Smallness can sometimes dwarf the big picture

I thought I recognized him when he sat down. But when you meet a lot of people, and have done so for a very long time, you just never know.

“Hey Jeff,” he said waving me over to him and his date.

Will Rogers once posited, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” And those are words we in the service business try to live by. Rogers meant he never went into a meeting expecting not to like somebody. He is notoriously silent on how he felt afterwards.

“Hi there,” I said. “Remind me of your name.”

“Bob,” he replied. “Remind me of yours.”

That was odd, because he had just called me by my name.

“Jeff,” I said, not really knowing what was going on.

In the service business you must look at the big picture, otherwise you can get bogged down in the minutia. It’s the many little victories that offset the fewer little defeats. There is no way you can be all things to all people. Unfortunately, you can’t really explain that to people. So, occasionally, some people are just not going to like you. Not everyone is Will Rogers. Sometimes they are more like Charlie Sheen on a bender, and that can be rough. And in the bar business you get both. Sometimes at the exact same time.

When confronted with bad behavior, the best antidote is professionalism. Just do your job, and don’t get triggered. It’s usually not personal, it’s general, it just feels personal because it is directed at you.

The couple ordered drinks after that. And then split a salad. And then split an entrée. Nothing unusual, nothing eventful, and certainly nothing that would trigger any type of memory.

After that initial weirdness the couple seemed to be fine. I shared a joke with them, and they struck up a conversation with the people next to them. Their food came out in a timely manner, their water glasses were never empty. All in all, a pretty uneventful evening. Most restaurant experiences fall into this category. Eat, drink, leave. It usually is that simple.

Eventually he requested the bill. I collected his credit card and ran it through on the machine. Then I set down the itemized receipt, and the two copies for signing, just like I do dozens of times a day. One for the merchant, and one for the customer.

I caution people to always look at their itemized bill. Mistakes can and do happen. It is not bad form to look at the bill, it is good sense. I also remind people to always take their copy with them. Leaving both copies in the hands of the establishment, means that the establishment holds all the evidence in a dispute.

However, taking both copies means that you do. Furthermore, if there is a tip involved, the establishment needs the signed copy in order to secure that. No signed copy means no tip for the server. Your copy can have all the signatures in the world, but if the server doesn’t have a signed copy, they can’t just add in a tip. That would be against the law. This is one reason servers are usually quite diligent about getting that copy. To them, it is the most important copy.

The man signed his copy and then put both copies and the itemized receipt in his jacket pocket.

That was odd.

Now I remembered him, because he had done something similar before. I remembered another night, a two-hour dinner and no signed copy. And no tip. I had chalked that up to a mistake on my part. This time there was going to be no mistake.

“I’m sorry sir,” I said. “But I need to get the signed copy.”

He waved me away with a later gesture.

Later came and went. I asked again. And then again. Now it was just getting weird.

“Normally you get the receipt when people leave,” he said.

“Normally, people give us the signed copy right away,” I replied.

Finally, he reached into his pocket and gave me the signed receipt before getting up and walking away.

There was no tip on it.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-Sometimes the little defeats can be overwhelming.

-A hallmark of modern society seems to be the desire to act like a jerk, but to not suffer any consequences for it.

-Remembering someone is not always a good thing.

-Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

-Where’s Will Rogers when you need him?   

-Or Charlie Sheen for that matter.