Thursday, June 21, 2007
That Mythical Creature "Good Customer Service"
I was going to start this with "Whatever happened to good customer service?" but now I'm starting to wonder if there ever was such a thing. I mean, surely there was at one point or how would we all be so sure that we're not getting it anymore? Can't miss what you've never had, right? I can vaguely recall going to a restaurant, asking the waiter/waitress a question and getting a knowledgeable answer. I'm thinking those days may be gone forever. The other day, Randey and I were in Ft. Worth and decided to try out an Italian grill (one that shall remain nameless for now). Boy, I love Italian. I love the music, the history, the sound of the language...all of it. But most of all - I love the food. Give me a big ol' honkin' plate of spaghetti and I'm in heaven. I have a rather special fondness for chicken parmigiana, too. I even like a little homemade lasagna every now and again. Ummm, ummm, ummmmm. Oh, but I digress. Here we were at this nice little restaurant - a place neither one of us had ever been. We go in, the atmosphere looks pretty good, the place smells divine (imagine a big fat opera singer belting that word out and you might get an inkling of just how good I thought it smelled) and the staff seemed pretty friendly. We were seated and our waitress hustled right on over to take our drink order. Now I luves me a good margarita. Yessir. But maybe not with Italian food. The rest of the drink menu didn't appeal to me either. But a beer! - now we're talkin'. A frosty cold one. Oh yeah. So I ask Dina, our lovely waitress, just what beer did she have on tap. I think it's important to ask that because you just never know - you might discover the beer of your dreams that way. That's how I discovered Raspberry Wheat beer - at McGuire's Irish Pub in Destin, Florida. If I hadn't asked what was on tap, I'd still be ignorant of the delights of fruity beer. Anywho, Dina, our lovely waitress, was not the bottomless well of information one might have hoped for. Her response to my query? "Ummm, let's see...we have, like, Coors light, ummmm, Bud...light maybe, and ummmmm yeah, like, some kind of Shiner. I really don't know what all we have...ummmmm, I'm trying to think....yeah, that's all I can, like, picture in my head." Hmmmm. Yokie, dokie. I can get Coors and Bud at Wal-Mart. No special delights hiding there. So I settled for unsweet tea. As it was shaping up, I thought I might be needing my wits about me anyway. Then came time to order dinner. The menu featured something called "Grilled Chicken Diavolo". The short description is "grilled chicken breast served with spaghetti and spicy marinara". Ooohh, lah, lah, hold me back. I asked Dina, our lovely waitress, how to pronounce "Diavolo". Dina did not disappoint. That's not to say she knew how to pronounce it, but more like she certainly didn't deviate from the level of service I had already come to expect from her. Her response; "Ummmm, like, I don't really know." giggle, giggle "I, ummmm, think you say it, like ummmmm, Diablo or something like that." As it turns out, she was fairly close. Not exactly accurate, but not as far off as she could have been, I suppose. Confidant that she could convey my order to the kitchen without mangling it beyond recognition, I placed my order for that there Devil Chicken. (Randey ordered the combo - which is so funny if you know how little Randey actually eats when we go out to dinner. Most of the combo ended up in a to-go box.) At last, the food arrives...and it's DIVINE (see previous note about the opera singer). The green beans that came with the chicken weren't worth having, but the chicken, spaghetti and marinara sauce were...well, my gosh, there aren't enough words to describe it. I usually only use "orgasmic" to describe Godiva chocolates, but I'm thinking the devil chicken rated it, too. Well thank goodness the food was good and there was plenty of it. Because Dina, our lovely waitress, had apparently gone on break. Or maybe she retired, I don't know. Enough time passed that when she did eventually stop by to say hey, I damn near didn't recognize her. The time had not been good to her - hair was a little grayer, a few more wrinkles, she looked like she'd lived a hard life since last we'd met. We hadn't fared much better. I suspect Randey and I both looked a little shriveled, probably from dehydration due to a severe lack of refills on our iced teas. We had long ago sucked and crunched the tiny little ice chips left from our teas and had even resorted to licking the condensation off the sides of the glasses. Perhaps if I hadn't been so intent upon snorting, wolfing and raking that de-licious marinara sauce down my gullet, I might have been able to signal for help before the dehydration left us on the verge of extinction. (I don't know what Randey's excuse was - looks to me like he could have launched an expedition to locate our missing waitress. I mean really, when it comes to eating, which of us do you think has more free time - me or Jack Sprat himself?) But he didn't and I didn't and our waitress took advantage of our lax attitudes and disappeared. Dina could head to Vegas with that disappearing act. Hell, maybe she did. She was certainly gone long enough to have made the trip. Now here's the point of my story (yeah, I was starting to wonder if I'd ever get to it, too)...the food was really, really good...so good in fact, that I didn't do more than shake my head at the less than stellar level of service we received. I have become so used to bad service that it no longer phases me, at least not like it used to. I used to get down right irate and would ask for the manager and then write letters to store owners and corporate offices and anybody else who would listen. Now, as long as the food is good, I just accept bad service as being normal. I used to rant and rave that if everyone would stand up and refuse to accept bad customer service, there wouldn't be any bad customer service. And now...well now, I'm just one of the herd. I keep my head down, focus on munching my way on down the trail of life and let the mediocrity of America's service industry become the standard. It saddens me to know this is how I've become. But what the hell...the food was pretty freakin' good.