People love to talk about the bad service they received in stores and restaurants. Too seldom is the view from the other side discussed. With how businesses are currently being affected by Covid, we’re seeing and hearing a lot of stories about the public behaving badly. As I’ve worked in and with the service industry for most of my career, it’s brought back a lot of memories of how “the customer isn’t always right”. In fact, many times I’ve witnessed behaviour that should see people shown the door of an establishment in the speediest and firmest manner. A different walk of shame.
Like some countries have a mandated period of military service for their citizens, I believe we should have a 1 year service industry requirement to be better people. Here are the “TEN COMMANDMENTS” of good manners for the public.
1. Be respectful Part A) When you choose to shop at the store which requires the wearing of a mask due to the current pandemic, DO IT. It’s their business, not yours and they have a right to require it. They wish to protect themselves, their families, other shoppers and even you. If you’re invited to someone’s home and they request you remove your shoes, do you make a scene or respect the rules of the house? If you really can’t abide safety protocols set in place to protect you (even if you’re not worthy), do your shopping on-line and keep your entitlement to yourself.
Part B) A few weeks ago I was at a dining establishment where the management team set up a mandatory hand sanitizing station for all guests to use before entering the building. One family arrived and the “head of the household” refused. He didn’t feel he should have to do so and made a small scene much to the clear embarrassment of his family. When it was explained to him that it wasn’t optional if his family was going to dine there, he used the sanitizer but then left a zero gratuity at the end of their meal. Sir, you are a dick. Another example of “not your place, abide by the house rules”.
2. Don’t Shoot The Messenger. I was recently on a B.C. Ferry and watched a woman have a tirade on two staff members on the boat because she barely got on for her sailing. Anyone who lives on or travels to or from the Sunshine Coast has experienced troubles with ferry travel. But bear in mind who your losing it on when you make a scene like that. They just work for the corporation, they’re not policy makers. It’s over their pay grade and you’re shooting the messenger.
3. Be considerate. “No showing your reservation”. Always in poor form but highly selfish and insensitive at a time when restaurant seating capacities are so reduced. Many of these businesses are just seeing some light at the end of a dark tunnel. To potentially turn people away (and their badly needed dollars) because they thought that table of four was coming in but didn’t, is reprehensible. Shoe on the other foot no shows.
4. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Demonstrate good manners and consideration when shopping or dining. The person serving you isn’t your servant nor are they likely to be mind readers if they didn’t instantly gauge your needs. Treat them as you’d wish to be treated if you were in their stead. Or imagine it was your son or daughter you just watched spoken to in that fashion.
5. Be Open Minded. I was recently told by a restaurant owner about a “guest” who came to his place and after looking at the menu told him; “Your food is weird”. That patron was rude. Definitely not the first time I’ve heard a story like that. If you decide to try that new “Asian Fusion” restaurant down the street for example, go in with an open mind. What were you expecting; burgers? If they’re making food you’re not familiar with, embrace the opportunity to try something different. Otherwise open your own place and call it “Fifty Shades of Beige”.
6. Get a babysitter. This is a contentious one. Many people with kids want to be able to bring them to restaurants to help them grow into more cultured or civilized adults. Great in theory but not always appropriate. If you go to a more intimate or smaller dining establishment, you’re essentially asking that business to give up spaces to non-eating and therefore non-paying guests. Kids take seats that could’ve gone to others that would put bills in the cash register. Very importantly, children disturb other diners if they act up. While you may feel you have a right to bring them with you, what about the rights of the adjacent table of two on date night? Maybe they’d been planning this night for a month, got a sitter for their own children and your child having a fit next to them just spoiled it. There’s a hundred bucks down the drain. If you do choose to bring your kids with you, don’t expect the restaurant to have a special menu for them or be willing to “whip something up”. Think bigger.
7. Think before you request substitutions on the menu. Some restaurants feel this is part of the service they want to provide. OK no problem. But with others, the chef carefully designs dishes a certain way and it represents a vision for his/her cuisine. If the place is small enough, they may run on super tight food costing and not have the ability to accommodate those changes. Maybe try what the chef had in mind or order a different dish?
8. Don’t overstay your welcome. Years ago I worked in a small cafe near a university. This is where I came up with the term “Weeds”; someone who takes root and is difficult to get rid of. People who come in and and order a coffee and think that bought them the space for 2 hours. If that’s the case, the business might as well file for bankruptcy immediately and save time. Restaurants depend on turning the tables twice if not 3 times a night to make a profit. Particularly in the current reality. If you’re not going to order anything more, be courteous and get the cheque.
9. Speak up. Restaurants are in the business of service and most take pride in doing their best. If you’re served something that isn’t to your satisfaction or you have a problem with the service, say so at the time so they can address it then. They want you to be happy so you’ll come back again and bring friends. If you say nothing but then leave a poor gratuity or give a poor rating, everyone loses.
10. Don’t be a “Yelp-ster”. Restaurant critics hold a low spot in my books. Not all are bad. But there are those that are mean, shallow people and tearing down others is their payback for being miserable. The amateurs on Yelp or other social media forums who go to a store or restaurant and then write unfavourable reviews are even worse. Unless you’ve had a truly terrible experience (see #9), say nothing and don’t go back. Before you put your poison pen to work, these are people’s businesses and livelihoods you’re potentially effecting. Put yourself in their place and act accordingly.
Simple life lesson here; you aren’t the centre of the universe just because you’re the customer. Think before you act.