Talk Me Down from the Cliff Where the Seasonal Birds Roost

Posted on Wednesday 16 January 2008

“So, how are we doing now?” asks my GM when he knows I am on the edge.

I usually want to slap him when he says these words. Today, I wanted to tell him how awful it was. But he had his own awfulness to deal with. So I dealt with it on my own in a way I normally don’t–I was a complete and total bitch (at least in my own mind) to every jerk guest who spoke rudely, nastily, and snidely to me. And trust me, they spoke aplenty.

I know from arrogance in D.C. But this–this renders me beyond incredulous, beyond angry, beyond…anything I have known. This, the “season’s best” of my geographic locale, they are–and this is an enormous understatement–jaw-dropping horrid. And I only had to listen to them berate me over the phone. One has to wonder, would they be so bold in person?

“I need a special pre-set menu so I don’t go over budget. Come on and help me out. You can, and you know you can. All your competitors do, you know?” Well, sir, now that I can get a word in, a pre-set menu is usually not a big deal, unless you are requesting one within hours of your reservation and we are booked with numerous other private events on top of the other numerous regular dining reservations. Oh, and I believe you have called me every two hours over the past two days to change the number of people in your party, always begging for the private room I keep telling you is booked, and then wonder why, as you put it: “You can’t just work with me like everyone else does–your competitors. I fail to understand why this is so hard for you to grasp.”

So I got you your pre-set menu, I could care less if you go over budget because it’s not my problem, pal, and you should go back to my competitors next time, because you don’t want to get me on the phone again, as you order me to “just do it like I’m asking you to, because, please, it’s not difficult now is it?” Oh, and I loved your final touch, when you asked, “Can I speak to your manager?” Yeah, I’m scared. Believe me, you’d rather deal with me.

***
Thank you for calling. This is RG. May I please put you on hold for a moment?

“No, I won’t hold.”

I think, Are you joking? I have two other lines ringing and I am the only one answering. I say, I am sorry, sir, may I please ask you to hold for just a moment?

“No, don’t you put me on hold, damn you. I don’t care how busy your phones are.” Now shouting into the phone, “You talk to me now. How busy you are is not my problem, it’s yours!”

Well since you put it THAT way. What night and for how many, you sorry ass excuse for a human?

“Just put it in for four. I don’t know how many, might be two, might be six. And I’ll come in sometime between 6 and 8. Just do it like I told you, if you are even listening! Maybe I should talk to your manager.”

I am certain, sir, my restaurant does not need the business so badly that it needs to serve the likes of you. Another guest so noted. And sure, let me put you through to my manager’s voice mail, you prick. Oh, never mind his voice mail? Right, you got what you wanted.

***

“I want to book your small room, the one with the lower F&B minimum. But really, we will be six over the capacity of that room, so you can just deal with it, you know, at an overflow table.”

Actually, I can’t take a private dining reservation knowing the party won’t adequately fit in the room. I say to him, “I do have our larger room available on that evening, and it will certainly accommodate your guests quite adequately.”

“Maybe you didn’t hear me.” And that is exactly when I stopped hearing him.

***

“What the hell do you you mean, you can’t take a reservation for 15 at 7:30?”

***

“I know both your owners very well, young lady. Maybe I’ll just call them and see if THEY can take my reservation when you can’t.”

***

“How long have you worked there? There must be someone else who will get this done for me.”

***

I usually can see the partial good in every guest. I honestly respect that my guests–both difficult and wonderful–pay my salary, and that without them, I am a pathetic FICA score. I get all of that, okay? But these…these recent ones…good God!

So many of you warned me, so many of you tried to tell me how “challenging” the seasonal birds could be. And I told you I could deal with them, that I knew from the toughest of the tough in D.C.

Guess what? I DO know from tough. I also know from self-entitlement and self-importance and puffed up arrogance. But I admit it, I don’t know from this. These folks push limits in their own very special ways, and few even give me a chance to take a breath in order to try to work with them. They are angry with me before I answer their calls. And it’s not just their words, it’s their acrid tones, their sneering innuendoes, their stinging disrespect as they hammer away at me to get their way.

“So, how are we feeling now?” smiles my GM.

