No matter where you go, there you are

Things are not as different as they sometimes seem:

I had already bellied up to the bar counter. I took some pride in the fact that person behind that bar hadn’t had to ask me too many follow up questions. I knew what I wanted, and I knew how to get it. If only the whole world worked like that. But alas, it does not.

“So, what if I only want half?” asked someone who apparently did not know what was an acceptable ask.

“What am I supposed to do with the other half?” asked the woman behind the bar counter.

“I don’t know. Throw it away?”

He had said “I don’t know” but what he had meant was “I don’t care.”

And that is the crux of the problem. Not caring. Because a business cannot “not care” about things like that, certainly not these days. Every mistake has a cost. And that cost needs to be recouped. That is how business works. If you lose money consistently, you go out of business.

The half-baked customer eventually left with twice as much as they wanted, but there is always another option. If you don’t like the policy, then don’t go there.

The woman behind the counter turned to her regular sitting at the bar. He was mid story and had never stopped talking. The only thing that had changed was that the listener had come and gone. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference, either to him, or to her.

It doesn’t matter where you go, the one constant is people. The service business is about people, not things. High end, low end, it is always the same, the only difference is the degree. Some skew this way and some skew that way. There will always be a regular, there will always be someone hitting on someone else, there will be platitudes and there will be complaints. And there will always be someone who is paid to stand there and deal with all of it.

Another customer walked up as I worked my way through my well-ordered delight.

“Do you have this? Do you have that?” she asked.

She hadn’t looked at the menu, nor at the chalkboard. Some people just won’t avail themselves of the resources available. They just won’t. And you really can’t make them.

“What about this? What about that?”

“I have a full menu here,” the woman behind the counter reached out her hand.

“But I want you to tell me,” replied the customer.

And the conversation that followed went just about as one would expect. “What was that second thing? Can you repeat that last part? What was the other thing again? You didn’t say that before.”

If a person needs the entire menu explained to them, trust me, there are bigger issues at play. But there are some people who don’t take pride in knowing what they want, nor in knowing how to get it. instead, they take a perverse sense of pride in exactly the opposite of that. If ignorance is bliss than these people are ecstatic. 

Only they usually aren’t. They want to make someone else responsible. And if there is one thing that is certain, the person who does not accept responsibility, is usually remarkably adept at assigning blame.

Which is exactly what the woman behind the bar explained to the regular sitting on the other side after that customer left. Regulars are the grounding principle of the service business. Sometimes things get so weird that a service person just needs a beacon of reasonableness to refer to.

Another customer approached and ordered in such a way that several follow up questions were needed.

“You know,” the customer said.

“I do not know, sir. That is why I am asking you.”

How could she know? She obviously didn’t know him, probably had never waited on him before, and he wasn’t being clear about what he wanted.

“There’s only one way to make a [insert classic staple here],” he said, standing directly under a sign that listed several versions of said classic.

“You never do this,” and “You never do that” he suggested, and kept suggesting, up and until security came to take him away.

“You don’t need this,” said the regular to the woman behind the counter after the kerfuffle had ended.

“Let me take you out after work,” he said. “For a drink.”

“I am still married,” she said.

“You can’t blame a guy for trying,” he added.

As I pushed my chair back and stood up at the mall hot dog stand, I realized these things:

-You can, in fact, blame a guy for trying, especially if he keeps trying.

-No matter where you go, there you are. And so are they.

-Ketchup can go on a hot dog, just like vodka can go into a martini.

-Getting 86’ed from a lunch stand for being a jerk is hard to do, but apparently not impossible.