Peace, Love and Guava Carmitas


In 2007, my family and I were traveling through Florida when we stopped for dinner at a restaurant that my wife used to frequent called The Columbia. What I recall from that visit is fantastic food, beautiful décor and incredible guava and cream cheese pastries that the locals call “carmitas.”

Fast forward to 2017, and I was returning from a long business trip when I happened upon a welcome surprise at the Tampa airport – The Columbia restaurant! I knew “Husband of the Year” honors would greet me if I strolled back home with a box of carmitas.

I heroically walked up to the counter, told the waitress our family’s history and of the many husband brownie points that I was about to gain with a simple delivery of delicious guava treats when she said, “Sorry, sir, but we’re all out and will not have more for another few hours. They are made at one of our other stores and brought here daily.”

I dropped my head, thanked her and instead purchased a box of fried plantations and some Cuban coffee. Sigh…

End of the story, right?

Wrong. Here’s where it gets good.

As I was walking out, a manager caught me at the exit and said, “Sir, I heard your story, and I am saddened that we could not have these carmitas for you today. I would like for you to have this bottle of hot sauce on the house.”

“Thank you so much,” I said. “This is not necessary, but thank you.”

“Do you have about 30 minutes to wait?” he asked.

I responded, “Yes, my flight leaves in about an hour.”

“Have a seat right here. You are our special guest today. I will make some fresh carmitas for you so you can take them home to your family.”

I couldn’t believe it! Seriously? From “zero” to “hero” in 10 minutes, all because this man had a servant’s heart.

I was stunned, but thanked him and took a seat. He handed me a drink and walked to the kitchen.

Here’s the best part: 20 minutes later (he had said 30), the manager handed me the golden bag, and I offered him my credit card to pay. Then – get ready for this – he refused to take the money.

“Sir, you are my special guest, and these treats are on me,” he said.

I beamingly thanked and hugged him (I’m a hugger) and walked away in time to catch my flight. An absolutely incredible story of probably the best customer service that I’ve ever received.

So, you’re probably thinking, “Matt, how is this applicable to me and my business?” Let’s hit it home with these three questions:

  1. Are you an order-taker or a difference-maker?
  2. Are you making an effort every day to exceed your customers’ expectations?
  3. Have you embraced a heart of servanthood for your clients? (They are the lifeblood of your business, right?)

Sometimes, we’re so close to our businesses that we lose sight of those foundational things that keep us rockin’ and rollin’. Exceptional service is one of them. We need to practice what we preach and not just say the words, “We have great customer service!”

What steps can you take today to ensure that your customers feel like they are your “special guest?”

And the next time you’re in the area, swing by The Columbia – they’ll always be happy to see you!

Happy selling!

Matt Richardson is a Territory Manager for CertainTeed


1 Comment

  1. Sam Marusich III on

    Great Story!! If I am ever where I can eat at The Columbia, I definitely will!!
    Very inspiring message. Thanks for sharing.

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