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The Camden Food Co.: Inspired customer service

Published by Martin Kleppmann on 16 Dec 2007.

Yesterday I was travelling through St. Pancras station, and walked into a branch of the Camden Food Company in need of some supper. When I went to pay I offered my card, because I was low on cash – only to be told that they didn’t accept cards. I was just working out which of the items I would have to return in order to have sufficient cash to pay, when the cashier offered to write off the £2.60 of the bill which I was lacking.

I could hardly believe my ears. In this age of Ryanair and similar mega-low-cost consumer brands (where you get what you pay for, and companies nevertheless hide additional charges behind every corner just to catch you out), being offered such an immediate and unquestioning discount was almost beyond my imagination. I was, of course, very happy (being spared dragging my luggage to another shop where I could get the rest of my meal, via a cash machine) and thought I should voice this appreciation publicly.

Actually I’m not sure I’m doing the Camden Food Company a service by apparently saying that you can get free food there by trying to pay with card and not having enough cash. That’s not what I’m trying to say, and please don’t go there trying to exploit them deliberately. What I’m saying is that I am impressed with the ability of a consumer brand to be so flexible and accommodating.

In a highly competitive industry like fast food, where customers are brand-promiscuous, any measure which will make customers more loyal to a particular brand is likely to be very valuable. Now that I am literally indebted to the Camden Food Company, I am a lot more likely to go there again. It makes perfect economic sense too.

Needless to say, the meal tasted very good. Part of that was probably the subjective effect of just having experienced some unexpected, inspired customer service. But I’m sure that by any objective standard it would have been very good too.