The Customer Is Always Right

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This is true.

The customer IS always right…… in front of the customer.  And we in the customer service industries who rely on these jobs to pay our rent will always go above and beyond to ensure over the top hospitality and a perfect guest experience.

But let me share you a few examples in which the guest is CLEARLY not right.

– A woman orders shrimp skewers over a bed of rice.  She finishes the meal.  She calls the manager over to the table while using the skewer to pick the remnants of her dinner out of her teeth, points to her empty plate, and says, “I didn’t like this.  Take it off the bill.”  Yes she was serious.

– A man comes in and orders veal parmesan, in a bolognese sauce, over rigatoni, with the pasta very al dente.  I looked at him and calmly said, “Sir, we don’t have anything close to that on our menu.”  He wouldn’t believe me until I actually showed him a menu.

– A woman orders a shrimp cocktail.  She finishes the shrimp cocktail.  She calls the general manager over and not only complains that the shrimp cocktail was “bad,” but she also states that the dish was incredibly over-priced.  Maybe, JUST MAYBE, she could have come to the conclusion that the dish was over-priced BEFORE she ordered it.  The woman demanded it be taken off her check.

– A guest informed me that he could not taste the alcohol in his extra-dry straight up Ketel One martini.  Pardon me but if you cannot taste the alcohol in a glass filled with four ounces of vodka that has had nothing between it and the glass but ice… we may want to enroll you in AA.

– In general, do not DEMAND we have something on the menu that we took OFF the menu six months ago.  I’m sure you had a favorite dish, and I’m glad that you are a returning customer.  But no conversation should go like this:

     “No, we don’t carry that salad anymore.”

     “But you used to!!!!!!”

     “Yes… we USED to.”

So yes, the customer is always right.  Until they aren’t.

“Sign” Language

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I recently returned from a wonderful vacation to the Dominican Republic.  Their Brugal rum is intoxicating yet not deadly.  The first drink makes you believe you may actually start breathing fire, and by the third you’re wondering what you’ll name the warm fuzzy dragon lounging in your ribcage.  

While I was there, I came across some people that I couldn’t communicate with very well, so I gestured and had to use various hand movements to get my point across.  Made me think… in THIS instance, using hand gestures to ask for what you want is completely acceptable.  In a foreign country, either on the street or in a restaurant, using your hands to communicate is not a bad thing.  Being American even, and trying to serve or help someone from a foreign country can be taxing.  If they are using their hands to communicate with you, you can’t fault them because they have no other means of getting their point across.

THEREFORE…. being American, in America, speaking to an American bartender, in English should NOT require extreme hand gestures and/or random pointing to menu items while trying to order or communicate.  I’m pretty sure I know the menu better than you do and I DID graduate the fifth grade SO… sounding out your order and tracing the lines of the menu whilst speaking is not necessary.

Good talk.

Onion-ish

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“Hi I just want to order a large onion soup… but could you have them, like, strain out the onions… so it’s just the broth?”

I have an idea… why don’t you go to Shop Rite, buy a can of chicken broth and a can of beef broth, combine them and heat them up, then serve it to yourself?  Should get you out of my face and save you about $6.00.

The Perpetual Olive Branch

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As bar manager of my establishment I am responsible for ordering all products for the bar, from soda to scotch.  This includes all dry storage items such as bar fruit, juice, produce, etc.  A few months ago we switched to a new company that supplies our dry storage items.  On my day off I received a text message from one of my regular guests.

“You need to get new olives,” they said.  “These suck.”

We are talking about green queen stuffed olives that are MAYBE a fraction smaller than the ones they replaced.

“They are not new,” I replied.  “We switched to this brand a few months ago.”

“I know.  I thought it was a temporary change, that’s why I didn’t say anything.  But they’re AWFUL!”

“Ok,” I said via text.

“Since you seem to think that I have some say in the selecting, packing, and shipping of our olives, the next time I am out olive-picking in the south of Spain, I will make sure to keep in mind that you are not happy with our current selection.  Clearly on my day off I have nothing better to do with my time than to worry about how you are unhappy with your martini garnish.  Maybe if you didn’t drink them so quickly you wouldn’t need tapas to go with them, and therefore you wouldn’t give a shit about the size of your olives.  Just as I’m guessing by now you’ve figured out that I don’t give a shit either, especially when they’re just as good as the old ones and I’m getting them at half the price.  My next day off is Thursday in case you feel like texting me and bitching to me again.  Perhaps you are unhappy with the size of our lemon wedges,” I said via my mind.

