Can I Accept the Challenge?

Posted on Thursday 18 May 2006

Working with Restaurant Gal Daughter this week has turned out to be incredibly rewarding.

I know she will never call out on a whim, because she just won’t.

I know she will never call out late, because she is with me, and I am always in early.

I know she knows what she is supposed to know, because I trained her.

Here’s the challenge:

A ten-top walks in at 12:30, acting like it is their God-given right to be seated. We hustle and find a couple of nice back-to-back booths and seat them within two minutes. Do they act happy? Do they act pleased? Are they thankful? No. No. And no.

Okay, Restaurant Gal Daughter gets this about customers’ attitudes. And she doesn’t sweat it. She is, after all, being trained by one of the best.

But then, one of the ten-top–customer one, booth 21–as Restaurant Gal Daughter perfectly notes–gets an attitude:

“Um, Miss. We need water. And we need it now. Pour it.”

See, Restaurant Gal Daughter has not even had a chance to hand out menus when customer one pipes up with the water request. The veteran server who has this section is two steps behind Restaurant Gal Daughter, water and bread in hand, ready to take drink orders. This does not assuage customer one, even a little bit.

“I said now!” she barks.

Restaurant Gal Daughter does exactly what she was trained to do: She pours water in customer one’s lap. Ha ha.

Actually, Restaurant Gal Daughter does exactly what she was trained to do: She pours water in all the customers’ glasses, smiles at the table, and tells them to have a nice meal.

She returns to the podium fuming and marvels about what a b—- customer one is.

I tell her, “Those folks are a dime a dozen. Pretty soon you won’t even notice them.”

Restaurant Gal Daughter nods.

I, on the other hand, wonder the following:

How do I keep myself from grabbing customer one–and all the customer ones who will surely come after her–by their throats and ripping their heads off?

How do I keep myself from saying to anyone who treats my baby like this: “Back off, you f—ing loser. That’s my daughter!”

Ah, but I am a professional. And Restaurant Gal Daughter is a pro in training. We will keep our collective cool.

Besides, we have each other–and a love of writing stories about customer one.

10 Comments for 'Can I Accept the Challenge?'

  1.  
    May 19, 2006 | 9:40 am
     

    Having to hold back your inner lioness? How sweet. =)

  2.  
    Nate
    May 19, 2006 | 11:39 am
     

    Love the blog, and as a fellow resident of [East Coast City] I’ve been having fun trying to figure out which restaurant might be your employer. My latest theories revolve around a place with the same initials as the jurisdiction in which it’s located . . .

    Regarding today’s story, I sometimes wonder if the “customer is always right” service philosophy has actually been exacerbating the trend towards rude and overly demanding behavior. Everyone’s so afraid of losing current or future business that obnoxious customers are allowed to get away with murder, and the negative behaviors get reinforced rather than addressed. Any thoughts?

  3.  
    May 19, 2006 | 12:03 pm
     

    As waiters we have ways of dealing with pricks like customer one though. I will often times not acknowledge the person being rude, and talk (and look) at the other guests as I do my thing. When I do finally acknowledge the prick, I tell them I will get that XYZ for them in just a moment. Their reaction dictates my speed of response. Generally, the get the idea. It sets the tone for the rest of the meal. This is especially true for large parties that are being gratuitized. I am here to serve them, but I am the one who will be leading this transaction. If you loose that control of a large table, all hell generally brakes loose and it only goes downhill from that point. On a smaller table it is easier to deal with in other ways.

    Lobster Boy

  4.  
    Jaz
    May 19, 2006 | 7:52 pm
     

    Hah! The two of you sound just like my mom and I. My mom would have felt the need to restrain herself from ripping customer one’s arms off and beating them with ’em. She’s especially scary since she just got her blackbelt in karate. 😀 We worked in a call center together for several years, however I started first and taught her the ropes instead. Just the basics tho, she already had more customer service experience than I ever want to have, and she’s amazingly good at it. She had a lady one night that I would’ve done the same to had I the chance (rip her limbs off like a fly), but alas… we worked over the phone. Only frustrating because you aren’t allowed to *use* that disconnect button. But probably safer because you can’t maim them either… ah well. Thanks for the blog! I think I very much like you. Will have to get mom to read. 🙂

  5.  
    Leslie
    May 19, 2006 | 9:25 pm
     

    Nate, I agree with you about the customer is always right motto. That motto is causing us to lose good people at the company I work for because the customer gets to behave in an inexcusable fashion. And these are supposed to be executives. I’d be willing to bet that customer number one is an executive. Sometimes it’s hard for me to read this blog, I get so furious on behalf of Restaurant Gal and her co-workers. I’d like to be part of the 10-top and put that woman in her place on her behalf.

  6.  
    ex-waitress
    May 19, 2006 | 10:32 pm
     

    Oh dear; I know how hard it is to hold back that inner lioness and let the cubs deal with life themselves. bravo to you. Restaurant Gal.
    just reading it made me mentally want to spit in that water glass

  7.  
    echo
    May 20, 2006 | 12:50 am
     

    I’ve worked customer service for ten years, and I’m still amazed at how rude, demanding, and inconsiderate some people can be. Too bad Customer One can’t spend a few days in your shoes and have to deal with her “twins”. Perhaps that would effect a change in her attitude; one could only hope.

    Love your blog. Keep up the great posts.

  8.  
    May 20, 2006 | 8:49 pm
     

    “The cusotmer is always right” rule isn’t an absolute. It applies to people who approach you with a legitimate concern or complaint. It wasn’t meant to apply to people who walk in with flaring tempers and imperious attitudes right off the bat.

    I really like Lobster Boy’s reply to people like that and his entire approach. A reaction like yours, RG, is normal, but (there’s always a big but in there, isn’t there?) to voice it in anger would have just escalated the situation.

    If I had been in your shoes and a patron spoke so rudely, without any provocation, to my own daughter, I would have reacted the same way. But I also liked your unspoken response, or at least the last three words: “Ma’am, that woman you just told to pour water? That’s my daughter.” And then just looked at her.

    That said, taking the high road was definitely the classy way to go.

  9.  
    Ex-Restaurant Manager
    June 14, 2006 | 12:35 am
     

    I never had a sibling, parent, or child work with me, and I’m glad. I don’t know that I would have had the self-control that you had.

    I actually had the liberty of carte blanche with the customers at the restaurant I ran (in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota, 45 minutes away from the nearest police presence), and I did at times tell people to get the he__ out of the restaurant, because they had upset my wait staff.

    After all, I had to work with these folks for the rest of the summer, knowing they would watch my back while I was cooking or whatever, and so protecting them from the vagaries of the unwashed masses was well worth my while.

    That, and the wait staff were good people, and the customers mostly transients.

    Anyway, I am reading the things that you have to put up with in the civilized city, and it makes me cringe.

    Great blog It almost makes me miss the restaurant business.

    Almost.

  10.  
    P.S.BarChick
    June 19, 2006 | 4:10 am
     

    Love your blog, it’s like the journal I’m always meaning to write, but have never been good at keeping up with! Good for you for writing it all down and sharing, I’m sure it helps you stay sane!
    Customer one is all too common, and it’s hard to bite your tongue and be professional sometimes. My favorite is when they are so rotten that all their tablemates are embarrassed and apologetic ; they usually leave an extra big tip for having to deal with such rudeness!
    What a great experience to work with your daughter, it sounds like she’s learning from the best. Thanks from a fellow f & b worker with 15 years experience….keep writing!

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