Home / Live Wire / Sorry, Woodford Café! Live Wire’s totally sincere apology to an angry businessman

Sorry, Woodford Café! Live Wire’s totally sincere apology to an angry businessman

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”):

Photo: First order of business. Can we interest you in a hug, Sir? (Copyright Disney)
Photo: First order of business. Can we interest you in a hug, Sir?
(Copyright Disney)

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!

Photo: Yes, there is a tax on service charge too.
Photo: Yes, there is a tax on service charge too.

“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.

Photo: Come for the tasty food. Come back to find out why your service charge was taxed.
Photo: Come for the tasty food. Come back to find out why your service charge was taxed.

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?

Photo: Want to ask me if you don't have to pay service charge again? (Copyright The Simpsons)
Photo: Want to ask me if you don’t have to pay service charge again?
(Copyright The Simpsons)

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.

Photo: Mr Live Wire cannot confirm whether this was an accurate depiction of the legal strategy meeting between Mr Woodford Cafe and his attorney. (Copyright Anger Management)
Photo: Mr Live Wire cannot confirm whether this was an accurate depiction of the legal strategy meeting between Mr Woodford Cafe and his attorney.
(Copyright Anger Management)

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.

Photo: Eh?
Photo: Eh?

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.

Photo: This will teach her to say nice things about me! (Courtesy Mynewstart.org)
Photo: This will teach her to say nice things about me!
(Courtesy Mynewstart.org)

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.

Photo: Breathe fellah, breathe. (Copyright Forbes)
Photo: Breathe fellah, breathe.
(Copyright Forbes)

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.

About Mr. Live Wire

Mr. Live Wire
Mr. Live Wire is an avid news reader who translates media reports for persons who can handle the truth. And satire. Unlike Jack Nicholson, he rarely yells.

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275 comments

  1. ???? going to a restaurant to eat is exclusive and for the privileged? ! ?????

  2. Lol. That sound like a long fart there though… ?

  3. You know why I not even farting on this story?
    Because it pointless…..regardless of the ridiculous service charge Woodford Cafe tacks on to it’s patron’s bills it will continue to do a brisk business just like MovieTowne after it’s owner’s callous response to the violent robbery of two patrons some years back and just like Aria after it refused to extend it’s lady’s night benefits to a young woman because she did not pretty up herself to it’s management’s liking.

    The fact is privilege and exclusivity are two jealously held Trinidadian values, we desire above all else to feel counted among the chosen few and we’re willing to pay ridiculous premiums for the honor …… that is why I not even farting on this story.

    Yuh vex cause Chin eh care if he patrons geh rob in he car park, yuh vex dah Aria does onee extend lady’s night tuh uhman men wah crack, yu vex bout Woodford Cafe service charge and yuh serious?

    Alright ….. doh flicking go if yuh serious.
    Me?
    I will meet all yuh dey when yuh done beat up!

  4. adding the s/charge then the vat creates a 23.75%increase to ur bill.

  5. Ummmmm. Shaun Lynch the story says that it’s Woodford Cafe though

  6. So-called “business people” in this country can never run businesses in any developed country where customers have basic boycott sense. They miss the point of how to interact with the ones who pay for their gated communities and the like. In fact, if a new player enters the market – one who knows how to play the game right – they will all have to shut down. All that is needed is to enter all existing markets with a shark’s mentality to boot them out, ignore the monopolistic mentality once you’re in control; then become the dolphin all customers long for, especially in these trying financial times. Compete with yourself, so to speak. Proper quality control, enticing quantities, and the one thing that eludes them all – service with a smile.

  7. I have also seen service charge on to go orders, why is there a service charge if i am not being “served”?

  8. Imo mandatory service charge should be incorporated in the price of the items and not added as a percentage of my purchase.

    If i go to the bar and just buy drinks then why am i subsidising all the persons you mention.

    There are some establishments that have the same staff for the last few years that provide excellent service and other places where it seems that the staff changes every month and generally the service is horrible (including the aforementioned establishment on the north side of price plaza).

    Maybe these owners need to consider not paying their workers minimum wage.

