Seriously? Where is it?
My boss told me that when customers get mad at us about something that went wrong with their order, that we are to “not take it personally”. His theory that he shared with all of us at the yearly meeting was to “be a tree” and just keep on personally growing no matter what people threw at us. And yes, in hospitality I have literally had numerous things thrown at me! Including and not limited to: a big mac, a plate and a punch in the face. And yes, I have grown strong and tall, and my bark is thick as a 150 year old tree, but I still have feelings, because I am a person, not a tree.
As I delivered meals tonight I had one kid who when I delivered his chips said “Excuse me miss, can I please have some ketchup”. We teach our kids to be polite, well most people do. And children are amongst the best mannered in our society, because one thing I have noticed is that as kids grow older they gradually lose their sense of manners. I am abused 90% more by older people than by younger people. Somehow as we get older we seem to expect more and more out of other people, and ask for it more rudely than we ever have before. I’m not sure if it’s because they stop caring completely what other people think or if they have some misguided sense of entitlement. Either way it is neither here nor there, it’s still not okay to abuse someone for not meeting your expectations, especially when you don’t even know if they are directly responsible.
The trap comes in this industry when we are told “the customer is always right” and I’m telling you whoever came up with that clearly never worked in hospitality. The person who created that phrase had one thing in mind and one thing only, the businesses best interests at heart. The industry is beyond competitive, from mega giant franchises stealing each other’s customers because there is one on every block all the way to small town pubs trying to ‘out special each other’ we are in constant competition. And no one wants to lose a customer, businesses are so desperate to keep in the business that they bend over backwards, just to please people who honestly are behaving like bullies. We constantly reward bullies, we give people who abuse us free promotional items. The waitress goes home knowing that customers can walk all over her and she just has to take it, and the manager gave them some free fries. And I’ve been that manager, you are trying to calm down a customer for fear that they will make a scene, so you do what you’ve been taught and give the customer something to placate them. Bribery. And it’s not okay. That customer just learnt that if they yell at people they get free things, what sort of message is that? You wouldn’t let kids get away with that, so why do we let adults?
I want to work for a workplace that when a customer is screaming at you about how disappointed they are and they are never coming back we say bye and usher them out the door. Then we have a 5 second dance party. Thank god we don’t have to interact with that godawful human ever again. And hopefully soon they will be banned from every restaurant in the state. Don’t get me wrong, if you feel that there is genuinely something wrong with your order, feel free to ask for help. Just use manners and keep a calm civil tone and we will be happy to accommodate you at this new world of order restaurant. Because it is not okay to treat hospitality workers like they are scum on your shoe, I actually don’t care what they did: whether it was taking your order wrong or god forbid forgetting the sweet and sour sauce. It is not okay to treat people like that. If that was your daughter, or your mother, how would you feel about them being verbally or physically abused?
My plan is two pronged. First: as above, we need to learn to say no to customers. Not all the time, but sometimes you really don’t need their business again, because they probably won’t be happy the next time they come in either. And a customer once disappointed is 10/10 more likely to have even higher expectations the next time, or just ask for free stuff because they know they can get it. Either way, they are costing your business, whether in having to get new employees because the others all became “burnt out” from dealing with people or just in free product you give away to the bullies.
Secondly: a retraining school in how to be a decent human being. Every single person should work in hospitality to understand how mistakes are made in the industry, and their goal while working should be to never ever make a mistake and see how hard that is. That out of the 500 meals you deliver in one night, maybe one got fucked up. Because human error is a thing, and we are not robots, and nor are we trees. They should make hospitality a subject in school, you work for a business to experience what it is actually like. The answer of what it’s really like down there in the trenches: it’s rough; because society expects perfection. Every. Single. Time. And I don’t know about you, but that’s insane. Did you get 100% on every test in school? Do you drive 100% perfectly all the time? Is your life just 100% perfectly on track all the time? Have you ever tried your hardest but still not come out with a positive result? Probably not! So get a grip people, and let’s share some more kindness around instead of hate.
Truth is: I love people and I love this industry. But the people who make me cry are the ones that think that treating humans like they are slaves just because they paid 10 dollars for a burger. So yeah, I take it personally, and I will continue to take it every day, like so many of us out there who have to. But businesses need to get around the fact that customers are not Gods, and they don’t deserve special treatment over everyone else. Cause I am fed up with this fucked up world order. Somethings gotta give. We need to move forward into a world where it’s okay to make a mistake, as long as we fix it and learn from it. The pressure is not okay. You are paying for food, not nuclear bombs. Please just be kind to one another. The world needs that more than it needs restaurants with paying customers.