As I mentioned recently, my son got married. It was a very nice wedding, but there were several glitches that happened to mar the day. It was kind of ironic because my daughter-in-law and I were both VERY organized about this and make sure we had all our ducks in a row (that's a joke because we had little rubber wedding duckies in the centerpieces!).
It was really kind of funny because half the damned ducks wouldn't float, but were drifting around belly-up in the centerpieces - so we had to scoop them out and only use half the ducks. Not the hall's fault, but it kept me distracted enough to not notice some of the other issues, such as the candles not being lit until halfway through the reception (sigh).
Anyway, the ones who messed up were the professionals - the people who ran the wedding hall. That was kind of bizarre because I hadn't done a wedding in 30 years and they do several of them each week! The glitches themselves were fairly minor - no one spilled juice on the bride or tripped going down the aisle, but there were at least 8 or 9 different hiccups throughout the day and it definitely marred their once-in-a-lifetime day. And that's just sad because you don't ever get a do-over on your one and only (hopefully!) wedding day.
Afterwards, the bride and I compared notes. Because of the hectic nature of the day, there were some things that she hadn't noticed and others that I hadn't noticed, so it helped to compare notes and this raised the total to almost a dozen different flubs. We debated what to do about it - was there any point to telling them since there wasn't any way to fix anything after the wedding was over?
Ultimately, we decided to at least let them know about the problems - if only for the sake of future brides, so that maybe they wouldn't experience the same issues that we had. So, while the kids were off on their honeymoon, I drafted a very polite Email detailing our disappointment with the way our reception had been handled and gave them a specific list of items we were unhappy with.
At that point, I wasn't really thinking about money. I had paid for the hall as my contribution to the wedding and I counted it as money well spent, but I did suggest that they personally apologize to the bride and groom and that they might also want to consider a financial adjustment as well. I kept the tone of the letter friendly and professional - offering them more as suggestions for improvement rather than accusations or criticisms.
Within hours of sending the Email, I had a very apologetic response from the Manager asking if I would please call her at my earliest convenience to discuss the issues. I called her and we spoke for probably 30 minutes about the problems, with her apologizing profusely all the while and also thanking us for pointing out some of the issues that we had experienced. Turns out that she had some of the same complaints and had been asking the owner to make some repairs and renovations to the building for quite some time. She intended to show my letter to him as additional backup to her argument for getting some of the changes done.
She also agreed to contact my son and daughter-in-law to apologize and voluntarily offered to refund 20% of our hall rental fee, which I gratefully accepted. She even agreed to return a cake plate that we had left behind - saving me an hour-long drive to retrieve it and get it back to the bakery lady. All because we took the time and energy to write a well-worded complaint letter.
I think most businesses are that way. They want happy customers and good referrals because they know if they displease people, they aren't going to get a lot of new customers. So, especially if you are being polite and helpful and NOT all Bridezilla on them, they are going to do their best to keep you happy.
You can see several of the problems right here. The bride and groom's table, not decorated with anything - apparently, they ran out of centerpieces even though we had a small group of only about 8 tables - so of course they skipped the most important table in the room instead of one way back in the corner! You'll also notice the cardboard box on the floor. When it was time for the toast, the hostess who was running the reception just brought out the cardboard box of champagne bottles and set it on the floor by the newly married couple. No glasses or anything - just a tacky cardboard box of unopened bottles. I have no idea what she was expecting, but the best man (my oldest son) was so nervous, he just started doing the toast even though not a soul in the room - including his brother and new wife, had a glass in their hand. So we had to stop and completely redo the toast after they had a chance to find the glasses (couldn't even find the champagne flutes, so we had to settle for wine glasses) and pour the champagne and sparkling cider. Sheesh!
The good news is - at the end of the day, they are married, and that's what really counts. And we will have some funny stories to tell about their wedding - which will seem a lot funnier several years down the road. And, Mom had enough money to get herself a new computer with the nice refund money. I guess we'll call it a happy ending all around!