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Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning

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Feedback

Magnolia Update!!

Breaking news!  Just moments ago I received an email from Magnolia in response to my note, postedMagnolia below.  I have written back and thanked her for reaching out.  In these days of challenging economic  times and companies turning inward for survival, it's refreshing to have a company reach back out in response to feedback – and in this case, really really quickly.  Also, it's great to know that there is someone on the other end – that companies are more than just Facebook fan pages (typically, lame) but they are people.

Kudos, Magnolia.  I will go back (and will ask for the always delicious Hummingbird Cake, if they have it handy).

Hi Kylie,

I’m so sorry to hear of your bad experience at the
Rock Center
location.  Thank you for taking the time to write and let us know. 
We thrive on customer feedback and always value the opportunity to right a
wrong and learn from our mistakes.    

Thanks for providing the details of the cupcake type and the
time—I’m going to speak with the managers and bakers to see if we
can track down the problem.  We make the cupcakes in small batches
throughout the day to ensure we present the world with the freshest goodies
that we can.  I can assure you that we do not use mixes, packages,
pre-made batter, preservatives or artificial flavorings; we make everything here
on the premises from scratch.   We also make every effort to control
the temperatures in the stores, but with the crazy hot one day, cold the next
weather, we have to work extra hard to guard our goodies from the adverse
affects of mother nature!

You mentioned that you have had quite a few Magnolia
cupcakes in the past.  I hope that one bad cupcake will not cancel out
your fond memories of past delicious cupcakes.  I see from your bio info
that you have a daughter (and that you and your husband frequently cook at
home), and I’d love to send you our cookbook and perhaps you can create
some fond Magnolia memories in your own kitchen.  The cupcake (and icing!)
recipes in the book are the exact same ones we use in the bakery.

If you can shoot me your address, I’ll drop a cookbook
in the mail for you.

Again, we appreciate the feedback and I hope you’ll
give us another chance to live up to our reputation.

Best,

Misty

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Bad Cupcake at Magnolia??? Say it isn’t SO!

Dear Mr. Abrams:

It’s a sad day when I wish had not consumed a cupcake.  Today is that day.  It’s not because I have an issue with eating food like cupcakes, or am trying to lose weight.  Nothing like that.  Rather, it was just a bad cupcake.  Cupcakes hold such promise, a small bit of joy.  To eat a bad one is worse than eating say, a bad sandwich, because you just don’t have the same level of expectation with a sandwich.  Cake and frosting – it has to be good!

It was not.  I had a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting.  The cake was dry.  The frosting tasted more like sugar than chocolate, with no reference to buttercream whatsoever.  I love the buttercream.  I have had many a Magnolia cupcake of the same variety and I bet I could identify one with my eyes closed.  But this one, well, this one could just as easily come from Key Food or D’Agostino’s.  Truly, a disappointment.

Maybe I just got a bad one, or perhaps my tastebuds have changed.  Or, I could be alone here – if sales are through the roof and people seem to love them on the whole, then count me and my tastebuds as the outlier.  But at 2PM I was practically alone in the store (49th and 6th, by the way).  Based on the lack of traffic, I suspect something isn’t right and it just might be the cupcakes.

There is good news.  As I walked back to my office with the cupcake box in hand, no fewer than five people asked me what was in the box.  Perhaps it was the spring in my step (cupcake eating anticipation walk) that attracted attention, but I think not.  People are excited about cupcakes and wanted to know where I got one.

Lastly, perhaps I am not your target consumer, but I doubt that.  I have attached my bio below for a bit of context on who I am, for what that is worth.  I do hope you will take this feedback to heart.  Magnolia is such a great brand and it would be a shame to see it tarnished by less than delicious cupcakes.

Kind regards,

‘wichcraft. A Feedback Letter.

UPDATE: On January 9th I received a call from the person to whom I addressed this letter (below).  He was absolutely terrific and managed to restore my faith in the 'wichcraft franchise.  We discussed point by point what I had written and gave me some background on the situation.  I now have a restored interest in heading back to the restaurant, and am hoping my friends will do the same.  This is a place with terrific potential, that really cares about customer experiences and feedback.

