The following is a response to a pre-action protocol letter sent by the Woodford Café owner (hereinto referred to as “Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor”) sent, via attorney Keith C Scotland—and ‘C’ is unlikely to stand for ‘Cheap’—to a confused, frustrated and battered restaurant patron, Ms Abi La-La (hereinto referred to as “A Customer You Will Never See Again”):
Dear Mr Uptight Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor,
I, Mr Live Wire, being of satirical mind and busybody, am writing in response to Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor’s legal threats against A Customer You Will Never See Again. For which, of course, you have every right.
I do not act on behalf of A Customer You Will Never See Again. Partly because I have never met her. And mostly because—as is evident from my profile photograph—I am a cat with a Rubik’s Cube and courtrooms have strict dress codes.
However, after the great pains you took to ensure you extracted a fully comprehensive apology from A Customer You Will Never See Again, I decided you deserve a third party apology as well. Free of charge. No hidden taxes.
First, let me establish the facts of this matter through the reproduction of excerpts from A Customer You Will Never See Again’s Facebook post, which you felt comfortable with:
“I went to Woodford Café in Price Plaza on Feb 21st, my first time going since the reduction of VAT to 12.5%, got some and checked my bill only to realise the tax I was charged worked out to 13.5%. Was I going to accept that? Of course not!
“I tried calling them and no one answered the telephone so I sent a message via their Facebook page on Feb 24th. Their response on Feb 26th is to come in and speak with either some man named Warren or the floor manager on duty.
“Finally got a chance to go back yesterday, March 1st, and spoke to the floor manager. Well it seems that their policy is to add in a 10% service charge, add that to the subtotal then charge VAT on that…”
I pause, Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor, because the rest of A Customer You Will Never See Again’s Facebook post chilled me to the bone.
All I will say is that, I paraphrase for legal reasons, A Customer You Will Never See Again felt cheated and irate, after being allegedly told by one of your waitresses that she has never gotten one cent from service charge.
And that, Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor, is completely unacceptable.
I’m not referring to the fact you might not have spelt out your policy for taxing service charge. Or that your phone supposedly rings unanswered during business hours. Or that your company allegedly takes two days to answer messages left by patrons on your social media page.
Or that you supposedly had a customer take time off from her day and, with today’s high gas prices—but not as exorbitant as your mojitos—find her way to your establishment, simply to answer a question on taxes.
Or that your employees allegedly misled her into thinking that you, Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor, are not the wonderful, caring and loving boss that you must surely think yourself to be.
What is unacceptable is that, after nine days of running around before receiving a supposedly unconvincing response to her complaint as a paying customer, A Customer You Will Never See Again dared to respond by angrily questioning your business principles on Facebook.
If that scenario does not show unquestionable appreciation for your paying customers, then you must have no idea of what customer appreciation is. And, frankly, it is silly to even suggest such a thing.
I’d bet you have the A to Z on customer appreciation printed and hung up in a room that you never visit.
Who could ask for more than that?
I can only apologise sincerely—from the bottom of my paws—for the distress caused to your goodly self.
A Customer You Will Never See Again deserves everything she gets. What sort of Trini does not forget what they were mad about in the first place after nine days?!
How dare she question the business practices that have surely given you some fantastic vacations?!
Your subsequent response, Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor, was fair and just.
You, via Mr Scotland, gave A Customer You Will Never See Again “twelve (12) hours from the date of receipt of this letter” to respond or face “legal proceedings being commenced against you without further notice.”
And A Customer You Will Never See Again was left in no doubt as to seriousness of the threat, as it was underlined, written in bold and typed in a different size font to the rest of the message.
It is the literary equivalent of getting a foot stool and megaphone and screaming down at your victim. Which is not my way of saying that you are probably short and often ignored by your peers.
Mr Scotland, on your behalf, quoted the Pre Action Protocol Provisions of the Civil Proceedings Rules (1998) in serving A Customer You Will Never See Again.
Interestingly, Section 4.3 of that document states that you, Mr Uptight Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor, should—as the claimant—offer the defendant a reasonable period to acknowledge your pre action protocol letter.
According to the legal document: “A normal reasonable period for a full response may be one month” or, elsewhere in the document, “14 calendar days” was mentioned.
But was A Customer You Will Never See Again reasonable to you by growing irate at her inability to have her questions serviced, after being service charged and taxed to boot?
She was not. And it stands to reason that one may similarly see unreasonableness as a reasonable response. In much the same way as we walk in the rain to get dry.
Twelve hours to formulate a legal response was more than sufficient time for someone who spent nine days trying to have their own taxation question answered by Mr Uptight, Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor.
The legal letter also made it clear that all correspondence should be sent to Scotland’s St Vincent Street, Port of Spain address, within the same 12 hour time frame.
Of course, it would have been easier for her to reply to your email. But it is not your duty to make things easy for A Customer You Will Never See Again.
You sent your own legal letter to A Customer You Will Never See Again’s email address, although Section 2 states: “Where a party seeks to serve a document by electronic means he should first seek to clarify with the party who is to be served: (a) whether there are any limitations to the recipient’s agreement to accept service by such means; and (b) the format in which documents are to be sent; and (c) the maximum size of attachments that may be received.”
But I fully agree that we should not get tied up in legal jargon here. Except for the bit where A Customer You Will Never See Again spoke ill of Woodford Café, of course.
Mr Uptight Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor might have picked up the phone when A Customer You Will Never See Again called. Or he might have responded to her message which sat on the Woodford Café’s Facebook page for nearly three days.
Or spoken to her at the restaurant. Or track her down after he heard of her complaint.
Or even contacted her after he learned of her irate Facebook post, so as to explain why Woodford Café’s business practices are beyond reproach and—despite her fears in a climate of uncertainty following the changes in VAT—she should return for more mojitos at the earliest opportunity.
But that is not how Mr Uptight Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor rolls. Legal letter in yuh pueffen! He’s damn right too.
So, again, Mr Live Wire would like to join A Customer You Will Never See Again in offering a heartfelt apology for all the trouble we caused to Mr Uptight Over-reacting and Overly Aggressive Proprietor.
We will miss you. And Woodford Café.
Abi La La’s apology, which was posted on Facebook:
A few days ago I wrote a post about my experience at Woodford Cafe. I felt taken advantage of and while still in that headspace I made some statements that were inaccurate. And although, as some of you noted, I edited the post as I learned more through my inquiries at the BIR, VAT Hotline and through our conversation in the comment section, I have been requested to remove it in its entirety and I have agreed.
I also should have been more careful repeating allegations that I cannot myself verify. This has been a learning experience which has surely impacted me as a consumer and the way I will interact with businesses going forward. So:
1. I apologize as I was misguided with respect to the application of Value Added Tax;
2. Clarification has been provided with respect to the law, its application to the business of Woodford Cafe and further the manner in which it is operated by its owners;
3. Through correspondence with Woodford Cafe’s lawyer, I have been advised that the employees of Woodford Cafe are accurately remunerated;
4. I request that there be no further commentary or debate with respect to my original post.