Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Got Beef?

People often talk about how we get crankier as we get older.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not a myth.  I do things now that would have horrified my younger self.  Maybe it’s due to a growing intolerance of the buffoonery we see around us every day, or maybe it’s our becoming more comfortable with not giving a shit what people think of us.  When I was younger, I’d never do anything that would create waves in public.  I’d receive bad service and apologize for asking for a correction. 

Suffice to say, I’m over that now.  After working in retail for as long as I did, I know what constitutes good service and what doesn't.  And that doesn't mean bawling out the waiter because I don’t some management-related policy.  I try to keep any display of irritation focused on the actual cause; not just the person that’s handy.

Here’s what set me off this week…

I went to see an Orioles game over the weekend.  It was a glorious, sunshiny day; just perfect for baseball.  I needed a little “me” time so I went to the game by myself, and got a seat in my new favorite spot: the club level in left field.
This was my view from section 274.
I misjudged how quickly my section would be shaded, so after a couple innings, I moved down to a shaded spot in the corner, two sections down.
Updated view from section 270.  Similar view, but made in the shade.
I’d gone to my usual bar before the game, and had my usual foot-long bratwurst, and then got some nachos to top it off.  But by the time the 7th inning rolled around (like, 6 hours later), I felt the need to get something else to nosh on.  I wasn't completely sure, though.  I could always pick up something on the way home.  I was kind of on the fence.

Anyway, at the top of the 7th, I got up and took a leak, and then cruised around the club level to see if anything looked good.  I checked into getting a hot pretzel, but they were all out.  Next thing you know, I found myself at the club level version of Boog’s Barbeque.  I recalled from the playoff game I went to last year, that this location really loads up a pit beef sandwich, so I stepped up to the line.

There was one couple in front of me, talking with the “chef,” (he had a big white hat), as he made their sandwiches.  He looked up at me and said, “Do you want something?

I said, “Well… yeah.”

I mean, why else would I be standing there in line?

By now, the game was into inning break, aka the “7th Inning Stretch.”  That’s where the Orioles always play “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”  (Really.  Don’t ask.)  Apparently this is also the point where the food stands start packing up.

So the chef says to me, “OK, but usually when I hear this song, I know I’m done.

In a flash of irritation, I said, “Fine, be done,” and I spun and walked out.  I could hear him trying to call me back, and then explaining to the other couple that he would have served me. 

I didn't say anything further.  But what I wanted to say was, “What kind of customer service is THAT, where you make your customer feel like you’re doing him a favor by allowing the privilege of paying 10 bucks for a freakin’ sandwich?”  I hate that attitude.

It wasn't like everything was all cleaned up.  I could see a big tub of roast beef right in front of him.  I wasn't asking him to create something special, after he put everything away… all he had to do was stick some beef on a bun and take my money.

In earlier years, I wouldn't have said boo; I’d have just waited for my sandwich in silence and thanked him for serving me.  But I know that a customer shouldn't be made to feel like he’s imposing, just for daring to ask a server to do his job.

When I told her about it, Sitcom Kelly thought I was just a little bit Sen-si-tive.  Maybe I was just on the fence about wanting to eat again.  Or maybe I’m becoming an old crank.

I had something similar happen to me at a Wendy’s a year or two ago, only it was more about incompetence than insensitivity.

I was ordering my double-cheeseburger, just like always: with pickles, tomato, lettuce and mustard.  I heard the cashier call it out just like I said it.  I stepped aside to wait for my order and saw the line person begin to assemble it.  Problem was that she added onions.  (I hate onions.)

So I called out, “Hey, I didn't order onions on the double-cheese… just pickles, tomato, lettuce and mustardNo onions!

She said, “What?

The cashier echoed my order… no onions, just pickle tomato, lettuce, mustard.  They went back and forth about it for a moment or so, to clear up the apparent confusion.

When the line person went back to re-do the burger, and I stepped away to draw my fountain drink.  I picked up my order and went to my seat, but as soon as I unwrapped the burger… onions.  After all that commotion, they still got it wrong.

Again, a wave of irritation washed over me and before I could think about it twice, I put my finger through the loops of onion, pulled them off the burger and went back up to the counter.  Schlapping them down on the counter I said, “Here are the onions I asked you to hold,” then went back to my seat.

They were lucky that was all I said (and that I didn't throw the onions back into the prep area, Frisbee-style).  I don’t mean to have hissy fits out in public, but I expect simple competence.  In the past, I would have merely removed the onions and set them aside, but this time, it was important to me to make a point… that point being, “Listen to your customerYour ingredients are not interchangeableSome of us have strong likes and dislikes.”

Was I being too melodramatic?  I hope not… I kind of enjoy this new-found freedom to express displeasure.  Normally, I’m the nicest customer ever because I know how hard it is to serve the public.  But I also recognize when people are just going through the motions.  And I also know that places like Wendy’s and Burger King have systems in place to keep orders straight.  Errors happen when people take shortcuts and don’t pay attention. 

I know that often times, customers contribute to the error, by not communicating clearly, or having outrageous expectations, but I’d like to think I know better.  I’m more than happy to give the benefit of the doubt. 

It doesn't come up every day, but sometimes things happen, lines get crossed, and I just see red.  I mean, I was up at that Wendy’s counter before I could even think about it.  By the time I sat down, I was like, “Seriously, did I just do that?”  But I felt they needed to know that something was grossly wrong with their quality control efforts, if not for me but for the benefit of future customers.  (You’re welcome.)