No kidding. Talk me down, or I’m two seconds away from hiding in the Keys, where no one will ever find me. Actually, make that a rocky beach in Maine in the dead of winter, where no one in their right mind will be.

17 Comments for 'Talk Me Down from the Cliff Where the Seasonal Birds Roost'

  1.  
    January 16, 2008 | 10:45 am
     

    Oh ick, what horrible people you’ve had to deal with!
    However,they automatically lose, at booking reservations, at being decent human beings, and at life, for being so horribly rude to a person just because they cant get what they want.
    Entitlement whores is all they are, and you need not fear them. Hopefully they’ll all eat each other and leave the nice people alone to live their lives happily.

  2.  
    January 16, 2008 | 11:02 am
     

    We were in Pompano Beach to visit family over Christmas one year when the girls were little. I will never forget the absolute rudeness of the old women in the grocery store. I was astonished. They literally bashed into each other’s carts, yelled at one another, grabbed past each other for whatever they wanted on the shelf….

    One of them ran over my foot with her cart, then another one purposefully bashed into my cart — with my 10-month-old sitting in the seat! And back then grocery carts didn’t have seat belts.

    I was never so glad to get out of a grocery store in my life. And we’ve not been back to FL since. Sorry, FL, but your snowbirds suck.

  3.  
    philosopherP
    January 16, 2008 | 11:09 am
     

    It is really sad that they are so darned mean — the thing is, I don’t understand why they are that way. They have the means to go south for the winter. They are in someplace akin to paradise and they’re retired, so they don’t have job stress.

    Maybe they are just mean and unhappy people in general — their kids don’t call (would you call someone like that?) and they’ve had the same mean and nasty spouse for so long they can’t yell at them anymore. So, they take it out on people who are paid to be polite to them — and that would be you.

    Take care and make sure you take some time to walk on the beach…. it really does help.

  4.  
    Mia`
    January 16, 2008 | 11:17 am
     

    I feel your pain! I have to deal with many of your snowbirds the rest of the year. I’m so happy when the snow comes and they go south to frustrate someone else! I’d apologize for that, but I know when it thaws out here and they come back, you’ll be thrilled to send them back to me.

    I will however share a few insights or tips that I’ve learned from dealing with them, although it is an entirely different industry, the people are the same.
    1. Many times they are “angry” because they know what they are asking for is impossible, but they want it anyway and
    2. Somewhere in the process of the “The Customer is ALWAYS Right” mantra growing they learned that if they bitch moan and complain they will get their way, the business, whatever business it happens to be, would do everything they can to make them happy.

    3. They are normally old and know it. They resent that we have so much life ahead of us, when they are obviously more deserving of that time than we (anyone else) is.
    4. They generally don’t have a clue what the hell they are talking about – at least in my business (insurance). Oh and a side note here, they may be angry with you before they even call, but they HATE me even before they call. I’m taking entirely too much of their money EVERY month, and there is no reason for them to be paying so much more than they did 50 years ago for the exact same thing. I am just trying to cheat them of all their money. Obviously.
    5. IF I can remember that they are old, their children are too busy for them, many of their friends have already passed away and they know their time is limited, I can usually remain calm and not take their abuse personally. Honestly, it doesn’t matter WHO answers that phone, they treat nearly everyone the same way. Keep that in mind – it’s not you, it’s the roadblock to their impossible desires, and they KNOW they are impossible, they just don’t care. To many times in the past people have moved mountains to give them their impossible desires.
    6. Empathy with them will sometimes work. Other times if you completely ignore the tantrums and focus only on the details of the request, repeating the details back to them, “Okay, let me make sure I have ALL of this, you would like (never need, would like) this that and the other, let me see IF the room is available” – or whatever. Then when it isn’t….ohhhh no, I’m so sorry, that room is booked…
    And then with others…. Sir, I’m sorry, I mean no disrespect, but the Pope couldn’t a reservation for 15 at 7:30 on such short notice.

    It also helps to picture the tantrum they would throw if they witnessed someone else behaving in exactly the same way they just did with you… to THEIR daughter!
    The hypocrisy is truly entertaining.

