to a cellphone
if its one thing you dont want to hear while youre
enjoying a glamorous night out on the town its them
My friend and she friend was having some expensive desserts
in a fancy ice cream joint last week, treating themselves
after a hard-fought week at work.
Unfortunately, they were sitting next to a pretty messy table
at the far end of the cafe. It seemed the staff thought they
were the messy ones.
A waitress watches them with a fatal cut-eye and bellowed
across the cafe as if she were selling nuts in Jean Pierre,
Them customers stink!
And then she went behind the counter to complain further with
the cashier without lifting a cleaning finger.
Now thats service. According to one reader who responded
to last weeks column:
Im in T&T, I imagine myself as a reckless explorer
in a savage land, living by my wits end. The only other place
Ive been to that has given me such a sense of unease
Yes, far too often we have to fight for the things we actually
pay for, as though its a favour for which we are to
be eternally grateful.
Like one reader who placed a food delivery order at 4.15 pm.
minutes later I called to check on the delivery and was told
the driver said he was not coming out in the hot sun and traffic.
asked to speak to the manager, who then suggested she would
go and beg the driver. What?!
called the main office the next day and the person who took
my report said she did not think that happened.
No way. I couldnt go on. That was way too unbelievable.
That kind of thing doesnt happen in Trinidad, does it?
Then I remembered the sneeze-laugh.
I was studying late one night in my final year on campus and
needed some serious recharging. But after waiting twice the
scheduled ten minutes, the pizzeria cashier with the missing
tooth said the fries for my combo were given to someone else.
And, who knew it, they already threw out the oil, so they
werent making any more.
Toothy then asked if fries were what I really wanted in the
first place. Seriously.
yes, maam. Thats why I ordered it.
some cookies, instead, nah.
I was too hungry to cuss.
But I got the cookies only after the cashier cracked a joke,
prompting the worker preparing the cookies to say, nah,
Keisha! do a kind of sneeze-laugh over the cookies,
snort, and wipe her face.
Its an endemic problem in T&T, which, unfortunately,
we cant help but compare to other countries when we
travel. Speaking from personal experience alone, generally,
service staff do whatever they can to please the customer.
Its not merely good characters and kind hearts. It boils
down to money.
Neither my friend nor she friend is going back to that dreadful
ice cream place. Ive never returned to that campus pizzeria
since. The reader refused to order anything from the restaurant
chain that is humanitarian enough not to let its delivery
drivers go out in the sun.
In other words, customers have been lost.
Some time ago, at the same ruby of a restaurant where my mother
and I had to run for cover lest we be pelted by drunken customers,
my buddies and I dined since it was one of the few whose kitchens
was still open. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday, not a Tuesday.
The staff took 20 minutes to seat us, which was fine, but
added another five for the time it took the hostess holding
our menus to talk to a fella wearing Sean John. When the waitress
finally came, I asked: How are you doing?
I tired, was the reply.
I skipped the sirloin and ordered a burger and fries. We ordered
no cocktails (even the Cokes, the waitress admitted, was flat),
no appetiser and no dessert. Instead of spending money on
a nice night out, we just wanted to quell our hunger and leave
as fast as we could, lest the lazy waitress keep us another
hour or two.
In other words, money was lost.
And when tourists and foreign investors experience this, it
T&T does not have a tradition and culture of service.
Its only been in the past decade or so that the service
industry has burgeoned with hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes
and travel agencies. We didnt have that much money before,
and vacancies weren't splattered all over the newspapers as
they are now.
Today, however, a job is just a means to a new cellphone.
Theres so much demand that theres no need to treat
anyone speciallyor properly. People will still patronise;
people will still spend.
Exactly how much more money do we need to pay to get good
service? As fast as these popular chains pop up, more high-end,
exclusive joints open offering similar fare at dissimilar
prices. And people will go because its where they know
theyll get good service.
But as options amplify and as we, Trinis, grow out of this
phase of fascination of whats new and trendy and hot
and foreign, we just might move out of adolescence and into
adulthood where we become more circumspect, discerning where
and when our hard-earned money should be spent, thereby showing
businessmen that if they want something from us, they need
to give us more than just a tired burger and fries.