  9. Service Charge and the Tips given to the person or persons who serve you are 2 different things altogether. My 3 children have all worked in the hospitality industry. The servers, ‘hosts or hostesses’, cooks, bartenders and cleaning staff are paid minimum wages or a base salary. The service charge we pay is totalled every month and divided ‘equally’ amongst the general staff (not supervisors or managers). Unfortunately if any equipment etc is broken or damaged the owners tend to remove the cost of replacing or fixing from this same fund.
    Tips are given to your server for the service you receive from them.
    On the tables at Angelo’s there are little signs that advise that tips are not mandatory and you need not tip your server especially if the service you receive from them is unsatisfactory – crass but it ensures your server does his or her best.
    If the bartender at a place you frequent knows how you like your drink and has it ready by the time you walk up to the bar then i say he deserves a tip. If your server gives you really good service then yes give him or her a tip.

  10. Its shocking that people still patronize this establishment. The food is horrible, service is generally horrible and prices are ridiculous. Been there twice and both times were equally bad so I never returned. Too bad most Trinis don’t stand up for themselves.

  11. I have gone to several “liming spots” (including one based on the northern side of Price Plaza) and been told by the staff that they don’t get the service charge.

    If they did then there would be no need to add a tip.

    So moving forward whenever I go to Woodford Cafe, i will not tip the workers because their noble owners pay them the service charge.

    I wonder if that would cause any current or former employees to clarify this issue

  12. My question is, when does the boycott campagine begin?

  13. d fing worse restaurant chain in t and t

  14. Welcome to TnT,where customers are always wrong and businesses right!

  15. ??? I taking lawsuits. I paying in rusty one cents too!

  16. Hahahahaha. Collecting evidence maybe? You might be next Lasana Liburd. Watch your contents. Or me?? Lemme double check all my comments oui. My pockets shallow

  17. Jerome, they tried to use intimidation, arguably, to kill the conversation. And yet here we are discussing it in an even more formal manner.
    There is a lesson in there somewhere.
    And for the Woodford Cafe shareholders in the group… Stop taking screenshots and join the conversation dammit! ???

  18. This entire unfortunate incident could have been avoided if the establishment had dealt with the matter in the first place and explaining to the customer how she was billed before it escalated. In Trinidad our Customer Service delivery standards from most employees are piss poor, this stems from IMO poor leadership and management. A simple message at the end of the customers bill with a customer service hotline or email address that IS being answered would of gone a long way to resolving issues like this speedily and in the best interest of both the customer and the establishment.

  19. I don’t think it’s ignorant to question a bill, regardless of method chosen. The idea that everyone wants to post a bill as a popularity contest seems like a gross exaggeration. Sometimes it has nothing to do with regurgitated ignorance, people believe it or not can be genuinely confused. What I find ignorant is the big business man who clearly believes that this customer is beneath him..

    • There’s nothing wrong with questioning anything you do not understand. There are no stupid questions, if you don’t understand, ask for an explanation… Don’t spread propaganda and regurgitate ignorance… That’s when THIS happens. If she was asking a question, she wouldn’t have to remove her post or apologize. Because nothing is wrong with asking a question. If you think I’m exaggerating, you should’ve seen my newsfeed after February 1st… Bills from here there and everywhere. From KFC to Jadoos and everything in between. It’s not the pictures, it’s the captions of the clearly ignorant posters and the comments of there equally ignorant cohorts. I realized a lot of people are just ignorant and choose to remain that way riding the waves of hearsay and putting it on repeat every time they make a statement, without ever checking its veracity. But hey, that’s social media for you, right?

    • Well the story was pretty simple: the customer not understanding the bill tried to contact the business. That failed so they posted on the social media page. A page designed for everything concerning the business, complaints included. For two days there was no response and when one was finally given it was for the customer to visit the store for an explanation. I fail to see where the customer went wrong here. A right thinking business man would have made an effort to call/contact the customer directly as soon as possible, and address these concerns in a matter of minutes, regardless of work schedule. But hey, that’s customer service for you, right?

    • Kirk did she ask for an explanation, or did she accuse them of theft? That would be the difference, hence the reason she had to edit and eventually remove her post. I didn’t see the post, I just read her apology, and based on that she acknowledged that she was wrong.

    • I saw no accusation of theft. Maybe she implied that, but those were not her words. You may think that the business man sent a legal letter through his lawyer, because he was so hurt by her theft implications. What I saw was a bully to be honest, using force and over-reacting when a single phone call would have cost him nothing in reality, but a few day time minutes..

    • Dan, remember the customer did try for days to get clarification from the company. It wasn’t as if she went home from the restaurant and put the bill up on Facebook.

    • Well then why remove the post? :/ why apologize even if you’re being bullied and are standing up for your rights as a consumer? If there was nothing wrong with what was said, then there would be nothing to apologize for. His methods may have been harsh, but would only really work if she was in the wrong.

