Monday, August 27, 2007

What Happened to Customer Service and Stocking A Store?

My dear readers,

I'm afraid that I don't have any pictures for you today; instead, I have some things I need to get off my chest.

The odyssey began yesterday when we went to the yarn store. As you know, I needed to get some needles. We got there with plenty of time to spare, and Hubster dropped me off while he went in search of something sweet - like a donut. I went into the store and headed straight back to the needles.

This store has an impressive collection of needles - unless you're trying to find 6-8" DPN's in metal. They carry all the sizes that Addi makes (and will be one of the first stores to carry the new larger size of their lace needles), so I figured that finding what I wanted would be a breeze. They had aluminum Addis in a dinky 4" length. They had steel and aluminum Addis in an 18" length. They had bamboo Addi Naturas in an 8" length. They did NOT have any steel or aluminum needles in the length I wanted. I went through every single needle they had on the wall (which was a considerable number). I finally had to settle for the 18" steel (which did have a 2.25 mm for a size 1), some bamboos in the 8" length (gack), and two 12" circulars in sizes 1 and 2. At least they had those. I made some small talk with the lady who works there, went outside, sat on the curb waiting for Hubster, and then we left for our next location - Borders.

I wanted to go there to find some new knitting books, specifically technique books. Even though I've been knitting for 47 years, I love technique books and usually find something that I didn't know about. I also wanted to look at their sock books. Since we once again were going to fail to go through my room, I had to buy some books which I probably already had (albeit buried in the huge piles in the studio). Once we got there (after navigating one of those modern parking lots that have short rows set at odd angles to each other and trying to avoid being hit by every Yuppie mother in her Luxus or Benz SUV), we entered the store. Nice. Clean. Obviously pretty new. Hubster went off in search of his science fiction books, and I went off in search of the craft books.

I searched. And searched. And searched. Finally, I had to break down and ask one of the employees where the craft section was. She promptly led me to a small bookcase in the very back of the store (the aisle wasn't even marked), pointed to two shelves of books, and proudly proclaimed that this section held sewing, quilting, beading, knitting, crocheting, and all other manner of crafting tomes. Then, with a smile that said she had done something out of this world terrific, she left me alone to peruse the partial shelf of knitting books. My grands have more Tommy the Train books than this store offered on knitting. I went through every book at least three times and selected a couple on technique and one on socks. Their variety was truly mind-boggling. I was also able to find some English knitting magazines (it always cracks me up that most of the advertisers in those mags are American ones), rejoined Hubster, paid for our wares, and headed out the door.

After ten minutes of navigating said parking lot looking for the exit, we discussed where to eat for dinner. I threw out two choices - Val's, which is a hamburger hut icon, and Olive Garden. Hubster was in the mood for pseudo-Italian food, so off to Olive Garden we went. That's where the trouble really started.

Hubster (as the man of the house) went up the girl (and I do mean GIRL) running the seating desk and asked for a booth for two. She told him that there was a 15-20 minute wait for a regular table and a longer wait for a booth. No matter. I didn't mind waiting. Then Hubster asked if we could just reserve a booth for 45 minutes later so we could leave, do something else, and come back. She very carefully explained to us that the tables were given out on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if we put our names down, we'd have to be there for the table or it would be given to the next person in line. I listened to her with the sort of slack-jawed, glazed look one gets when your insurance agent is talking about actuary tables and how they apply to you. I finally said, "In other words, you don't take reservations." "No, we don't!", she practically sang out with a look of smug superiority. I told her to leave things are they were, and Hubster and I retired to a bench out front where we could have a smoke and watch people.

About 15 minutes later, our little buzzer thingie went off, and we went inside to claim our booth (heaven forbid that it should go to the next person on the list). The booth was just fine, and as we were settling in, this very young girl (obviously a summer job for her) showed up holding a bottle of house wine. She launched into the standard script about how the restaurant had chosen this very special wine and how we were being given a complimentary glass. We both told her thank you, but no, since Hubster doesn't drink (unless he's gambling) and I can't drink because of my meds. She then decided that we wouldn't discuss alcohol at all (wow - that was uh... perceptive of her), and we placed our orders. Then she uttered something I've never heard in my long dining-out career: "Would you like your appetizers brought out with the meal?"

I just looked at her. I could feel Hubster looking at her. Instead of being the complete ass I usually am under such circumstances, I simply said, "Please bring them out before dinner". That completed, we then settled back to chit-chat.

