Sometimes it’s better to just give in

“What are you doing out here?” a regular customer asked as I walked past him in the lobby. “Don’t you have, like 60 or 70 people in there to wait on?” he said gesturing at the full bar behind me.

Indeed. I looked at the two drinks I was carrying and at the man who had disappeared right after ordering them, a disappearance that had forced me to decide one of two things — remake the drinks after he complained about them sitting on the bar warming up, or follow him around the restaurant until he found a seat to his liking.
“I’ve been coming here for years, and I’ve never seen you come out here. Get back in there and take care of all those people,” he said only half jokingly.

I call it feeding the monster. There are times in the service industry where you just give in and do things you know you shouldn’t, just because it seems easier than engaging in a long fruitless conversation that will go something like this:

“Can I get some service over there?” a man will say, pointing away from the packed bar to a lone table in the lobby.
“We don’t offer service out there,” I will say.

“Why not?” he will ask, ignoring the throng of people immediately in front of the bar.

“Because we are too busy to do that.”

“I don’t understand why you can’t just bring me my drinks over there.”

“Because I have all these people over here I have to wait on,” I will say.

“But it’s just over there,” he will say.

“We aren’t staffed or set up to do that.”

“I don’t understand,” he will say, even though he really does.

“I really don’t have time to explain this.”

“I thought the customer is always right.”

It will go on and on, and in the meantime all the other customers will have to wait and trust me on this — waiting often makes people angry.

What you find yourself doing is something you aren’t supposed to do, don’t want to do and aren’t really good at, all in the interest of time; time that you can then spend on other people. People who actually deserve it.

Here’s something I witnessed recently at a grocery store when its fire alarm went off in the early evening. As the staff hurried to get customers out of the store, one man monopolized the manager’s time. Mind you this was a potential life-and-death emergency situation.
“I need to get these groceries,” he said.

“Sir, the store might be on fire.”

“But I have company coming.”

“The store might be on fire. You have to leave. Immediately.”

“But I have these groceries.”

“You don’t get it. The store might be on fire!”

“But my groceries …”

“You need to leave.”

“I don’t appreciate the way you are talking to me.”

“Get out of the store!”

“But my groceries …”

“I am going to throw you out, if you don’t leave.”

“But my groceries …”

Eventually the manager broke, probably after looking at all the chaos ensuing around him.
“Just take the f–king groceries and get the hell out of here!”

“Will I still get credit for my bags?”


There is a saying, “Customer service would be fun if it just weren’t for all the people.” I would amend it to “a few of the people.” But like the proverbial “wrench in the gears,” all it takes is one totally self-centered individual to ruin everything. Now, imagine a place where there is far more than just one self-centered individual. That, my friends, is the holiday rush in the restaurant business.
But just as surely as one self- absorbed person can cause the holiday wheels to come off, all it takes is one self- aware customer to set those same wheels right back on track. Let’s just say that while one customer in that lobby got what he wanted at everyone else’s expense, another got his drinks on the house.

Leaving me with just this thought:

• Cesar Ritz, founder of the Ritz hotels, is credited with introducing “the customer is always right” into the restaurant lexicon. Ritz was also kicked out of sommelier school as an unsuitable candidate and fired from the Savoy for theft and the receiving of kickbacks. Just saying.