The Customer Service Soapobox


We left a $10 tip on a $25 bill yesterday on our family lunch date yesterday. We were at Mimi's Cafe near the Park Place Mall in Tucson. Might seem a bit much for that kind of tip on a relatively small tab, but the server was personable, attentive, and genuine in his interactions with us. Considering how I have very specific food preparation requirements because I'm allergic to everything and that both The Husband and Buttercup are gluten free, and that our server made sure to assure us our food had been prepared safely, and that he then took the extra step to invite us back to see him, he earned that ten spot.

I'm telling you this because I got into a Facebook pissing match a while back with friends (*waves to friends*) when someone posted a photo and then asked a question guaranteed to piss people off once the discussion got started. Or maybe everything was fine until I opened my mouth. Either way, the photo was something like a handwritten note on a napkin left on a table at a restaurant in lieu of the tip. Basically the note told the waitress she had sucked and here's a tip on how to not suck the next time. The question posed asked friends if they had ever (or ever would) recognize poor service in such a way.

Those of you who know me can just stop reading now because you already know the answer. I once got a waitress fired (her managers call, not my request) after taking the time to explain the horrendous dinner service we had received. It's been so long I don't exactly remember what happened anymore, but I can tell you that her manager was pissed and called her over as we were leaving. She ran out in tears not too long after.

I remember not feeling bad.

Another time I was out to dinner with friends and one indicated a peanut allergy when she inquired about a desert. The waitress, instead of admitting she didn't know the answer, reassured my friend that the desert was safe. And if my friend hadn't seen the peanut sliver in the brownie chunk sitting on her fork before she placed it in her mouth, really bad things could have happened. But I'm not a bitch. I always give the server or establishment the chance to take the first step to fix a fuck up. In this instance, we got a bill for our full meal, including the desert. So I wrote corporate, we got a redo at the restaurant on the company, and the manager assured us he would be retraining his entire staff to provide a safe eating experience for their guests.

So yes, when I saw that Facebook update, you can bet your ass I shared some thoughts. Customer service is a dying art with so many businesses resorting to forced/automatic gratuity and it's a sad fact that many of today's food service workers are the adult equivalent of spoiled children out shopping with their parents and expecting a new toy every time. Why bother behaving if you know you don't have to work for it? The result is piss poor customer service at all levels of the dining experience and management left with nothing they can do to motivate their staff to stop being assholes and start giving a damn. Basically, the ones who do care about their guests' experience are shining brilliantly even without trying. And when they do go above and beyond, hold on to your hats because you might be confused about the sudden urge to buy your server a kitten.

That's what happened when I sat down at the Hilton NY bar on the last night of BlogHer 2012 recently. Service had outright sucked from room to bar and I wasn't the only one sending out tweets into the vast space of Twitter and Facebook. The general attitude radiating from every server and bartender I had encountered was that they were annoyed by the 5,000 bloggers in attendance, and many picked up on it, tweeted it, and even went so far as to get up and go elsewhere (read: offsite).

I was thirsty after the craziness of the fashion show and hungry because there wasn't much I could eat, so I sat down at the bar and asked a bartender for a glass of water. And then I asked for another. In the interest of saving him some time with having to deal with the non-paying customer in a sea of insanity, I asked if he could just give me a pitcher and I'd refill my own water as I needed. He smiled, laughed, and waved away the thought. So I sat there, drinking my water, my well never running dry.

His name was Frank. And Frank was shining star. The rest of the restaurant/bar staff I dealt with directly were just assholes.

And I shared these sentiments, maybe minus the colorful language (most of the time), with Jason L. Tresh   Senior Assistant Director Food & Beverage, at the Hilton NY, upon returning home. I told Jason how I had started out as a busser in the same restaurant in which my father waited tables and how I was taught from the first day I worked that I was not being paid to just stand there even if all of my tables had water, chips, and salsa.

"If you don't have something to do, you find something to do," he told me. Sir, YES SIR.

By the time I quit the restaurant business at the age of 23, I had ten years under my belt. And an expectation of the level of service I deserved as a guest in any establishment based on the work ethic instilled in me by my father and the level of service I had taken so much pride in providing my own regulars at the various restaurants in which I had worked. I shared all of that with Jason. And I also made sure to ask that Jason recognize Frank for placing a glass of water before me and making me feel like he truly gave a damn.

Before we finished our call, I also thanked Jason for taking more than an hour of his time to not only listen, but to share his own thoughts in what turned out to be a fantastic conversation. The time he spent addressing my concerns and acknowledging my experience as valid. Because shit like that matters, y'all. My thanks to Jason and to Frank, because they deserve it.

I might make a point of notifying my server and management when things need to improve, but I'll sing your praises when you do your job and make me feel like I'm worth your time.

So we left a $10 tip for our server yesterday. Because he earned it.

Thank you, Steven T. We will be back.