      I agree this could’ve been resolved in a much more diplomatic and customer oriented manner, but did he have the RIGHT to take the route that he did? Was she casting aspersions and making statements (not asking questions) that were inaccurate.

    • Because she suggested she was robbed and that brought a pre action protocol. She was wrong to say that. Nobody is disputing that. But there is context.

    • Sometimes being right and being smart is tricky. Even if I am right, I will be mindful of how I thread when I am getting personal letters from lawyers. But let’s get this straight: no matter how the business perceived her complaint, they took their own sweet time to reply and then proceeded to use “excessive force” over a very petty issue..

    • ‘Excessive force’ who’s exaggerating now? Lol.

    • Hence the open and closed inverted commas?

    • But here we have a customer complaint, ignorance aside, and your best response is a letter from a lawyer with 12 hours to respond or else..

    • Lasana there is always context. But one must be able to take responsibility and accept the consequences of their actions. Too many people give their mouths Liberty (or in this case their fingers) in situations where they have very little facts. That is Trinidadians’ culture… They LOVE to talk about things including, but not limited to what they actually know. If she was wrong as you yourself admitted, and his actions were unreasonable but not illegal, well then so be it. Thankfully she didn’t end up in court.

      Same opinion with Machel and Dwight for everyone who said “Machel didn’t have to do that” of course he didn’t. But he did it to make a point.

    • I continue to wholeheartedly disagree. This is not a case of someone running their mouth just for the hell of it. This was an issue of not understanding and attempts were made for clarification. The patron didn’t shoot off at the hip without trying to reach out and understand so in this case your theory does not apply. After days of run around this business then seeing themselves as right proceeding to bully, (my constant position), a customer over a nonsense issue. This has little to do with making an example of anything, except I is a big popular business and you is just a nobody customer..

    • The person also went to the BIR office and called the VAT hotline and edited the post thereafter. So even after the hasty post they continued to look for answers. Sending a well known and presumably (see what I did there?) high paid lawyer after her instead of a company rep to reason with her is being a bully pure and simple.

    • Dan, I agree that there are always consequences for actions.
      Hence the reason why we are also discussing the proprietor’s actions.

    • Fayola AFTER. Cart before the horse actions, where the damage already happened? 9 days is a ridiculous amount of time, by that time the post and all its edits has festered with no response from them, which might have actually just made things worse for both of them. But at the end of the day, he is allowed to do what he did. It may not be justifiable to you, but he did it; she conceded and apologized and now, if you really want justice for his ‘bullying’ you will boycott the establishment to teach him the error of his ways.

    • No Dan. The post happened AFTER 9 days. Was down in 2. The lawyer get call quicker than the customer. And notice I am not lighting you up or calling lawyers for your false statements.

    • And yes he is allowed to do what he did. And we are allowed to boycott. We are also allowed to talk about it. We are even allowed to encourage others to boycott. Ain’t freedom grand!

    • Fayola I was going based on the article. After rereading, it was actually the 24th, not the 21st which is when they went. You have no cause of action against me though. So I don’t see how you can.

    • Hahahah. You went off the article. Hearsay. You didn’t ask or research.

    • Fayola agreed. Which means I am also allowed to opine on this incident. In no way does my opining request that you or anyone else desist from opining as well.

    • Dan. I am having a little fun with you to emphasize the ridiculousness of the situation. ?

    • Actually you suggested the person was an ignoramus and repeated false statements based on hearsay. Almost exactly what she did and was made to apologize for. So I am just saying….

    • Fayola there was no way to research because the post was removed and the article quoted the customer. What you are saying is hearsay as well… None of us are under oath. This is fun for me as well. ?

    • No way to research = don’t say anything. A valuable lesson she learned and I hope we all do.

    • Fayola I was actually referring to incidents I myself witnessed when I made my statement. If she took it upon herself to fall into that category, well I cannot and will not be held accountable. I also will not apologize or remove my post. Lol.

    • Hahahhahaha is a rankin thing now?

  20. If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything…..time to boycott for sure….

  21. lol. Hopefully she learnt her lesson. Too many people regurgitate ignorance with haste rather than taking time to understand anything. It’s a popularity contest. Everyone wants to post their bills showing they have been “cheated” when they don’t understand that lower vat percentage doesn’t necessarily mean that a donut that was $5 including vat won’t decrease to $4.88 because vat went down 2.5%. Too many ignoramuses ranting instead of researching for the sake of popularity.

