Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ranting on Ranting

by Julie

When waiters and waitresses stop by a diner's table and ask "Are you still working on that?" the latest popular (and snarky) response from diners is "Since when did enjoying a meal classify as work?"

Okay, I get it. "Are you still working on that?"isn't exactly a classy inquiry.

Nor is, "How does everything taste?" - which seems to be the new waitstaff go-to question. I'm not a fan of that one myself. I think dining out is about far more than how things taste. It's a combination of ambiance, conversation, timing, service, and yes, food. Perhaps a better choice would be: "How is everything so far?" or "Can I do anything for you right now?" Both are nice.

The thing is, when a waiter comes up to me and asks, "Are you still working on that?" or a waitress asks me, "How does everything taste?" my first response is *not* to leap to my feet, smack them upside the head, and demand why they they've asked me such a ridiculous question. And yet, after reading a few recent rants online, I get the impression that I'm the exception rather than the rule.

Unless a waiter or waitress is pointedly rude or indifferent, I tend to believe he or she is doing his or her best to ensure I'm enjoying my meal. Because the questions asked are not worded in a particularly lovely way doesn't mean the waitperson means any offense. Just the opposite, in fact. And I know from experience that management often dictates what questions are to be asked, and they specify how to word them. You've heard of mystery shoppers? There are mystery diners, too - out there checking to make sure the staff does everything they've been instructed to do.

This tendency to find fault with questions like "How are you doing?" and responses like, "Have a good one," or "No problem," isn't limited to dining out - not by a long shot. I've been seeing complaints everywhere where individuals believe that a cashier or salesclerk or ... anyone they encounter outside the home is guilty of personal affront simply because they spoke inelegantly.

My rant today, if you haven't already guessed, is about...rants. I'm tired of people complaining about niceties. That's what these are, really - service people doing their best to be NICE. Can't we all just understand that their intentions are good and leave it at that? If a question truly offends then that is a matter to bring to management's attention.

A self-satisfied snarky retort (and I'm seeing *plenty* of suggestions for them online, as though it were some kind of contest) does nothing more than publicly belittle that service professional. Not cool. You know what else? It makes the world a little less pleasant.

In the spirit of spreading sunshine rather than gloom then, let me ask you for the best (nicest, most fun) service-related situations you've encountered. What such moments have made your day?


Shel said...

Julie, if I didn't already love and adore you, this post would have done it. As it is, you've only cemented your place in my affections. (Ok, that sounded weird, but it's late and you know what I mean). THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for this post. I am currently a cashier. I came home crying tonight because I wished someone a "nice night" tonight and got snarled at in reply, "Don't tell me what kind of night to have!". Good grief. I can't do anything right. If I don't say anything, I'm ignoring them. If I say too much, I'm being patronizing. If I smile, I'm being fake. If I frown, I'm being rude. Service people cannot win. I try my best to go the extra mile for my customers, and get yelled at more often than not for it.

Debra said...

Okay, slightly OT but I think you can tell a lot about someone by how they treat service folks like waiters. I once dated a man none of my friends liked. We went out to dinner and he spoke to the waitress like he was The Lord of a Castle and she was a peon. Bye,bye guy.
I went out for breakfast just a few days ago, the small place was packed and only one waitress, but you couldn't tell by her manner. She was sweet and efficient.

Julie Hyzy said...

Shel - Gotta tell you, I had a whole extra part written about "Have a nice day," and "Have a good one," because people DO rant about those, too. I had a few other complaints to cover as well. But my post was getting far too long.
I am so sorry you had to deal with that rotten man last night. What in the world inspires people to slam others - people they don't even know. They're paying it forward, all right. It's just what they're paying with they can keep. I'm so sorry you had that experience. You're right, in many instances it's the service people who can't win. {{{{HUGS}}}}

Debra - Exactly!! I completely agree. I understand how once in a while we may be rushed or distracted.... My family has called me out for saying "yeah" to service folks, instead of replying with "Yes, thank you." That's probably because I call *them* on it from time to time, too. But there is never a reason to be rude. So happy you dumped Mr. Lord of the Castle.

Publius said...

Amen. Service jobs are hard. My experiences are all as a waitress, where you're berated by the cooks AND by the patrons for every little mistake. If people are now berating waitstaff for being *nice*, I wonder what the world's coming to.

Chèli said...

Having been at the bad end of the "Help Desk" for many years, I try to make sure that when I'm having a hard time with something and I need to "rant" about my problem, I always start out by telling the person that I know that it's not their fault but that I need to rant for a minute and get it off my chest. They are usually so understanding that we laugh about it afterward and then start off in a pleasant manner. I try to always tell my friends that if they're going to call for Help remember that person didn't cause the problem, they want to fix it.

Aimee Hix said...

I, too, think that people are just spoiling for fights nowadays and take it out on people they think can't fight back.

I try to be polite and considerate to everyone I encounter. Just because I am paying them for a service doesn't mean I've gained a right to abuse them.

The more we take the opportunities to make the world a more pleasant place the happier we'll be.

Lover of Books said...

As someone who used to be a waitress and now working retail, it seems to take all kinds of people. I have had customers leave me. 50 in tips and leave me wondering what I did wrong. I smile genuinely and answer the phone with a smile on my face. I do my best to go the extra mile whenever possible. I have had rude customers and great ones that shop often. So I take it all in stride.

Julie Hyzy said...

I have to say I was spurred to write this after reading a post online that complained about service professional comments. That may have been no big deal except for the immediate and frighteningly delighted response from the masses, all jumping in with their stories of how someone phrased a question/comment. I was struck by the vehemence and negativity there and was so angered, I wrote this, and pushed off another post for a different day.

Elaine Ellen said...

One day as I was cashiering at a store, the 4 year old daughter of the woman making the purchases just had to give me a hug! That was so sweet! That really made my day. And other times when I was cashiering, I had people come to my lane because they actually liked me!

Julie Hyzy said...

Oh, Elaine, that just speaks volumes!

I_Rate said...

I know these ladies and men are working for $2 per hour PLUS EXPECTED TIPS (to make up the supposed 'minimum' wage). Having done the same jobs when my wife & I were in High School & College, we always tip 14%, and often over 20% for a good effort.
We don't blame the waitress for bad food (unless I can see it sitting on station for more than 5 minutes) and tip more for one smile than 10 frowns.
We will however let them know if there is a deficiency in the food, or call a manager if there is a serious server problem. We're more likely to get a coupon or free meal as compensation, if we let them know with a reasonable face, if not a smile.

Rachelle21 said...

My rant would be that the powers that be who raise minimum wage forget to raise the base rate for wait staff. This means that they have to make up more with their tips and not everyone is aware of this little fact.

Since I am married to an accountant we have seem employers who will raise the base rate especially for their best workers.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand it when servers ask "Do you need change?" We both know that you're getting a tip but I find it presumptuous. I think a much better way to handle it is to say "I'll be right back with your change." The patron can then say "Great" or "No, we're set."

Adrienne said...

Thanks for your reasonable 'rant', Julie. Given our children and friends who waited tables all through school, we've always had a special place in our hearts for wait staff. They work hard and are often under-appreciated. I always try to make someone smile, especially when he/she seems to be having a bad day. Life's too short to rant, right? Adrienne in MN

Aurian said...

Fun post. A waiter in Holland usually asks (translated): Is everything as you wish it? Can I get you something else? More ...?

Rude waiters or bad food equals no tips. When I have enjoyed myself, I do leave a few euro's.