Service is an Event

I hope and pray that everyone is staying safe during these times.  I’ve been trying to use my time wisely in between working to study the free materials that are available and read.  I think everyone can agree that the shelter in place rules are starting to get on people’s nerves.  Especially in some areas of the country that there is a total lockdown from even going to a park to walk or garden. 

While sipping on some wine, I started to think about what this entire Pandemic has caused.  Obviously, with restaurants closed and many of my co-workers either furloughed or unemployed, everyone is worried about what the next day will bring.  I completely understand and my heart goes out to everyone.  I still hold on to a key saying that someone on Facebook said when all of this started (sorry, I can not remember who said it or I would give credit).  In a nutshell, he said that while we have time on our hands, that we all should be cooking and improving our skill levels.  When this is over, this is a chance for advancement for new ventures and opportunities, so prep for them while we have the time.  Great words and I’ve been trying to do that daily.

I have noticed a trend when I do run out for essential supplies.  Everyone is frustrated and tired.  I understand that.  Retail operations that are open are stretched with long hours and trying to serve a greater amount of people.  It must drive them nuts when someone walks in and without looking asks for an item that is probably 95% stocked out (toilet paper, hand soap, sanitizer, just to name a few). 

When I worked retail, my hardest times were during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving.  We always said that there would be one horrific day when everyone came in, wanted the same items and had one constant trend.  They would ask a question…you would answer it and then they would stare at you for a few seconds without saying anything.  To this day, I was never sure if they were thinking one of the following:

  • He did not hear what I just asked so let me ask him again.
  • He does not know what I’m looking for so let me go ask someone else.
  • Does he really know what he’s talking about?
  • Can I trust him and his answer?
  • I just don’t believe he told me there is none in the store so let me ask him again.

People during these times were very stressed.  Think about this scenario.  A married couple came in and asked me how much turkey they needed.  Once I figured out that with the amount of people they were having (a large group) plus the rest of the meal, I determined that they needed a 30 lb. bird.  My suggestion was to purchase two 16-18 lb. birds.  My reasoning?  They take up the same oven space but cook quicker and more even.  Plus, now you have four drumsticks, four wings, etc. to please everyone.  The husband thought it over and said, “I like that idea” to his wife…”why don’t we do that?”

She was completely stressed out trying to figure out how to prepare this meal.  How could I tell?  Her reaction was explosive!  Please note, I’m not using that word lightly.  She blew up, put her finger right into his face and started screaming at him regarding:

  • That she was stuck cooking for HIS family
  • That she did not like HIS family
  • That no one was helping her cook for HIS family,
  • And then it really got ugly (can’t go into it but it was not good and involved heritage).

I remember that day as I kind of slowly backed away.  It’s always in the back of my mind that everyone is fighting their own battles each day that we do not know about.  Because of that, I’ve tried to always stay positive and proactive with customers and interacting with retailers and the service industry.  When you think about it, every time in our industry that we talk with someone, it’s an event that we have one chance to do well.  People come to us to relax and maybe forget temporarily the troubles that they have going on in their personal lives. I always thank them for that.  I consider it an honor to be able to help someone enjoy a moment in time.

Service is KEY

Here’s one of the most important aspects that I’ve learned during these times.  Some stores do it better than others.  I’m not talking about keeping items stocked.  Please note something: retailers, restaurants, or anyone that sells services or items for their business WANT to sell you things.  They are not hording it in the back to keep it from you.  If the shelf is empty, its empty and I’m fine with that.  It’s something that we have to live with during these times.

What I have issues with are how employees and customers are handling the stress.  Yes, I did just say it.  There are only certain stores I will shop at now due to employee attitudes.  Everyone…I get it.   You are tired.  You may have done the dreaded close-open.  However, when I go into the market at 7:30 am and start to walk down the baking isle, please do not bark at me (when I have not said anything yet) that there is no yeast!!  It was not on my list and I paused to keep the 6 foot distance and let you by as you stocked the shelf.  How did I handle it?  Easy, by saying “Good morning, nope it’s not on my list but thank you for letting me know.”  I also stopped and made sure I made eye contact with her as I wished that she had a great day. 

And for customers.  Do not get out of your car and start yelling at the employee at the door about having to wait to get into the store at 7:30 am.  We all do not need to know:

  • that you think this is a hoax,
  • that it’s all over and the worst has passed,
  • that you had to wait…..let me see 33 seconds to enter the store since he was letting people in every 20 seconds to stage it,
  • that since you had to wait that you demanded to see the manager at the top of your lungs to him, and
  • proceed to be a butthead as you yelled at everyone…without a mask on!!

I made sure to apologize to the staff member who had to take that abuse.  You could see on his face that he was counting the hours until his shift ended.  Through it all, he remained professional.  Amazing job!!

Summary

I’m a wine guy by heart.  However I’m a service guy first.  That was ingrained in me from when I was 8 years old selling barbecues for my dad in the 70’s.  And yes, I sold a few $500 models by myself.  It’s part of my nature to attempt to be polite, remember what people are fighting daily and trying to help others. 

As I sip on my glass today looking at the sun outside, I’m reminded of the simple statement that everyone from chefs, to sommeliers, to professors to great people that I have worked with:

  • Every aspect of service is an event. Its our job to make sure each ‘event’ is done to the best of our ability to keep the guest happy and returning.

I pray for everyone during this time that this will be over soon, and we will be back working 100% doing what we love.  However please remember this little motto I was taught in church years ago:

The thing is never about the thing, but everything is about every thing.

Everyone…stay safe, drink some wine and let the above statement change your life as it did mine years ago.

@artofthepair