  22. What is outrageous though is that the servers don’t see the service charge….

  23. This is what I don’t get in this country. Consumers have no rights .

  24. I setup POS cash registers for the retail and hospitality sectors. The bill is normally setup as Sub-Total, Service Charge @ 10% of the Sub-Total, VAT of 12.5 % on the combined total of Sub+Service Charge, Total (Sub-Total + Service Charge + VAT)

  25. Fayola, post a picture of the bill nah.

  26. Even if the service charge is vatable, the vat is 12.5%. So if her calculation is 13.5% they should explain that to her and add the service charge to the bill before the VAT is applied. I took over two years to pay a bill to Mario’s because their VAT was not adding up. It took that length of time between Mario’s and myself to clear up the matter because of the way in which their registers are programmed to calculate the VAT. VAT is calculated on the total bill so if the service charge is not clearly indicated then they cannot charge VAT on it. The charge can’t be added to the vat without the charge being identified on the bill

  27. By law service charges and labor charges attract VAT. I think however that restaurants in Trinidad just use the service charge to make an extra _10%

  28. Boycott.
    I’ve stop going to places that charge VAT on service charge. Bogus ….
    Plus what kind of animal is that business owner??

  29. contrary to popular belief, the service charge an establishment chooses to charge is for exactly that- the service (the establishment’s service of providing it to you). it is not the VAT and it is certainly NOT a charge for the server. that is why one should always “tip your waitess”.
    I do, however, believe that the owner of Woodford cafe overeacted by taking the professional legal route.
    2. Unless, we, the HARD working patrons stand up to these establishments, NOTHING will EVER be done.

  30. stopped patronising the Woodford Cafe years ago. Their customer service stinks. The food at the Chaguanas branch is awful. After my particularly bad experience there, and my husband’s wry, “you should have asked me, I would have warned you”, me and several of my co workers vowed never to ever done there. So don’t let that lady believe she is alone. There are many ” customers they will never see again”

  31. Nobody’s responsible for her stupidity. When she posted it, I was the first one to share with her information showing that this was acceptable practice. She ignored. Her accusations were baseless. Ignorance is not bliss…it’s irresponsible.

  32. I just do not return to places I get poor or unacceptable service. I usually tell them face to face, over the phone if they pick it up or if i have to post it on their page i try to be clever. I have asked Flow to recommend a service provider who gives feedback, responds to email from their client and provides excellent service. I have expressed my empathy with the overworked marketing manager at Optometrists Today since she was clearly so overwhelmed with work she did not even have the time to return my phone calls or respond to my email.

  33. The soup man on the road is the best yes

  34. Anything to make more money. Just boycott.

  35. Is there something illegal about posting about poor customers service on social media?

  36. Losh. Sorry Mel and Nicole. Soyini summarized it nicely though.

  37. So in the final analysis, in my mind there is one unanswered question. Can a business establishment charge VAT on a service charge?

  38. Agreed Kendall. And the poster did go too far. But i feel the Woodford Cafe should have considered the efforts the poster went to get accurate information, the climate of uncertainty around VAT and the fact that the recession isn’t the best time to be roughing up paying customers.

  39. It’s kind of long so I myself was not really getting the issue clear

  40. I think the clear issue is sending a pre action letter to a customer justifiably upset over a factually in place business practice … Nicole Ulerie

  41. Citizens, you have power, use it! Like this: I will not patronize that place and forward this to all my family members, relatives, friends, enemies, associates and FB friends and urge them not to patronize businesses who believe they are doing you a favor.

    “While consumers have always had the ability to vote with their feet or wallets, they now have the power to influence not only what they buy, but what others buy as well”
    http://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/the-growing-power-of-consumers.html

  42. We have long known that the law is an ass but it’s probably new to many that business people in Trinidad and Tobago are closely related to the law. Ask a Customer You Will Never See Again.

    And fair-minded people who have read this piece, including me.

  43. What exactly is the issue though? The vat was overcharged? The person believes that service charge is zero rated? Them overly long names is making this too difficult to read so I’m totally lost

  44. This is a touchy subject as social media has the potential to damage reputations in a manner hitherto reserved to traditional print media. I fully agree that there is a need for all businesses to take interaction with their customers seriously and make every effort to reach out to complaints to treat with their issues. Some like Flow offer only platitudes while their services are so poor, custoers flock to illegal alternatives in a vain attempt to get a quality product.

    However on the flip side, people nee to be much more aware of the boundaries between an irate complaint and accusations of impropriety. The nature of the apology suggests that this line was crossed at some point.

    Having said that, the onus is always on the business to resolve the problem as amicably as possible.