We can learn lessons from the mistakes of others. Maybe she was just having a bad day, but the waitress made some minor but costly mistakes in this true story.

I joined a good friend for lunch at a local barbecue restaurant last week. We noticed signs on the door stating they were out of the tri-tip and chicken wings.

We ordered the combo plates, featuring three types of meat. We asked to substitute the chicken for another type of meat. At first the waitress was reluctant to do it, but agreed when we offered to pay extra.

The combo plate comes with two sides, so we ordered the tater tots. The menu offered an option to upgrade the tater tots for an additional $3.50. We asked her to upgrade ours, she said she could not do that on a combo plate, so we skipped the tater tots.

The combo plate came with a fountain drink and unlimited refills. We ordered a coke to drink, but were informed they were out of coke too. She did offer a coke in the bottle, but was quick to point out there would be no free refills. There were other minor customer service issues, but the point has already been made.

When customers want to upgrade the products and services they buy from you, and they are willing to pay for it, let them buy it. Do not tell them no.

When you run out of tri-tip, ribs and coke, find a solution that works for both you and your customer. Sell us the upgraded tater tots and use some of the $3.50 to pay for the cost of an extra bottle of coke if we need it.

This was my first trip to this restaurant and the food was great, but I will probably not be going back. My friend organizes his annual holiday party which requires catering for more than 500 people.

Instead of saying no, why not hunt for ways to help?

Bill Nordbrock is vice president of community relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment. For information, go to southernarizona.score.org, send an email to mentoring@scoresouthernaz.org or call 505-3636.