Friday, December 12, 2014

customer service

where, oh where, has good customer service gone?
especially at places i keep trying to drink beer?
you'd think that with all the competition out there, high odds of failure and the sort, that there would be a push to go back to the good old days of satisfying customers

i have had a couple of highly unsatisfying moments that i just can't keep quiet about
i hate giving bad reviews
i usually go out of my way to avoid doing so
but who am i really helping by doing that?
not me, not you and ultimately not the establishment either
because these are not laments about individual servers
some of whom are excellent and others of whom really need to up their game, but that is a very different rant from this one
no, this one is about management

so, the last bit of preamble before i finally jump into it:
i worked in retail back in highschool
but i have never waited tables or slung beer for a living
maybe i don't know what it's like on the other side of the equation
but i do know how little it takes to change a situation from bad to worse, or from bad to better
and believe me, if you do the latter, you have a customer for life

example one:
i'm at st. augustine's to watch some cfl football
it's a saturday afternoon and the place is pretty dead
i am asked to switch tables because they are only going to show my football game on a different television
so you know that they know we're watching the game
we eat, we drink, we watch football
it's a close game, it's going to come down to the final plays to know who wins
but it's 7:00 p.m. now and all the televisions get turned to a pre-season hockey game
that hasn't even started yet
pre-season
the anthem hasn't even been sung yet
sure, it's a canucks bar
they always play the games
but are you kidding me?  it's a sports bar with paying customers watching other games
surely you can leave a tv or two on the football game until it finishes its final minutes
nope, not st. augustine's
when i jump up to agitatedly ask the bartender to turn just one television back to the game that is in its final gripping seconds, i am told to calm down

that happened back in october
i still haven't calmed down about it
and i haven't been back to st. a's since
i probably never will watch another game there
i won't go so far as to say i'll never drink there again because hey, they often have launches and tap takeovers and i love my beer too much to cut off my nose about this
believe me, though, that i am happily spending my beer budget other places these days


example two:
it's grey cup weekend
malone's steps up to be the hamilton ticat "house" for the weekend
they open for brunch at 10:00 a.m. on saturday
because the vanier cup (that hamilton's mcmaster university is playing in) kicks off at 10:00 a.m.
apparently the management at malones thinks that it will be sufficient to have two bartenders, three servers and some folks in the kitchen to handle the brunch
nuh-uh
shockingly, the place is slammed at 10:00, the kitchen gets so backed up they stop taking food orders for several hours, there's no chance at getting table service for drinks, the line up at the bar is many people deep...
if people weren't so eager to watch the game, i think most would have left it was such a gong-show

then at their regular opening time a couple more staff arrive
but it is still nowhere near enough staff as the place continues to fill up with folks who aren't aware that they're going to have to wait a long time for beers and forever for food
malones starts a line-up outside
and put a very tiny server on as the line keeper
no one respects her and people just keep on walking in
the place is way over capacity and the beer is even slower in flowing
and as for food to mop it up with?
we had to go over to burger king next door

malones could have made so much money that weekend
if only they had hired enough staff to keep things flowing
they're lucky the inspectors didn't come by and bust them for being over capacity
and that no underfed drunkards got into fights
oh, and the people next to us who walked out on their bill?  i'm betting they weren't the only ones who did so unintentionally or otherwise
i just hope management realized it was their fault and didn't take it out of the few brave servers' pay


example three:
i'm at mamie taylor's for the first time
i'm impressed by the beer list, the restaurant is beautiful, i'm feeling really positively about the place
then the mix-ups start happening
the server comes by to deliver food
food that she insists is under my name
i haven't ordered food yet
yes you did, no i didn't
YES, you did, we had a conversation about it
i'm very sorry, but while those fried green tomatoes look damned good, i really, really didn't order them and i haven't had a conversation with you about anything
so she turns to the woman next to me and insists that it was her who she had a conversation with about them
because she is so insistent, and they do look good, we offer to take them anyway
still shaking her head at us, the server takes the food away
she comes in our general direction several times after that, but doesn't ask us if we do want food or anything to fill our still very empty glasses with
someone else at our table manages to get her attention
i order another beer and ask if the sablefish gnocchi is meat-less
i realize it is a fish dish, i just want to make sure there's no other meat in it
she doesn't know
i ask if she can check, and if it is vegetarian that i will order it
the woman next to me orders a drink and a burger
the server comes back a couple of minutes later to confirm whether it was red or white wine she ordered, and that it was the burger
okay, seems like she's a bit frazzled
it happens
she tells us that she got some bad news and that she's preoccupied
we smile sympathetically and she leaves
but then she comes back over to tell me that the chef is making me a vegetarian version of the gnocchi
say what?  no, i ordered a fish dish because i wanted the fish
i just didn't want other meat in it
she looks at me like i have grown a second head and am trying to fuck with her
i am now feeling very uncomfortable about my whole experience
and shaming myself for being so "difficult" in wanting to know what's in my food
a minute later a man comes to deliver our drinks
he puts down the glass of wine and when i say that the beer is for me, he says that he is almost afraid to give it to me
um, what does that mean?
how does one react to such a statement?
apparently you've been having difficulties he says to me
actually, it is your server who seems to be having them, she got some bad news and is having trouble focussing
that shouldn't affect the quality of the service, he says
no, it shouldn't, we agree, but it appears to be happening and we're not trying to be difficult, it's just that we didn't order the fried green tomatoes and i didn't order a vegetarian gnocchi
otherwise, we're really quite happy, thanks
he looks at us like we're being particularly difficult and moves off

at this point, i want to cry
or crawl under the table
i have no idea what they're going to bring me to eat, and i dare not do anything about it if it isn't right
i'm with people i don't know very well, so laughing the whole thing off is hard
i don't have any idea how it all went so sideways or if there's a blessed thing i can do to make it alright
really, could the earth just do me the favour of swallowing me up?

when the food does come
it's right, it's delicious and i finish the whole bowl
some semblance of a festive evening is restored
but i don't think i ever want to go back there
i don't want to feel that shame again


what do i want from this rant?
nothing really, just needed to get off my chest that there are places i don't plan to visit again
not because of their food or their beer list or their decor
but because i felt like they didn't care whether i enjoyed my experience there
and if they don't care, why should i spend my limited beer dollars there?
i don't need to be pandered to, i just want to feel welcome

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