Caring is key to good service

To say it had been a bad day would be an understatement.

My friend and Idrove all the way to the Oakland Coliseum Arena to see a Warriors game. We had purchased tickets months ago on StubHub and arrived early to get our complimentary bobblehead. There is no success like that borne of good planning.

We, however, did not have success. The tickets we bought were frauds. Stubhub dutifully refunded our money, but we didn’t get to go to the game. Needless to say, we also didn’t get our bobbleheads. What we did get was a lot of attitude from the Coliseum staff. Amazing how just a few years ago, my buddy and I would field several calls a month virtually begging us to come to Warriors games. Success can really change things.

Upon our return home we decided to seek some solace at a local watering hole. We figured a nice one was in order, because nothing so soothes the soul like a little overkill.

But, which one? Recently a reader sent me an insight on how to be a wine snob. First start with “a compliment, followed by the opposite of a compliment. For example: Fresh sea breeze on the nose, earthy and smoky on the palate.”

Very clever and very true.

Restaurant names sometimes employ this tactic, naming something the exact opposite of what it delivers. Such was our swanky choice.

Upon sitting at the hipster joint, not nearly as rustic as its name would imply, it wasn’t immediately clear who was the bartender. Surrounded by every conceivable cocktail glass possible, we sat and wondered: Was it one of the two guys in long dishwasher aprons, or the 20-something in an ill-fitting sport coat with slicked-back hair and a permanent scowl?

As it turnes out, it was none of them. I know, because not one acknowledged us even in the least. They seemed to be discussing some finer point of restaurant business that was more important than any of us at the bar. I looked to my left — two people with empty wine glasses. I looked to the right — two others with empty water glasses, dirty dishes and a credit card out. And it looked as if as that card had been out for a while.

Eventually a tattooed bartendress arrived. One would think that we then got our drinks. We didn’t. We ordered them, they just never arrived. Meanwhile the new customer to our right asked for a wine suggestion for his pork ragu pasta. Think: Bolognese on steroids.

“That’s a pretty light dish” the inked mixologist said.

I did a double take. I have never heard of Bolognese pasta referred to as a “light dish.”

“I recommend the pinot noir,” she said.

We eventually got what we ordered, but only after asking again.


A woman to our left ordered a salad.

“What kind of dressing is this on the salad?”

“A good one,” the bartender said.

I thought she was making a joke. She wasn’t. The bartender then pointed at the item description on the menu, as if that helped, which it didn’t.

She then asked for a wine suggestion.

“That’s a pretty light dish,” he said. “I recommend the pinot noir.”

So it went, Pinot noir for everything: steak, fish, salad, Bolognese, oysters, because they evidently were all “light dishes.”

Often in the restaurant business bartenders adopt the attitude before they acquire the ability, an unfortunate experience for anyone unlucky enough to sit in front of them.

My buddy and I were finished by the second quarter; however, we didn’t get our check until the second half.

Later I swung by a dive bar near my home. No fancy glassware, no clever name, no slicked-back hair, a few tattoos but certainly no attitude.

A drink and a greeting from a bartender I’d never met was all I needed for the second half of the game to be much better than the first. Leaving me with these thoughts:

• Arrogance and skill, don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

• Too many businesses rely on success to breed success. Consequently many of them eventually forget what made them successful in the first place.

• What’s the difference between God and a bartender? God doesn’t think he’s a bartender.

• “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” — Teddy Roosevelt.