Augusta-Margaret River Mail senior journalist Sandy Powell wonders who is the real problem in the service industry debate – the staff or the customers.SANDY POWELL TALKS AT YOU is the column from Augusta-Margaret River Mail senior journalistSandy Powell.
Sandy is the kind of guy to dance about the architecture, and he’ll never waste wine when there are words to sell.
He is Jack’s moving finger, writing, and having writ, he will move on.
For a barman he makes a good journalist.
Question: what is the first thing you do when you go in to a hospitality or retail venue?
On Sunday I did a shift at the local brewery I occasionally moonlight at to make a grab at a bit of extra cash and to help them out.
During the day shift at this brewery, this weird thing never fails to manifest.
Usually in the form of some gawking cashed up bogan and his peroxide blonde girlfriend/silver surfer impersonator, or a middle aged couple of grey nomad description, both fat from time spent on the road doing exactly this weird thing.
They will walk into the venue, whether through the obviously-a-door front door, or around through the side door because apparently the large front door is just too damn intimidating.
They will then -and this is when I generally notice their awkward presence -stare at the ceiling decorated with chandeliers made from large glass bottles before casting their gaze out through the dining area, out to the veranda, the playground and the expansive grassed dining area.
This whole process will take around a minute, about ten seconds into which I will have said something along the lines of “G’day guys, how’s it going?”
About twenty seconds in to the process, having not received a response as I observe their blank stares transitioning from veranda out to the playground, I will generally reply to my own question with a slightly louder and more expressive “Yeah, I’m really good too thanks guys! What are you up to this afternoon?”
Ten seconds later, when I still haven’t received a response because clearly the plastic bull/seat in the undercover eating area requires their undivided attention, I will follow up the deafening silence of their amazement at having walked into a restaurant without a drive through.
“Although the bull does look ever so life like, you have not in fact enteredMadame Tussauds Wax Museum and we here behind the bar are in fact real life human beings who thrive on interaction with people such as yourselves.”
“And we are able to reward your ability to interact with a tasty beverage, such as the beer crafted right here in this building, or a meal such as a pizza or burger we definitely have not poisoned.”
Of course I haven’t actually said anything of the sort before, because I’m not actually that witty.
I think the best I’ve managed is a “Hey, there we go!” when I have managed to catch their ever-so-precious attention.
I manage to do it with some form of grace however, and am usually rewarded with a sheepish grin as they realise they have in fact had someone speaking to them for the better part of ten minutes while they stared transfixed at the wonder of a fire contained within a box in a wall like it’s the Year of Our Lord 0004.
My point is this, or at least something like it; if you happen to stumble into a building you haven’t entered before, and you intend to purchase something, give the people who work there at least the benefit of the doubt that they are not only decent human beings but actually good at their jobs in the service industry, excited to chat to you and serve you and ensure your visit is memorable and worthwhile.
Certainly, I understand that sometimes they aren’t; sometimes they are just useless and will openly scowl when you present with knowledge of the venue even only slightly less than their own.
Unfortunately, there are times when one party, either staff or patron, isjust going to be an average person.
You can do your best to not be that person.
Speak, converse, interact!
I once delighted an African patron who told me he was from Rhodesia by putting on a mock African accent and saying “We say Zimbabwe now don’t we, brother?”
I don’t think he got the Blood Diamond reference but it didn’t matter.
He’d already had a good time and hadn’t even yet spent any money!
It’s just that easy to not be a terrible person.
However, I’m sitting in a crowded restaurant, tapping into the free wifi and writing this while eating and drinking alone, so maybe I’m not the best barometer of sociability.
What do you think? Do you do your best to treat those in the service industry like fellow human beings? Post your comments below.