Don’t treat customers like intruders

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2003

She didn’t ask how we were doing. Not a smile, not a friendly "Hello," not even a "Good afternoon."

Instead, this person looked at us like we had invaded her territory. She was a mother bear, and we had just walked into her den and tied rope around her cubs.

The only problem, of course, is that we had invaded nothing and she was not keeping flock over anything. Rather, we were customers at a Demopolis restaurant, and she was supposed to be our waitress.

Because the purpose of this article has nothing to do with embarrassment, I will not name the restaurant where a friend and I went to eat last weekend. I won’t print the person’s name, nor will I give subtle hints that allow you to figure out where we ate.

There’s another reason I have decided not to print the name of this restaurant. All over Demopolis, whether it be in restaurants or retail stores, I’ve noticed an alarming trend of poor service. Obviously, this isn’t the case for every store in town, but no one would argue that poor service has become far too normal around here.

Let’s take my lunch last week.

The whole thing started wrong when we walked in the door. Though there were two people at the front of the restaurant, we walked in and no one said "hello." Rather, we looked around for a few minutes and decided to find our own seats.

This was a Sunday afternoon, and after playing a round of golf, my friend and I found a room with a TV in order to catch the end of a couple of football games. We turned on the TV to watch the end of the games, and waited patiently for a server.

Probably 10 minutes later, someone came and brought us a menu. Our waitress didn’t take our drink orders or ask us if there was anything we would like. Instead, she plopped the menus on the table and walked away.

As we looked over the menu and watched parts of the football game, we noticed that music began playing in the room where we were watching TV (when we entered, no music was playing.) What’s worse is the music got louder and louder &045; we simply walked to the TV and turned its volume up louder just to hear the commentary.

Though this sounds amazing, we finally got up out of our chairs and walked to the front to request a drink. Finally, those drinks came &045; again, about 10 minutes later.

Eventually, our food orders were taken, and even though there were only two or three other tables in the restaurant being served, we didn’t get our food for nearly 35 minutes.

When we completed our meal, we never got a ticket. Instead, we walked the front counter, miserable over the poor service already.

Because I lost the little side wager on golf, I had to buy the food, and when I asked for a ticket from the front counter, the woman standing there never looked me in the eye.

A few minutes passed, and I did something I don’t regularly do.

A few minutes later, a woman from the back finally walked to the front and rung up our meal.

Though it was probably classless on my part, I left a 50-cent tip. Never before have I done that, and I hope I never have to again in Demopolis.

You see, here’s the problem with poor service. The people at the front desk of that restaurant didn’t know who I was. They didn’t know if I was a bum off the street who found enough money to have a decent meal. They also didn’t know if I owned a major company and I was scouting Demopolis as a location for my new industry.

If I had been a prospective employer, I would have walked out of that restaurant, gotten in my car and left the city as soon as I could. I would have judged the work habits of people in Demopolis by that one crummy restaurant.

We all know service in Demopolis isn’t always that bad. In fact, there are some restaurants and retail stores in town that do a fabulous job of making sure the customer is the top priority. We also know there are business and restaurant owners who spend a majority of their time pushing employees to treat customers better.

Unfortunately, the poor service at that one restaurant could have ruined it for every other member of the work force in Demopolis. The right visit at the wrong location could have cost this city more than you’ll ever know.

Whether you know this or not, the service industry in Demopolis is the most important industry we have. Without good workers who treat customers like kings, we will struggle to improve &045; both socially and economically.

Based on that poor experience, I personally ask that employers take a minute with their employees and stress the importance of customer service. Restaurants that make customers feel like intruders have no business being open. And customers who are treated as intruders will never again support those stores.