Reason #12 why a bartender should never give their personal cell phone number to a guest.

 

Li-ti-gious

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Litigious has a few meaningful definitions:

– concerned with lawsuits or litigation

– suitable to become the subject of a lawsuit

and my personal favorite – unreasonably prone to go to law to settle disputes

Anyone who owns or helps to run a business is more than aware of the danger of pending lawsuits.  Restaurants are full of in-your-face warnings.  If it’s raining outside and guests are tracking in water to make for a wet floor, you’ll probably see a Wet Floor sign on your way to be seated.  More and more sushi restaurants now are putting warnings in their menu that consuming raw or undercooked food may be “hazardous to your health.”  Any random step located in a restaurant is probably colored some wonderfully bold florescent color accompanied by a sign on the overhang stating “Watch your step” along with “Watch your head” if the overhang is hung low enough.  And don’t get me started on the fast food chain’s cup of coffee who’s warnings of “Caution: Content’s Are Hot” are getting so overbearing that they soon will cover the logo of the restaurant itself.  Shocking, I know, that ordering oneself a cup of coffee may actually produce a hot beverage.  

Going back to my personally favorite definition of “litigious,” these warnings were not only created to keep guests safe; they were amplified by others who capitalize on the consequences.  For example, a woman walking back from the bathroom across a crowded bar, slips and falls.  The immediate reaction in her mind is “This is so embarrassing, what do I do?”  What comes out of her mouth is, “This floor is wet!”  Never mind that she’s been hobbling around all night in five-inch high platform Louboutin stilettos when she probably spends most of her nights in sweats and flip flops.  Never mind that she shoulder-checked a guy while bulldozing her way to the bathroom after her third glass of Chardonnay which caused him to spill some of his Jack Daniels, resulting in the wet floor.  Never mind all this because now it’s the bar’s unfortunate responsibility to document her accident, attain her information, get all possible pictures of the floor and witness statements from credible sources, which does NOT include Jack Daniels guy since he bolted two seconds after her fall opting to be anywhere other than involved.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that woman just owned up to the fact that she couldn’t walk in those shoes sober let alone tipsy?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the guy stepped forward and said “Oh wow I’m sorry.  You ran into me and made me spill my drink and that’s why you fell.  In fact, you owe me half a drink.”  No.  To save herself a heap of embarrassment, the woman pitches a fit, demands management attention, probably demands to go to a hospital to get checked out, and sues the restaurant for pain and suffering after she convinces doctors that her ankle is sprained and has to keep off of it for a few weeks.  At which point the restaurant will come to a settlement in order to keep the lawsuit from going public.  UNREASONABLY PRONE to go to law to settle disputes.  The definition could have just said “prone to…”  Adding “unreasonably” hints to the fact that cases like this have happened so consistently that the number boarders on absurd.

Who has the time for all this??  I was in a pretty bad car wreck back in 2006.  A minivan collided with my drivers side door.  EMT’s and police shut down the highway while I got pulled out of the car from the passenger side strapped to a stretcher wearing a neck brace.  I missed one day of work (because my rent wasn’t going to pay itself) and had twelve weeks of physical therapy for my shoulder.  The minivan’s insurance paid for the therapy, and although the therapist said I needed more, that’s all the insurance would cover.  The minivan drivers tried to plead to a lesser charge in court, so I had to go appear before the judge to describe my injuries and my rehab.  Since my shoulder still bothered me, I contacted a lawyer about seeking some more compensation.  The doctor (who was paid for by the minivan’s insurance) said there was a small bone spur left in my shoulder but not enough to cause lasting, permanent damage.  The first time we appeared in court, the judge awarded me $8,000.  The minivan’s lawyer appealed the verdict and it was overturned.  I got nothing.  This whole story took TWO YEARS, my shoulder still bothers me, and the only compensation I received was a grim look from my very aggravated attorney.

