My folks are visiting us this week, and my dad wanted to treat us to a nice steak dinner. It turns out that (my favorite) Zagat winning steakhouse - Billy Bob's - is literally around the corner from us. Now, I'm going to preface this by saying that yes, I'm aware that today is President's Day. That being said, I had NO IDEA how big this holiday is in Vegas.
The casino wasn't especially busy. Billy Bob's bar was nearly empty. So we were a little taken aback when the hostess greeted us with a curt, "Do you have reservations?" And when I say curt, what I really mean is a distinct air of '::rolls eyes:: These heathens are so out of their depth. Peasants.'
I don't think I've EVER made reservations to go there. I've been to Billy Bob's on a Friday at 7pm and had no wait to be seated. On a weekend. I took a really long look at the numerous empty tables before taking a breath and saying, "No, we don't." Shaking her head in annoyance, she stated flatly, "Well, I couldn't possibly get you in before 6."
Before 6? What? We didn't even leave my house until well after 5. I glance at my watch. It's 5:37.
Trying hard not to roll my own eyes, my parents and I nodded at each other that we were totally willing to wait 20-ish minutes to eat. We told the hostess that was fine. Then she immediately said, "OK, I've made you a reservation for 6:30. If you want, you can come back around 6:15."
The three of us just kinda stood there for a second, confused. In what universe does saying ok to 6 translate to '6:30 will be fine'?
I especially liked the condescending you-can-start-begging-for-a-seat-in-person-in-45-minutes thing. Classy.
My mom started to ask if we could wait in the bar, while I simultaneously pointed out that a 20-minute wait is not at all like a 60-minute wait. Even though neither of us had a chance to complete our question/statement, the hostess had no problem answering my mom with a negative shake of her head while (not at all) politely reminding me that we were 'free to return at 6:15'.
For the record, since it is/was my favorite restaurant, I know that the bar is seat-yourself and that their entire menu is available there. Why this hostess didn't want us to eat in her clearly-not-even-remotely-busy restaurant is beyond me.
My dad is a patient man, but he brooks no ill manners from anyone, and he had had enough. He chimed in with a perfect, "We may be free to, but we shan't," with a crystal clear undertone of I'll-never-be-that-desperate-to-GIVE-YOU-MY-MONEY.
As we turned to walk away, she got a look on her face like she didn't realize that we might not appreciate her behavior, that we might take offense to her rudeness, that we might not stay. And us not staying might make her look bad to her boss.
So she called out a feeble, "I'm sorry we can't serve you tonight," but it was too little FAR too late, and I let that crap bounce right off my back fat.
What some (and by that, I mean an alarmingly large percentage of) customer service employees don't seem to understand is that it takes nearly endless toil and perfection to gain a loyal customer but just one bad experience to drive that customer away.
Las Vegas is a big town with a lot of great dining options, and in case you haven't noticed, there's a recession going on. I don't hafta spend my dollars with your establishment, so if I choose to, part of the deal is you not acting like I'm asking you to bend over backward with crazy requests, like doing your flipping JOB.
For yet a more poignient and wounded-heart example, Fat Hubby and I have a very favoritest restaurant in town. It will remain nameless because I'm trying very hard to forgive them. We have been going to this place for years, even when we were so poor we had to budget our gas down to the mile so we'd be able to get to work until payday; we'd eat beans and rice and ramen every day to save up enough to treat ourselves there. Fat Hubby proposed there, we celebrated finally getting pregnant there, as well as the eventual birth of our son there. The manager always comes to greet us by name, the servers all know us, and we have seen them politely and professionally move people so we can have 'our table' (when we had no reservations, I might add ::shoots Billy Bob's a dagger look::). This is a cool, refined, delicious-grub-slinging Cheers for us. At a couple hundred dollars a pop, over the years we have conservatively spent upwards of $10,000 there.
And one extremely BAD experience followed by a lack-luster experience drove us away. We went from twice-a-monthers to not-being-sure-we'd-ever-go-backers, and are just now (after many, many months) dipping our toes back in the water.
It might not be fair, but that is the hair-trigger line you walk as an employee that interacts directly with the customer.
To end on a happier note, have hope my service industry friends: bare-minimum customer service is so ubiquitous that if you actually manage to deliver a halfway decent experience, you'll have tons and tons of the best advertising around - word of mouth.