Imagine a food or retail business closed Friday at 4:30 p.m. You read that right. I personally observed this on Feb. 28, 2014 at the Interstate 95 Northbound Service Plaza in Milford. I saw both the Robeks food and beverage outlet and the Statement, U.S.A. gift shop closed. Neither outlet had a sign with its hours of operation or a sign indicating why it was closed. I even walked from one end of the building to the other and waited a few minutes to see if someone would be back to reopen the outlets. I thought perhaps they had to use the restroom or get a quick snack, but nobody came. Void of life, Robeks had its lights off with no staff present while Statement, U.S.A. had its metal gate down.
The closed outlets seemed like a black eye of an otherwise busy highway service plaza, during the height of a Friday evening rush hour, with customers at all the other outlets.
On March 4, I sent a message to Robeks through their Facebook page asking them why they closed their outlet but, as March 13, I got no response. Needless to say it left a bad taste in my mouth at a time when I wanted to try out their fruit shakes. I happened to be in the area and had pulled off the rest stop just to visit Robeks. While there are 10 other Robeks in Connecticut, the closest one to Milford is in Fairfield, 20 miles further out of my way. There is unfortunately no Robeks along the shoreline east of Milford but maybe that will change when the Madison service plazas reopen. The Robeks website promises more service plaza locations are coming soon but fails to mention where they will be or what hours they will be open.
Based on a previous late night visit to the service plaza, I knew that Robeks is not open 24/7 but assumed I could catch them open on a Friday afternoon.
The Robeks Connecticut franchise website fails to provide hours of its Milford service plaza location. The Connecticut Service Plazaswebsite, operated by the landlord of the service plazas, Project Service, LLC, also does not give the hours for any of its tenants.
If you visit the individual websites of the various outlets found in the larger Connecticut Service Plazas along I-95 (such as Darien and Milford), like Sbarro, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Wilson’s BBQ,Panda Express, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, and Cheeseboy, the hours for their service plaza locations are not listed.
There is no word yet on projected hours for the Pinkberry outlets coming soon for the Darien plazas.
In fact, the only tenants with service plaza location hours on their websites are Statement, U.S.A., Mac-n-Out, and Good-to-Go Organics.
While the website shows that the Statement, U.S.A. Milford Northbound gift shop is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., it was clearly closed when I visited. It hurts a tenant’s dependability to be closed when they advertise they will be open.
I sent a Facebook message to Connecticut Service Plazas on March 10 to let them know of my unpleasant customer service experience. I suggested that they post hours on their website (like Pennsylvania Turnpike does) and post a sign at the plaza entrance with the various tenants and their hours. As of March 13, I received no response.
The various service plazas along Route 15 and I-395 have all of its tenants, like Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, a convenience store (Fast Freddies, Alltown, or Mobil Mart), and Mobil gas and diesel, open 24/7. All of these outlets are also open 24/7 at the I-95 service plazas, in addition to McDonald’s and the electronic kiosks including CT Tourism and Best Buy Express, but other tenants are not.
It seems that the I-95 service plazas are more equipped to take care of light-night travelers with adequate indoor seating whereas the smaller Route 15 and I-395 plazas have very limited seating, if any at all. This is important to note as most fast food restaurants only have their drive-thru window’s open 24 hours while their dining rooms close down for at least eight hours, roughly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., during the overnight period.
It’s a shame that the more heavily traveled I-95 service plazas could not have all of its tenants open around-the-clock to service weary travelers.
However, the failure of Robek’s and Connecticut Service Plazas to respond to their Facebook pages regarding legitimate customer service complaints speaks volumes.
Coming from a person who has worked years in the customer service business, a simple apology would have sufficed but offering a promise to do better next time, post hours of operation on a sign, or even send a coupon to encourage repeat business is an action that would have turned my frown upside down and resulted in a happier ending to this disappointing story.