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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Customer evasion.

A trip to a popular North Hobart cafe this morning reminded me of a very useful skill for wait-staff to have - the art of customer evasion. 

Our not particularly cheerful waitress did the most brilliant job of pretending my flat-mate and I did not exist. Excellence in evasion is a great tool for a waitress/ waiter, but it's not so pleasant to be on the receiving end.

From a waitressing perspective, there are a few (legitimate) reasons to ignore particular clientel. I could divulge a few of these, but I'd feel far too guilty. Trade secrets, you'll just have to trust me on this one. 

However, as far as I was aware, there was no legitimate reason for the waitress to ignore us, or any of the other tables around us. We had been polite, and patient. We didn't do anything "bad",  like sitting on an uncleared table, or moving the furniture around. I am a master of customer evasion, and our waitress this morning could have given me a decent run for my money, and probably taught me a thing or two in the process. 

The cafe wasn't busy, even for 10 am on a sunday. I see no reason that our sulky waitress need have been so useless. Unless she really hates her job, and then my advice would be "get another job." It's waitressing, not a mortgage for crying out loud.  

I don't require my server to be cheerful, or friendly, merely efficient. Someone was paying her to take my coffee order, then to deliver my coffee. That minimum requirement is all I want on a Sunday morning. 

Coffee. Do I have to go and make it myself?


Rita said...

Maggie - you are the epitome of politeness! You could have named (and shamed!). You could have just 'let it rip' in your frustration at being so obviously ignored. You could have made a fuss.

You didn't.

My question, and not at all belligerently or sarcastically, but most respectfully, is why write the post (in which I felt your angst), but not give the cafe any chance of rectifying this? Or was the reason for writing it merely pointing out the thoughts which pass through a waitperson's head when they are pointedly ignoring their customer/s?

It really shits me when waitpeople do that. As you said, get another job if you don't want to serve people. That's exactly what the (physical) job is about - taking the orders, making the drinks, bringing out the food from the kitchen, and clearing back. You're not hired to work a 5 hour shift walking significantly round the restaurant constantly without having ANY contact with customers at all! It's not rocket science. If you don't like doing it, do something else.

I just don't understand it when waitstaff are like that. Yeah, sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) there are the true rude, ignorant arseholes who really deserve to be ignored, but seriously, you need to be better than them.

I'm sorry but I'd HAVE to point out this inconsistency, either to the owner or manager of the cafe at the time, or on the blog - which to me is a place where it can be a level playing field, with both complainant and guilty party having equal right of reply.

Rage about it, if you have to! Then we all might eventually benefit if the service in the place is subsequently improved as a result.

tai said...

you weren't at raincheck were you? that's happened to me there.....

Maggie said...

Hi Rita,

Thanks for your feedback. It is interesting to see this issue from your point of view. I have just logged on to change this entry a little, I think that the reasons I gave for customer evasion are not diverse enough.

There are so many reasons to evade, legitimate or not. They can differ for the tiniest reason, and I don't think it is my place to either divulge those details, or make excuses for someone when I don't know the circumstances. Waiting is not rocket science, but sometimes it can be really trying. No one is perfect all of the time.

In this instance I would prefer not to name establishment. This blog was not really about the venue, but issue of customer evasion in general. If you may consider my position, Hobart is a small place, and I know a lot of people (at my level) in the hospitality industry here.

So for now, I will just rant a little. However, if I was reviewing a particular venue, I might be a little more specific. I am a baby-journalist - the public has a right to know (and all that wank).


Rita said...

Hi Maggie
Hope I didn't upset or offend you. To take the argument further, does it matter about the circumstances? Surely it should be obligatory for everyone, no matter what job they do, to leave their shit at home. To bring your baggage to work is a weakness in your personality, especially if you have a job which involves dealing with the public. Haven't we all been attended to by an aggro Receptionist? What is that about?

My plea is for masking all that when you're at work. Forget you have a life outside work. Forget you have emotions. Just smile politely and do your job.

Think to yourself what a jerk the person serving you, and being rude, is. Think what an idiot they are making of themselves. Be glad you aren't like it.

But - you're absolutely correct. Hobart IS a small place. The blog is a fine balancing act, where you try hard constantly not to upset or offend anyone, but, in the end, it becomes nearly impossible not to offend someone.

I tried so hard to walk the middle line when I started out blogging, but in the end, it was a choice of either keep on walking on the safe middle path, or actually sticking my neck on the chopping block and committing myself to an opinion - whether people liked it or not.

I genuinely have never wanted to upset or offend anyone, but sometimes, it just happens, and then I have to cop the flak.

But, the next place is the coffin, so while I'm here, and able to coherently write, will keep on the way I am.

PS I too had the same thought as tai.

Maggie said...

Well, you are right about the location. I shall give in, as you both guessed it.

It's a funny one, the difference between being a waitperson, and being a customer. I almost believe that 12 months hospitality work should be compulsory, like national service.

No, you did not upset me at all. I am grateful for your feedback, and glad that I am not the only one reading my blogs.