Original Post:

Every once in a while I get irritated enough to fire off a feedback letter.  My husband has done this as well.  It might be part of how we try to make the world a better place.  I complained to Target via a letter about how miserable their Atlantic Terminal location is.  I got a letter in response.  My husband complained about an American Airlines credit expiration policy.  He got our credits re-instated.  Slowly, the world will come around.  I really like Top Chef and think Tom Colicchio has created some amazing restaurants, so I was more than dismayed when I had a bad experience at his place 'wichcraft at Rock Center.  Here is my letter:

Dear Mr. [REMOVED TO PROTECT THE GUILTY]:

I am writing to tell you about a disappointing and depressing experience I had at the Rockefeller Center ‘wichcraft.  I met a friend at the restaurant on December 23rd at 8:30AM.  We were meeting for breakfast.  There were several issues.

First, the restaurant was nearly impossible to find.  I realize you might have little control over this, but the Concourse at Rockefeller Center is barely navigable, with directories nowhere to be found.  Finally, after asking three people, I found your restaurant (and sadly, after passing a very full Starbucks, where, had I not been meeting someone, I may have landed after probably giving up on finding ‘wichcraft.  Thankfully, this did not happen, but it was a near miss).

So there it was, at the end of the corridor.  I had to stop for a minute and really look because it appeared to be under construction.  The doors were open and the lights were on, but other than that, the space is bare and unwelcoming.  Yes, there were chairs and tables, but nobody was there but the two ‘wichcraft employees.  I suspect other potential patrons had the same impression – this is not a place to eat.

But I pushed ahead and went in.  What does ‘wichcraft sell?  Not an easy question to answer in a space that seems to go to great lengths to hide the menu.  Not a word on the wall behind the counter.  Had I been walking by, I am not sure I would have known this is a place one can eat.  No food even for display.  No wait, not true.  There was a small, half-full bowl of oranges on the counter.  Décor, perhaps? 

I met my friend and we spotted a beverage cooler to the right.  Ah, food.  Or, drink. 

As people who live in NYC and have enjoyed other ‘wichcrafts, we knew what to order.  The oatmeal was good.  My friend enjoyed the yogurt.  Coffees were rich and delicious.  Clearly, the food is not the problem.

But as you have shown by your commitment to creating restaurants with inviting environments, the food is not enough.  So, we got our food and then thought, should we stay?  There are tables and chairs but it’s just so dull and depressing.  No, let’s sit in the common space out there, we concluded.  Honestly, we could not get out of there fast enough.  It was the beginning of the day, and a festive season, and there was no need to remain a second longer in such a mind-numbing locale. 

So what next?  Well, I doubt I will recommend said ‘wichcraft again for any coffee/breakfast/casual meetings.  It’s just too depressing.  For what it’s worth, I suggest the following:

       A little music would be nice.

       A menu, visible and attractive. 

       Entice me with say, food.  Yes, baked goods in sight might lure a few people in.

       Having something baking in the back would also be interesting.  Nothing like the smell of fresh baked goods to get people thinking “Wow, suddenly I am hungry.  Wonder why.”

       Maybe some mugs.  I realize it’s a To Go sort of place, but everything about this ‘wichcraft screams “Get me out of here.”  Mugs might make people feel more welcome.  Or a few comfortable chairs.  Maybe lighter lighting.  Wifi?  I know you are not trying to be Starbucks but what has been created in terms of an atmosphere is a shade away from a rest-stop on the Turnpike. 

Lastly, perhaps I am not your target consumer, but I doubt that.  I have attached my bio below for a bit of context on who I am, for what that is worth.  I do hope you will take this feedback to heart.  There is a big opportunity to create an alternative to a cookie-cutter coffee chain, that offers real food, a nice aesthetic and a taste of greatness as you partake in food and drink that is part of such an esteemed family of restaurants.  It would be a crying shame for you to miss this opportunity.

Kind regards,

 

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