    And if all else fails, just remember, that in a few short months, they will once again be my problem. 🙂

  5.  
    Angie
    January 16, 2008 | 12:49 pm
     

    Had this same problem, different business, but same disregard for manners or civilities from the older set. My solution, wait until they got through calling me everything but a child of God and wait a full minute. I mean I would wait till the last syllable and watch the clock hand go around. I’d then say “Are you through” and either it would say “yes” or continue the diatribe. When they finally said “yes”, I would tell them that I had a good job that paid well, but not enough to put up with this kind of abuse. “Now”, I would say, “Do we understand each other and may be speak civilly now”? Sometimes they were still angry with me but we managed to get through the problem and find some sort of solution. It worked every time. Best of luck, winter can’t last forever.

  6.  
    January 16, 2008 | 1:19 pm
     

    Ouch! rough crowd those seasonal birds! no one should hav eto deal with that kind of verbal slinging. Here’s to better days to you and better people. Hang in there, they’ll be gone in no time.

  7.  
    knitgirl (ex-pastry chef)
    January 16, 2008 | 4:05 pm
     

    BOY! Am I glad that back in the day I was back of the house. I’m in Chicago, I think our locals are probably more civil. I worked in the mortgage industry for a while as well, and I had some unpleasant people to deal with, but NOTHING like those people. My parents just left for the Tampa area for the winter, and they are lovely people. Sorry, you have to deal with the South Florida crowd. A friend who lives in Ft Lauderdale complains about the snowbirds.

  8.  
    Rose Royce
    January 16, 2008 | 8:06 pm
     

    I know you can’t, but wouldn’t it be so nice to hang up on them till they could be polite and reasonable?

  9.  
    Restaurant Gal
    January 16, 2008 | 8:14 pm
     

    Um, everyone: Dirty little secret–they are not all old people doing this stuff! One of the worst offenders was a pharm rep who is younger than I am. Okay, pharm reps, I will grant you, are a bird of a different flock, but still….

  10.  
    January 16, 2008 | 8:21 pm
     

    Hey, RG, I’m not even going to say I told you so. Have you had to deal with any of the a-holes from Montreal yet? The worst! I got yelled at once for not understanding French. Like your earlier post, f-em.

  11.  
    Restaurant Gal
    January 16, 2008 | 10:10 pm
     

    Ex-RM–Between you and me and all the others out there, these past few weeks have been the first in more than two years that I have actually questioned staying in the business. I am pushing through it because I will have some real and professional help in a few weeks that will take off some of the phone duty pressure that is all on me during the day. But honestly, the DC dime-a-dozen politicians and those riding their coattails are looking pretty easy to handle.

  12.  
    Angela
    January 17, 2008 | 2:42 am
     

    This is why I’m so glad I moved from hosting to server: I never have to deal with such audacity. In person, so few are bold enough to ask to speak to my manager. (I think you are one of the only ones who can understand when I say serving is much better suited to my personality!)
    Here’s hoping the week gets better for you!

  13.  
    January 17, 2008 | 12:45 pm
     

    WOW! That’s truly all I can think of to say. I don’t remember EVER going through much of what you have…especially in such a short period of time. WOW!

    (Much needed) Peace,

    – Dennis
    http://www.donttipthewaiter.blogspot.com

  14.  
    January 18, 2008 | 12:11 pm
     

    “It is my duty to inform you, sir, that each time you raise your voice, swear, attempt to belittle or contradict me, the rules of this establishment dictate that I have to add an extra $20 to your bill. So far we are up to $60 and haven’t even booked the table yet…”

  15.  
    January 18, 2008 | 3:39 pm
     

    Prices shall change according to customers attitude. A 10$ asshole fee will be added to your bill.

  16.  
    Don the retired restaurant manager
    January 18, 2008 | 8:11 pm
     

    Hang in there…..

  17.  
    Mia`
    January 21, 2008 | 3:07 pm
     

    OHhhh. Sorry, in my mind snowbirds are the older folks, retired and escaping the winter. Guess you also have the winter vacation set to deal with. Nope, sorry, the rest of em I can’t help you with. I rarely have to deal with them because won’t tolerate the attitude and behavior from them. I point it out and inform them I won’t be dealing with that, they have the choice to behave like a civilized human being or do business elsewhere. Of course I am self-employeed and can’t be fired for it. Sure I lose some business over it, but it’s not business I want so I’m not that concerned about it.

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