Sunday, January 25, 2009

And the problem was...

After thinking long and hard about every aspect of the previously mentioned Friday night I have come to the following conclusion of where the problem occured.
After the open bar ended at 10 I received a party. They are regulars that come in every week and I adore them. They are polite and easy to care for as well as being organized. If I come by to check on them they make sure everyone hears me speaking and asks for what they need at once. They never play run the server. Being that these are great customers that come in every week with a group of 10 to 35 people we do our best to take care of them quickly and efficiently.
Most of the people from the party were hanging around waiting to hear the outcome of the 15 item raffle. While the numbers were being read off the group crowded around the server well at the bar and at the server station where we keep napkins, silverware, and our personal items like purses and coats. This area is obviously not someplace a customer should be standing. The way the Bar is set up, a server walks through the server station to reach the server well at the bar. Needless to say, this group was in my way. Usually I let people know they should not be standing in the server areas, but I was too busy at that point to say anything so I simply worked around them. On my way to the server well I said "excuse me" loud enough to be heard. On my way back through with a full try of drinks I felt the need to speak a bit louder since they had their backs to me. I have had people back up into me and spill an entire tray mostly on me, breaking glasses and wasting time, and wanted to avoid this happening then. Several times the men standing in my way apologized and I gave them a cheerful "it's OK" as I walked off. I usually don't get that much from customers. It's nice when they are polite and realize that you are trying to do your job. At some point I also had to disturb the ladies standing at the server station and using it as a table so I could reach the silverware and napkins needed by my customers. One of the women was the wife of the man running the party.
I believe that the wife complained that I was rude because of all the loud excuse me's and making her move when I needed to retrieve items from where she was standing. Also, I don't doubt that after the twelfth time having to say excuse me to the group I was no longer smiling idiotically. By no means was I rude, but to a self-important woman I guess it would be seen as rude for someone like me, a mere server, to ask her to move. I treated them no differently than I have people in the past.
Women customers sure can suck.

Strange Day

I picked up a Sunday bartending shift. There were no good sports games on and it was brutally cold so business was...not really there. I served about 25 people in hours. I worked with the same manager that gave me the talk the day before so I was a little uncomfortable starting off the day. My worries were unfounded as he treated me no different than he had before the talk.
At the end of the day we were missing two credit card receipts. I remembered the tip amount on one of them but not on another. I ended up losing the tip since we couldn't find the receipt. When I got home I remembered the amount was $11. The transaction had been closed before I left so I couldn't get the tip later.
The strangest thing about the day happened when the owner came in to talk to the manager. It's a family business and this is not an unusual thing. I chit chatted with his wife for a minute. She commented about it being slow and I told her that it had been that way all day. Later, as I was walking by where they were sitting, Jerry (the manager) handed me a ten dollar bill and said it was from the owner. Stunned, I said thank you and asked what it was for. Jerry said "It's a long story" and the owner said "Because you're a nice girl."
Whatever the reason for it, I don't think I have to worry about the talk anymore. It's not every day the owner hands money to an employee and tells them they are a "nice girl." Beyond that, I felt appreciated and that is one of the best feelings an employee can get from an employer.
What a mind f*ck of a weekend.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bring me to Tears

It's Friday night and there is an open bar party. This event was scheduled over a month ago, but I found out about it the weekend prior when another server told me she would be working with me Friday. I was surprised and felt a little sour about the management not telling me since they had known for so long.
The party is scheduled for 7 and will run for 3 hours. I don't know if the house was including a tip for me and Kate. Kate arrives at work at 6 and we try to work out a plan of attack for the party. Since we don't know how many there will be or which side of the bar they will be at we decide to play it by ear. There could be as many as 150 people!
The party begins to arrive at 7. Kate takes the first round of drink orders while I continue to care for the few dinner customers we have. Kate lets me know after delivering the first round that she did not receive a tip. We laugh it off and try to make a joke about it. By 8 the dinner tables have left and Kate and I are both caring for the party. Kate quickly figures out which tables are tipping and only serves them. This leaves me with the tables that are not tipping. I take it in stride, making jokes with Kate and the bartenders about how I am not making any tips. It is, after all, my job to serve customers whether they tip me or not. When the party is over I have made $2.
Kate leaves as soon as the party is over and I am on my own. Most of the party-goers have left and the remaining people are paying cash and have begun to tip. Go figure. With every tip I receive I give a big smile and a genuine thank you.

