She Dances With Pie Nazis

Disclaimer : I have since received an explanation and apology from the owner of the venue (who is actually not the Pie Nazi, but the Pie Nazi’s boss) and I really do want to emphasize that while I had a poor customer service experience on this singular visit, their deserts are delicious and that this isolated incident in no way reflects their food or the experience in their eat-in facilities.

When I moved to Chilliwack 15 months ago, my first priority after unpacking was to seek out the best of it’s local food scene. As a foodie and restaurant enthusiast, it was vastly important to me to know what my options were, where they were located, and what was available to me. One of the first places that continually cropped up as a treasure was the Airport Coffee Shop. According to an article in Vancouver’s entertainment bible, the Georgia Straight , the Airport Coffee Shop was THE place in the Lower Mainland to experience pie perfection. As a fruit pie enthusiast, how could I resist? I dragged my Burnaby mommy-friend with me one afternoon, and we gorged ourselves on perfectly baked goods.

That was a year ago.

Despite perpetually intending to return- and to have another opportunity to peruse the incredible selection – I kept forgetting to go when I was in the area. I never made it back.

Until today.

That is when I had my fateful tango with the  Pie Nazi.

I turned up at the Airport at 3:30. I had it in my mind that I would obtain either a whole pie, or a couple of slices  of pie, and bring it home for desert. Dinner was planned: I was grilling chicken souvlaki on the BBQ, roasting lemon-oregano potatoes in the oven, and had a simple Greek salad marinating in the fridge. All that was missing was some flaky, tantalizing pie.  When I got to the coffee shop with my kids in tow, I strode up to the magnetic whiteboard that illustrates the daily selection of pies available. When I made it for lunch last year, there were upwards of 14 fruit varieties, as well as several cream varieties (which I consider an abomination unto piedom.) Today? I stared at a gaping expanse of white. Several varieties of cheesecake were available, but that was not why I was there. I looked again. A “cran-straw-apple pie”  magnet clung to the top of the board. Was that all? No! Wait! There was a stray “blackberry pie” magnet floating there too. I walked up to the cashier area, and waited. I waited some more. And then I waited. Looked around and made eye contact with several waitresses, and they smiled and nodded, but  nobody approached the register. My kids started to whine, as kids are prone to do. I started to feel the weight of Deadly Snark taking over my brain. Someone in the back of the kitchen shouted over the din of airplanes and patron chatter “She’ll be right with you.”

Eventually, a twenty-something server with glossy dark hair asked me if she could help me.

I pointed to the board “Are those the only varieties available?”

She made an apologetic face and said “That’s all we have left.”

I shrugged and smiled “Well, that’s fine. They both sound good. Am I able to buy a whole pie?”

She frowned and replied “No, no. You have to give us at least 24 hours notice for a whole pie.”

That was fair. “That’s alright then. I’ll remember to call in advance next time. I’ll just order a few pieces to go, then.”

This was where my tango with the Pie Nazi began. Things became confusing.

Pie Nazi: I can only sell you a piece to go.

Me: A piece?

Pie Nazi: Yes. I only have 7 pieces of pie left.

Me: Oh! You have 7 pieces! I’ll take them all.

Pie Nazi: I can’t. I can only give you one. If I sell you them all, we’ll have none for our customers.

Me: I’m a customer. I’d like to buy your pie, please.

Pie Nazi: No. You’re take out. I can only sell you one piece, because other people will want to eat in, and they’ll want to buy pie.

Me: I’m not quite sure I understand. You have seven pieces of pie. They all cost $3.99. right?

Pie Nazi: Yep!

Me: So if I buy 7 pieces of pie at $3.99, you make $28. Right now.

Pie Nazi: But nobody else can have pie, so I can’t do that.

Me: Huh. So.Instead of selling off all of your inventory and putting $30 in the till, you’re going to refuse the sale, because the prospect of future customers is greater? What if nobody buys your 7 pie slices? You lost money.

Pie Nazi: You can only have one. People might want pie. *shakes head*

Me: This is really silly. Anyway, I’ll take one slice of blackberry and one slice of cranberry apple then. Thanks. *digs for wallet*

Pie Nazi: *Sighs* I told you. I can’t do that. I can only sell you ONCE PIECE OF PIE. If I sell you two, there won’t be pie for other people.

