Can I Get Some Service, Please?

I’m not sure when it happened. I wouldn’t have thought I’d get like this. I fear I’ve turned into a cranky old curmudgeon. Maybe not quite to the level of the shuffling old guy with hair sprouting out of ears like some sort of odd alien growth, but clearly I’ve lost patience with the average retail employee. When did it become okay to hire someone incapable of counting change back? I know I’ve turned into a crusty old codger when it annoys the crap out of me the way they hand your change back – one big pile of bills, coins, and a receipt. Would it really kill you to hand them to me separately the way it was hammered into my thick skull by the owner of the pizza place I worked at in my tender youth? If he ever caught you just dumping a wad of change in a customer’s hand you’d be on dishwasher duty before you knew what hit you.

Speaking of restaurants, what happened to actually having hostess/wait experience before working at mid/high level eateries? We were walking downtown the other night and decided to have a drink at semi-new place. The restaurant was practically empty. The hostess greeted us and we asked to be seated at a table overlooking the sidewalk (it’s all about people watching). She asked if it was for just drinks or dinner? When we said drinks she seemed exasperated and said “ok, these tables are for dinner but since we’re not busy I’ll let you sit there. But if I need the table I’m going to ask you to move.” Really? Do you think we’ll ever go back with that attitude? Not. I would have walked out, but once I have my mind set on an adult beverage I’m like a big dumb dog trying to get ball out from under the couch. Single minded, I don’t quit. Not sure why I don’t have that attitude in business, working out, gardening…

What got me started down this train of thought was McDonalds. I have to preface that it’s a rare event for me to dine at the golden arches. However I was making a multi-state drive and ended up in Winnemucca Nevada, hungry and in need of gas (the refined, dead dinosaur, petrol kind). One’s dining choices in the middle of nowhere are pretty limited, so off to Ray Kroc’s legacy I went. The visit started badly from the get-go. Generally speaking, I tend to be a rule follower. If someone went to all the trouble of creating a rule, heck you may as well follow it. Even as rigid as I am there are times when it seems appropriate to bend or interpret rules to fit the current situation. I found myself staring at the breakfast menu. I asked if they were serving lunch. The gal at the counter glanced at her watch and said, “I can’t serve you lunch for three more minutes.” Really? She’s going to make me wait for three minutes? Sure enough. I stepped back and we stared at each other like some sort of weird Mexican stand-off for three minutes. At the stroke of the hour she flipped the menus from breakfast to lunch and said, “Ok now I can serve you.” Made me wonder if somewhere off in McDonald’s corporate headquarters there’s a dark room full of monitors and technicians. All intently watching employees via secret cameras and hoping to catch someone serving a cheeseburger too early.

Speaking of corporate headquarters, I’m all in favor of the famous Micky-D’s efficiency and speed in food prep. I understand the need for the numbered menus. Simply asking for a number 3 is an unbelievable time savings. Heck, one could just have a sign printed and hold it up – no human conversation needed! The problem I faced with the keeper of universal breakfast and lunch times who was serving me was that the number 3 was close… but not exactly what I wanted. I said “I’ll have a quarter pounder with cheese and…” Like a drill sergeant she barked “Do you want a number 3!?” “Uhhm, if it’s cheaper sure. But I’d like large fries…” She looked at me like the soup nazi from Seinfeld and sighed, “So a number 3, up-sized fries. Will that be all?” She was starting to scare me a bit, but I had to press on. “I’d like coffee instead of a soda.” She looked at me for approximately 20 seconds without a word and then started taping buttons on her register like she was programming a missile shot. “That will be $8.63. A regular number 3 and a side coffee would have been cheaper.” At least I didn’t go through the drive-thru. As the famous life coach Leo Getz says, “They f*** you at the drive thru!”

Considering the IQ of the average retail employee these days is somewhere near a mossy boulder… I don’t see my tolerance level with humanity getting any better as I get older. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just go yell at pigeons in the park. That usually makes me feel better.

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