The next day I am scheduled to work the bar. When my manager gets in I let him know how the party went. I told him I made $2 and that we had to turn away several tables that came in for dinner because we had no seating. I suggested that next time we reserve a few tables so we can still seat customers.

About an hour into the day my manager asks to speak to me. I stepped iff to the side with him and he starts.
"I had a couple of complaints about you from the party last night."
"Really?" I ask, genuinely confused.
"The guy in charge said that he had people from the party coming up to him telling him that you were really rude. They said that you were complaining about not making any tips and that you had an attitude problem. We can't have people like that working here. These are customers, people who live in the neighborhood. We want them to come back. We can't have employees being rude to them."
"Wow. Jerry, you know me better than that. I would NEVER be rude to a customer. As far as complaining about them not tipping would make me uncomfortable to say something to them about it. You know me better than that." I am floored. I wasn't happy about the way the party had turned out, but I felt I had handled it with my usual attitude. I have never been told I had an attitude problem with a customer. I know better than that!
"Well, we can't have that here. I've let girls go for that. You can't be rude to customers."
"Jerry, you know me better than that. I usually get compliments, not complaints. I admit that I was joking around about not making any money. One of the people from that party probably overheard me. I am very sorry that happened and I assure you it never will again. I will be more careful in the future. But I promise you I was not rude to anyone last night and I really don't feel that I had an attitude problem."
At that point my barback let me know that someone at the bar needed a drink and I returned to the bar nearly in tears. I got a beer for the customer and excused myself. I stepped outside to clear my head and my eyes.
The rest of the day went quickly, though I was fighting back tears for 2 hours after the talk with Jerry. Several times during the day I was told that I was "on top of my game" for offering another drink when one was almost gone. One customer, who had been gone for 3 weeks, told me that he had missed my smile and was happy to see it again. These are the comments I am accustomed to hearing, not that I have an attitude problem.
I managed to make it home before I broke down. I guess I thought my managers thought more highly of me than to believe I would treat customers in that manner. I believed that I was thought to be a good employee. I realize that there may be other factors that contributed to the view of my actions the night before. I know that I was not rude and did not have an attitude with the customers. I'm embarassed that I made the huge mistake of mentioning tips within hearing range of the customers, but don't believe that was the only perceived problem. What the hell happened??? I guess I am not the valued employee I thought I was...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Are you a grown up?

I have cut down my hours at the Bar so my run-ins with diners have been restricted. I did, however, have the supreme luck of running into the type of diner that makes servers want to spit in their food, serve them things that have been dropped on the floor, etc. This encounter lasted a mere 45 seconds.
The lunch rush of the day consisted of 7 tables coming in at noon and closing out their tabs at one; all at once. As I was at the register closing the last tab, two guys, who looked like grown up adults, walked in. My boss, who was at the front on the phone, grabbed two menus and handed them to me. I took them with one hand and continued to hit the proper buttons on the screen to close the check I was handling.
"Can we just sit?" asked one of the guys.
"I'll be happy to seat you in just a second." I say flashing him my customer service smile as I hit the last button needed to close the check.
"One second, OK?" I say, again smiling, as I walk 3 feet away to grab two sets of silverware. None of the tables had been reset since the tables were vacated seconds before. As I walk the 3 feet back to the guys at the register I confirm the number of people in their party.
"Just the two of you today?" I ask.
"You know what, forget it." one of them says. They turn around and walk out the door.
They were obviously upset at having to wait seconds to be seated and did not understand why they could not be seated the second they walked in the door. While the Bar only runs a one person floor and there is no need to worry about who's next up to get a table, we do ask that customers wait to be seated when dining in the restaurant area. This serves many purposes, one of which is to make sure each party is seated at a table that has been cleaned and set. True, there would have been little harm in letting them seat themselves, but they would have waited for me just the same, even longer. There was little harm in having them wait.
Is this a case of poor customer service on my part? Simply impatient customers? I can't imagine they were in a hurry since they left to go elsewhere (I assume), which just took more time than waiting 30 seconds.
Well, to the guys that are not grown up enough to wait their turn, the women who run their waitress for lemons for their water, and the people who do not tip the server or bartender (or only tip the bar) at an open bar party, I have my eye on you.
I am done being treated like a lower life form by customers. I will continue to provide excellent customer service and dining experience to those who treat me like a person. I will continue to do my best in all cases where I am being treated with respect. Not too much to ask for right? In all other cases I will not be rude, but I will not smile and eat shit. Should be interesting...