{Guy behind me in the line starts snort laughing, amused}

Me: This is insane. Screw your pie! Let’s go! *grabs kids by the hand and walks out muttering*

I have made a career out of working in customer service oriented roles. In college, I worked for Marriott hotels in the food and beverage department. On our first day of training, all new hires were put through an intensive customer care course. The first thing the General Manager told us in that training meeting?

“Never tell a customer they’re wrong. Never tell a customer you absolutely cannot do something for them. THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT, and if you listen to them, there is ALWAYS some way that you can make their experience better. Do you know what the biggest kiss of death is in hospitality? Let me tell you, what it is. “I’m sorry. I can’t do that. It’s corporate policy.” It is unacceptable, and nothing ruins a customer experience faster. You are empowered to make a decision to serve your customers, and as long as you do not give away the house, and it is within reason, we will always back you up, even if it goes beyond corporate policy.”

Guess what? The man was right. That advice was golden.

I have never, ever told a customer they were wrong, even when they were so wrong they were upside down and backwards. I’ve never chickened out and leaned on corporate policy as an excuse not to serve, or out of frustration. If I were the Pie Nazi? I would have said to the visibly annoyed Sourpuss “I’m so sorry. I can tell you went out of our way to grab a slice of pie here, and were looking forward to it. I feel really bad. Unfortunately, we experienced unexpected business levels today, and I just don’t have enough to go around. Can I give you 10% off your next visit to make up for it or offer you a complimentary slice of cheescake?”  Then I would have grabbed a business card, wrote my name, date, and discount info on the back and handed it to the customer/or given them a free piece of cheesecake. I would have left a message for the boss, telling them that I did it. The customer would have been placated.

Would I go back? Absolutely. Their pie is too delicious NOT to want to go back. I’m disappointed that my expectations were not met, but I’m willing to chalk it up to an isolated incident and misunderstanding on my behalf, and a really busy and frustrating day on theirs.

So go.

Eat pie.

Pie is life, and it is good.

But make sure you eat IN the restaurant unless you’ve called in advance for your pastry.


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5 thoughts on “She Dances With Pie Nazis

  1. Mrs Sourpuss as one of the owners of the Airport Coffee Shop I feel compelled to respond to your blog . As you walked thru our coffeeshop and stood at the counter waiting for a server to help you I am sure you looked around and happen to notice that we are a “eat in ” restaurant .WE do value and are extremely thankful for
    our take -out business very much and always try to accomadate our customers . Our policy is no take out pie when we are low because we want the people who dine in to be able to enjoy a peice of pie after dinner I am sure you understand that, and of course never to run out of pie but sometimes you need the oven for other things and it happens . WE do not bake extra whole pies just in case people want to walk in and buy them . However if we have a extra pie for whatever reason we are more then happy to sell it to you .We serve our pie fresh daily and will ALWAYS continue to do that .The amount of pies baked daily are judged by weather and time of year . MY question to you is did you give the pie Nazi a chance to explain to you that we do have other things besides pie to offer for dessert ? We do happen to have a variety of different goodies to offer but sometimes when “pie” is on the mind other things are not heard . On that note I am truley sorry your experience with us was a bad one , we have great staff , great customers and of course great pies ! I do hope you give us another chance ……

    • Hi Judi,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to my report. I was very frustrated and disappointed with my experience.

      I was not at all upset that I was not unable to obtain a whole pie – that was fair, and your website does clearly indicate that you require 24 hours notice for whole pie orders.

      What broke my heart and made me pick up my keyboard to write, was being told that I was not able to buy more than ONE piece if I was taking it out. There was a willingness to sell me a SINGLE PIECE, but not more than one piece. Regardless of whether I was eating in or taking out, that was $3.99 x 2, and if I had decided to simply sit at a table instead of taking it home, I would have been able to get the pie. Even if I was told “No, we are unable to accommodate take out, but would you like to sit down and have a piece” it would have been a happier situation than “No, you can only have ONE PIECE!” I understand your position, but from a customer service perspective, the interaction was not going to make for happy repeat business.

      In fairness to you, and to your business, the pie is delicious. There is a reason why people come from far and wide to have a piece. The variety and selection, the quality and the flavor are wonderful. This is what brought me in. I wanted your pie! I wanted to write fantastic things about your wonderful pie! But I wasn’t give that opportunity on that day. I will gladly come back another time, and give The Airport Coffee Shop another try, and write a flattering appraisal. Thank you for your input and apology – it is appreciated.

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