannot think of a single service situation where condescension is permissible. What was the basis for this?
  • I was quite taken aback by the excessively hostile attitude. My friends and I were asking for something beyond the script. But none of us were drunk (the evening had not even begun!). There wasn’t a single abusive, sexist or otherwise offensive word in what we said. Our voices were not even raised. What justified his saying that I should ‘tell my friends to behave’?
  • It makes no sense to me whatsoever that after this hostility, we were allowed to go through. It sends out the message that security norms are not mandatory procedure but simply ways to bully customers (unless they push back).
  • The last and biggest problem are the tweets. I found the second tweet really offensive. It implies that I’m lying. Why DM me to tell me that? I am not a kid who got into a fight, asking teacher to intervene. The only explanation I can think of for this, is that my tweets provoked them to hit back. (an earlier case where this happened). But if this were true, why ask to meet?
  • The second part of the tweet is equally offensive. Blue Frog and I are not old friends who had a little tiff. The relationship we have is that between a service provider and a customer, a disgruntled one at that. If you let a customer leave the premises dissatisfied, what would their incentive be to return to discuss this? The onus of rectifying a customer’s negative experience lies with the service provider, not with the customer. What’s more, the tone implies a casual invitation (‘to hang out’) rather than an intent to reach out to a dissatisfied customer.

All in all, I’m disappointed by a business that believes it can talk down to its customers (for whatever reason). If you are a service provider, your customer’s questions & demands are not an imposition on your time. It is perfectly fine to not meet some of those demands. That’s just a business situation that is not possible for some reason. Hostility and condescension have no room here.

Customer care is customer care whether it’s for a bank or a ‘cool’, hip brand. Alienating the customer is the first no-no of customer service (in fact, isn’t their very function to resolve issues arising from such badly-handled situations?). I think Blue Frog is also confusing being cool with being a good service. The etiquette for resolving a negative issue don’t really differ. Be polite, be firm and be straight. It is a business situation and formality is an indicator of respect (a must for customer service), not stodginess.

If you don’t believe in paying to be insulted, you’re just going to have to do without Blue Frog.

Blue Frog is on Twitter and Facebook. They also have a website. I’ll update this post if and when there is a relevant response.

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