What’s “best” depends on whom it’s best for

“When are you guys going to open for indoor dining,” asked the man sitting at the bar devouring his hamburger.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking around a nearly 25 percent full restaurant.

“You know,” he continued, speaking more slowly, presumably, in the interest of clarity. “When…are you… going to be…allowed…to open…for indoor dining?”

“We are open for indoor dining,” I said.

“You are?” he said holding his sandwich in one hand and a French fry in the other.

“Sir,” I now said more slowly, not for presumed clarity, but for the actual thing. “You are indoors, sitting at a bar, and you are dining.”

“Oh,” he said. “I just thought you were doing it for me special.”

In the restaurant/bar situation sometimes people like to think that they are the only ones in the room. They want you to change the channel on the TV, adjust the temperature, open, or shut the door, or a thousand other little changes that affect everybody’s environment, not just their own. Many of them do so because they believe what they think is the only “right.”

“Nobody wants to watch hockey,” will announce the man sitting right next to a guy in a Sharks jersey fully engrossed in the game.

People often confuse “preferred” with “best.” One is personal, the other is absolute.

“We’re not sitting inside,” announced the couple being led to the “best” table in the house.

“Can’t we sit inside?” asked the next couple being led past that very same table.

Personal preference is a powerful thing and unassailable through logic. You like what you like, and you should never allow anyone to try and talk you out of that. But what is “best” is subjective to what one is doing, and more importantly, “who” one is.

Some years back I was a judge at a cocktail competition. The editor of a well known magazine was also a judge. When it came time to vote, he asked me which cocktail I was going to vote for.

“Number 3,” I said.

“Number 2 is the better one,” he said authoritatively.

“OK,” I said.

“So, you are going to change your vote then,” he asked.

“No,” I said.

He then went into a five minute explanation on why he thought drink #2 was better than drink #3. After which he again asked me if I was going to change my vote.

“No,” I responded, again.

“But I am the editor of [insert magazine title here].”

“I have an idea,” I said finally. “Why don’t you vote for the one you like, and I will vote for the one that I like.”

He did not like that at all.

Everyday in the customer service business, someone somewhere asks a clerk/bartender/ server, for the “best.” And every day that service person must decide what they mean. Because if there was only one “best,” than that is all that business would probably carry. One has to recognize that every product on every shelf has an entire company behind it. They designed it, they created it, they packaged it, all with the idea of “selling” it to someone somewhere, presumably in numbers large enough to make all that worthwhile. So, when someone asks, “what’s the best?” the obvious answer becomes “best for what?”

Over the years I have done many seminars, and at nearly every one, someone will invariably ask; “What is your favorite drink?” As a result, I have come up with a pat answer for that very question.

“That depends,” I will say. “Who am I with? What am I doing? What time is it? What day is it? What month? What year? Am I eating? What have I eaten? Where am I going? Where have I been? What is available?” The list of who, what, where, why, and when’s is endless.

A simpler question is “What was the last drink you had?” and/or “Did you like it?”

As for the service side, when a customer asks for the “best,” they are often pointed towards the most expensive. As if cost alone is an indicator of quality. It might not be, but remember that many service people work on commission (tips are a type of commission) and best for them, might not be best for you.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” wrote William Shakespeare in “Hamlet.” 

-“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive,” once wrote the Frenchman, Blaise Pascal, noted physicist, mathematician, inventor, and theologian.

-“That one,” replied the 19 year-old computer salesclerk, pointing at the most expensive model they carry, in response to the question, “Which one would you recommend?”