I am not at all taking away from sexual harassment, food poisoning, or prejudicial cases.  I am strictly speaking towards those cases that are in he insight, tedious.  I am baffled by the people in this country who do nothing but seek monetary compensation from others.  How exhausting that life must be.  Perhaps restaurants will start putting up signs that are as wonderfully blunt as those found on the highway: “Slippery When Wet” “Rough Road” “One Lane Bridge”  Perhaps they should have guests sign a “No Fault” clause upon entering the establishment where if something were to happen, they are not only reimbursed by their own insurance company without proof of fault, but they are also restricted in the right to seek recovery for losses caused by that restaurant.  Or perhaps people should just get over themselves and be able to call an accident an accident.

Pronunciation

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In honor of John Travolta royally screwing up “Idina Menzel,” let’s go over a few things.

Calamari – This is singular.  You are not looking to get “an order of calamaris.”  It’s just calamari.  I don’t care if you pronounce the “i” at the end, just like I don’t care how you pronounce “cavatelli.”  Both are correct anyway, depending on what area of Italy you’re from.  Let’s move on.

Tentacles – Calamari has rings and tentacles.  Not testicles.  Tentacles.

Jalapeños – The “J” is pronounced as an “H” not as a hard “J.”

Merlot – The “T” is silent.  Yes, yes it is.

Guacamole – It’s not Guatemala.  That’s a country.  Guacamole is a spread made from avocado.

Shrimp – More than one shrimp is still just “shrimp.”  Not “shrimps.”

Chianti – The “Ch” is pronounced as a hard “C.”  It is not as if you’re pronouncing “cheese” but as if you’re saying “kiosk.”

Booth – You do not want to sit in a boof.  You want to sit in a booth.

Yuengling – This is a little tougher because of the spelling, but it’s “ying-ling.”

Bisque – Not bisk-ay.  Bisque.

Baguette – Please do not pronounce the “U.”

 

That should get you started.  Bon Chance.

 

“Gimme”

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This may go without saying, but apparently we all live in a nation of two year olds.  After many years of service I feel like “Please” and “Thank you” are going the way of the gramophone.  No, it hasn’t just diminished into “Can I have…” and “I’ll have the…”  It’s been molded into this disgusting slang word, “Gimme.”

It’s not just one demographic of persons either.  I do get the 21-year-olds that come in, roll their eyes when I ask to see ID, and croak out, “Gimme a beer.”  As much as I’d like to reach across the three and a half feet separating us and smack that kid in the mouth, I still have a job to do.  But I digress.  It’s not just the kids.

The business suits: “Gimme a Grey Goose martini, straight, twist.”  Meanwhile this guy isn’t looking at you and shoos you off with this back-handed wave like you just offered to wash his windshield for him.

The ladies who lunch: “Um, gimme something refreshing… can you make something with like, vodka and cranberry juice in it?  Yeah gimme that.”

The jocks: “‘S up.  Gimme a vodka club.”

The foreigners: “Gimme American beer!”  First allow me to teach you enough English so that you can properly ask for one!  This is FAR more annoying than the foreigner that points to a beer tap, nods, and says, “Please!”  I’ll take that over “Gimme” any day.

Growing up as kids if you didn’t say please and thank you, nothing happened.  No bartender on the planet thinks it’s cute to be bossed around, and using puppy dog eyes while using demeaning expressions doesn’t make it better so stop trying.  There is a very large difference between offering to provide service to others and becoming one’s servant.  We deal with enough.  Your kids get sick and vomit under the table, we clean it up.  You and your pals get intoxicated, we call you a cab and probably get stiffed on the tip because you’re too drunk to remember you have to pay AND tip.  We set up for you and we clean up after you.  We listen to your problems and will tell you that guy sounds like a real asshole even if you sound like an over-bearing bitch.  I even had a guy get a nosebleed at the bar and leave behind all his bloody napkins for me to clean up.  Which I did.  With a lot of latex gloves and sanitizer.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve gotten a lot worse than “Gimme.”  We’ve been cursed at, yelled at, belittled, and threatened.  My point is that there is a reason we are called the hired help.  We are actually trying to help you.  And even a little gratitude can go an extremely long way in our eyes.  Remember that.