About five minutes later, his salad appeared. This didn't bode well, but neither of us said anything about it.

Then a young man with a large tray appeared. He was about to set out meals in front of us when I asked, "Where are the appetizers? We asked for them to be delivered before dinner.". He looked at me like I had just informed him that his fly was open and his member hanging in my risotto and replied, "Well, I'll take these back and see about your appetizers.". We both stopped him from doing so, since we knew the plates would sit under a heat lamp for a half-hour (congealed risotto is such a delicious dish). Hubster asked me if I still wanted the stuffed mushrooms. I told him yes, I did. A few minutes later, the mushrooms appeared (which HAD obviously been sitting under a heat lamp). Gack.

Then our summer job waitress appeared and apologized profusely for the mix-up. I said to her (bear in mind that I can only take so much), "Has everyone forgotten the concept of an appetizer? That its supposed to show up BEFORE the meal so you have something to much on and whet your appetite for the main course?" She looked at me even odder than most people look at me, apologized again, and disappeared. Thank goodness the food was tasty and hot.

Now, when we go out to eat, Hubster starts with a baseline for the tip he'll leave. He tends to overtip, which doesn't bother me because I know waitstaff makes most of their money on tips. As things begin to go wrong, he starts subtracting from the tip. By the end of this meal, her tip had fallen to zero. He, too was fed up with poor service, appetizers arriving with the dinner (or forgotten all together), and any number of other things that typically go wrong during a meal.

We left for home after that, whereupon I put on clean jammies, sat in the Monster, and managed to knit half of one sock all evening (due to the frequent naps). I woke up this morning (one hour sleeping, one hour awake) at 10:45 a.m. Hubster had to go into work today for an 11:00 a.m. meeting. Needless to say, he's working from home today. Tomorrow I have to go see the pain doctor in Sacramento, and since we'll be there, I'm taking the opportunity to have a manicure and pedicure done at my old place, and if I have time, I'm going to drop in on Anna at my former LYS.

It is such a pleasure to dine at places like Alioto's in San Francisco, where being a waiter is a time-honored and traditional occupation for Italian men. And these are grown men, having supported their families, put Junior through college, and taken family vacations all on their waiter salaries. You won't find a college person anywhere near the customers in a joint like that.

What has happened to people? Is working at a restaurant something that only young people do in order to make pocket change to party with? Has gentility all but flown out the window? And the bookstore - don't they stock more than a few stinking books on something noble like knitting, which has been around forever and shows no signs of letting up soon (quite the contrary)? What has happened to us?

I think we've all grown fat and complacent about customer service. The big-box stores, while convenient for many with their unlimited numbers and lower prices, have virtually no customer service at all (unless you count some old bastard standing at the door saying, "Welcome!" and sticking a happy face to your shirt - if you're over 12, forget it, you don't get one - I know, because I tried). These are the stores which are putting the mom and pops out of business, not to mention the smaller chain stores who just can't compete. It's a real shame. I'm ashamed of being a consumer.

Speaking of consumerism, there are about a dozen packages sitting on the Monster which the Yarn Fairy just delivered. I should have lots of pictures for you tomorrow, my dear readers, although not until late in the evening since we'll be gone all day. I'm hoping we can visit a yarn store in Rocklin, and since Thunder Valley Casino is pretty much right up the road from there...

I hear they have drinking in joints like that.


Lorena said...

While I am sorry that you had such a horrible evening, the line "He looked at me like I had just informed him that his fly was open and his member hanging in my risotto" is completely giving me the giggles!

SwissKnits! said...

Ahhhh Olive Garden... such happy memories.
Like the time that we went on my actual birthday, I ordered the fish and it was uncooked under the cheese topping. The waiter did bring a new plate of fish, again uncooked...
So *on my birthday* I ended up eating the remnants of my childrens dinners... then went to Maggie Moo's for a sugar coma.

BTW the whole meal was comped, but that's not the point is it?

At least there is San Fran for you!! Enjoy your meal and mani-pedi!!

Pam the Yarn Goddess said...

LOL... thank you, Lorena. I tried to get your e-mail to thank you through e-mail, but no such luck.

Swiss, it sounds like you had a horrible experience there. I'm so sorry. Like Lorena,I was unable to get your e-mail addy. I like to try and drop my readers a note when they take the time to comment on something I've written. :)