So do you think I over-reacted in either of those cases?  What would you have done?  Is there anything that makes you get snippy with people right there in the store?  (Talking to yourself in the car doesn't count.)

Or have I just become a grumpy old man?


Reeeik/C.F.O said...

Tough Guy !!!!!!!

bluzdude said...

Sorry, none of the offenses rose to the level of someone needing their ass kicked, or else I'd have been on the Batphone to you. Luckily, I'm perfectly capable of being pissy.

Deb K said...

I'm with you on this. My default is to be polite, but when I am met with an attitude of indifference or disdain, I rise to the occasion. I think that is the common thread in the two experiences recounted.

Anonymous said...

Note to self: Don't get food from that guy next time I go to an Orioles game.

Mary Ann said...

Save wear and tear on your temper and pack a lunch. OR how about an onion on each finger then wave a knuckle sandwich in the clerk's face.
You are surrounded by inept, indifferent and rude service people in your town. How do you get through a day without pissiness?

Anonymous said...

There is too much of that around to get upset at every time. Only if it's outrageous would I say something.

I went to Papa Johns to pick up a pizza on Monday. The hubs ordered it online because there was a deal. It was a large pizza, chicken tenders and breadsticks. When I got there, the boy working the register told me that they were really backed up and my pizza wouldn't be ready for a bit. I asked how long . . . 7 minutes he said. So I sat down. And then I got to hear 25 minutes of him bitching and moaning about how busy they were and when people came in to get their pizzas, hear yet again how they weren't ready and they were slammed, and even dissuade people who were calling in orders from ordering because they were "just too busy." Eventually, I got up to find out if my stuff was ready yet. Please note I was the only person in the store waiting for pizza. I come to find out that while he was bitching and moaning on the phone, my order had become ready and was sitting on the shelf. I had to get someone else to get it for me. Did I say anything? No. But I did ask for extra cheese sauces for the breadsticks, and gave them a look that said "I dare you to charge me 75 cents extra for each one." They smartly did not. If I had known the kid's name, I might have called it in. No name tag, though.

Jessica R. said...

We had a similar situation to the onion episode Friday night. We finally had a baby sitter and decided to go out all by ourselves. I ordered some chicken with NO bacon (I'm sorry Bluz, but it upsets my stomach). And of course it came out loaded down with bacon. I can't even eat stuff cooked with bacon. We sent it back and it took them forever to bring me a new one. Mark was already done eating by the time they brought it. The waitress never apologized. When the manager came over he sort of apologized and Mark informed him that they would be removing that from our ticket. I don't know if I'd be brave enough to make such demands, but I'm glad he did!

We have also walked out of several restaurants where we were seated but no one ever took the time to come by and even get a drink order.

bluzdude said...

OK, let’s you and me start a consumer revolution! “What do we want? Service! When do we want it? When it’s our turn!”

bluzdude said...

I’m picturing you waiting for the Pop Tart vendor to come down the aisle…

“Pop Tarts, getcha Pop Tarts here! We go cherry, blue-berry, rasp-berry, gotcha hot cinnamon here…”

bluzdude said...

“Inept, indifferent and rude service people…” Yep, that’s Baltimore. I notice the difference in service every time I go back to Ohio.

bluzdude said...

I probably wouldn’t have said anything either, but I would have been buzzing around the counter at the 7-minute mark, and giving him the hairy eyeball death stare until he checked on my order.

I think his offense is egregious enough, though, to file some kind of complaint online. Even without his name, you can report the time and location. They’ll know. To me, there’s not much worse than ignoring your customer while you yak on the phone.

It they were that busy, and there wasn’t anyone else in the place, he should have been back there helping expedite the orders.

bluzdude said...

It’s OK Jessica. You’re pregnant. It’s OK to have strange culinary tastes, like avoiding bacon. (My only choices regarding bacon are “regular” vs “ultra.”)

I’m glad Mark got you some relief on the bill, because messing up and order and then bringing a replacement out so late that the other party is finished, is a major violation. Kind of ruins the “date.”

I will also leave a place if they don’t take my order in a reasonable time, but it would depend on other circumstances as well… like how long did I wait for the table, and did I have a reasonable alternative. Mostly, I try to avoid eating at places that are that busy.

I’m also reluctant to complain in places I frequent often. If I’m on the fence about a place, or it’s a one-off, I’ll complain. But I hate to foul the atmosphere in a place where I know I’m coming back. Sometimes they have an off night.

Valerie said...

If you're a grumpy old man, then I'm a grumpy old bitch. Lets just blame everyone else!!



bluzdude said...

Ok, lets be grumpy! Everyone can go to hell!

Unapologetically Mundane said...

One of my friends is a server and was telling me a story earlier this week about a guy who flipped out about onions. And I was like, "I get it, but . . .", because I really, really hate tomatoes, and just having them touch something else on my plate can totally ruin the taste of that thing for me. So if you put tomatoes on my burger, that burger is done no matter how quickly you pull them off. And imagine if I was actually allergic to them or something. That said, I'm never going to yell at someone about a tomato. So no, I don't think you were being overly sensitive about the run-in with the beef guy. You don't want to do your job? Enjoy not having my business. I think you handled it pretty awesomely, actually.

bluzdude said...

Well, thanks, Katie.

Onions are like that too… the onion taste leeches onto anything they touch.

Now, if onions normally come on a burger and I forget to ask them for them to be held, I’ll just pick them off and make do. But after going through that lengthy instruction session and having them STILL show up on the burger? It’s “go time.”