Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Service lessons from a jumbo prawn

Despite being the land that invented service culture, I'm finding that Americans seem to be losing their edge. I just had lunch in the hotel overlooking the beach - cue surf sounds, and when I asked about the size of the 'jumbo prawns' I was told you get 4 wopping prawns that are each about 10 times bigger than standard prawns. Salivating at the prospect of these gastro-crustaceo delights that I guessed were wriggling with freshness, I duly ordered them.

But lo! When the plate arrived (carried by a different waitress) there were just three podgy pink prawns smiling up at me. When I queried my original waitress about The Missing Prawn (accounting for a quarter of my dish) she apologized and came back in a few mins with a solitary prawn delivered in a bowl. No attempt to compensate for mental anguish, such as giving me a couple more for good measure. (I guess there's still a fat margin on the hefty $14 cost.)
A second learning for me was Not To Blame Someone Else. The waitress passed the buck onto the hapless kitchen staff, saying that their "apprentice" didn't know the drill. This hardly made me the customer feel better; merely conjured up the image that they have a scruffy youth on work experience slopping dishes together with dirty fingernails.

Well, a trivial point, but I've noticed the correlation of declining service standards with the shift of the tip on the bills from "optional" (in theory at least) to it being automatically added (17% in this case). The even cheekier bit is the a line asking for "Additional gratuity". Another couple of prawns might have even bounced that tip into overdrive, and made me a convert.

No comments: