Wait 5 seconds? You must be joking!

Being mildly hedonistic, I find it difficult to imagine that you can have too much of a good thing. After all, I could be dead tomorrow so I think I’ll give in and eat the whole of that box of chocolates today; both layers. I know that only a little of what you fancy enables you to appreciate the good things more but if tomorrow’s number 33 bus has my name on it, I should have it all now; right away.
And I only want the best. That’s the trouble when you experience something good: you want better as well as more. But then it depends upon what you’re used to. For instance, it wasn’t until people started to travel abroad that we realised how much terrible service there was in this country. We used to put up with absolute rubbish – and unfortunately we still do. But then again, that depends on the type of organisation you’re dealing with. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can be sure that any place where you have to take a ticket and join a queue when you get there is almost certainly going to treat you as if you’ve just crawled out of the bin. The reason being that if there’s a necessity for a queue, there’s probably a greater need from those within the queue than there is from those set up to satisfy it. Most public-facing government departments fall into this category.
Looking at it from the restaurateur’s point of view, we want your trade. Without it we’d go out of business, I’d lose my house and my wife and the animals would be on the street. So we have a pretty strong motivation to make sure you come to us and leave wishing to return. Part of that means making sure you’re happy from the second you poke your head around the door. Sure, if we mess up at that moment we have the opportunity to put things right while you’re with us but we give ourselves an uphill battle. So it helps if we keep you sweet as you arrive and that means we have a rule at Oldfields that you have to be greeted immediately you come in, that we smile at you and make you feel welcome. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear whispered panic cries of “door” from the staff as each guest arrives.
Sure, sometimes it goes wrong and only last Sunday lunch, Mother’s Day, I found myself apologising profusely to a couple I’d left standing at the door until the chap pointed out that it was probably no more than a few seconds. But at least we care and that means we have to work hard at it. The reason being? Well, if a business doesn’t provide a good enough service, there’s a chance you’ll go somewhere else next time and never come back to us. And then we go bust.
And so I’m reminded of my ridiculous behaviour once when in Canada. I’ve found that some of the best service in the world is on the west coast of Canada. My wife and I had spent a week experiencing some fabulous food and service in Vancouver until one day we walked into one particular restaurant that had been recommended to us. However, as we walked through the door, nobody looked up, smiled and walked towards us. In fact, the three staff present were busy in a huddle talking amongst themselves. Therefore, after a totally reasonable long wait – about 5.3 seconds – I turned around and walked out, muttering to myself and dragging a perplexed wife behind me.
Now, the truth is, one of the staff might have just heard that the dog had died or all three had won the lottery. And the fact that they ignored me for a full 5.3 seconds was just a small oversight on their part and, of course, I was being totally unreasonable. The trouble was, I’d got used to perfect service and this was probably only going to be 99%. So Mr Pathetic dragged his wife out the door. I’d obviously been spoilt which proves that, unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing.
8th April 2011

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