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Service to Revile

A former server recounts the worst service of his life while eating breakfast in Jacksonville Beach

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I would like to introduce this personal anecdote with my service background. I began as a server 14 years ago at a TGI Fridays in Tallahassee, Florida. I quickly moved to bartender, spending the better part of a decade working there to pay college tuition bills. I have since worked in the hospitality industry on many levels, ranging from my original station at bartender, to GM.

I know what it is to be in their shoes, working on your feet day in and day out, and dealing with unruly customers who expect the world and tip like they’re homeless. Been there. I also know the difference among great service, mediocre service and terrible service.

Today, I had the displeasure of getting the worst service I can remember, due to my server’s total lack of interest in her job. It was breakfast in Jax Beach. Let me preface the following account of my experience with the fact that I am an extremely low-maintenance patron, especially at breakfast.

I hit the shower an hour early everyday just so I can sit, by myself, and enjoy some eggs, iced coffee (which seems to be an unheard of phenomenon, and I’ll get to that later), and the Folio Weekly (shameless plug).

I need not be hovered over or have my cup filled every 30 seconds. I don’t need, but welcome, conversation. I don’t need my food in three minutes flat. I simply like a good attitude, a cup that isn’t completely empty, and good food, how I ordered it. Today, I received exactly none of those considerations, and here is my story:

I walk in, have a seat, and begin to peruse the menu. A young server with a nice smile greats me and asks what I would like to drink. Here is where we begin to go downhill. I reply, “I would like an iced coffee, please,” to which my server replies, “Oh, we don’t have that.” I politely ask her if she can possibly fill a cup with ice and pour coffee over it. Her reply? “I can try.” I CAN TRY, she says!

By the time she has finished this incredibly difficult science experiment, the request for which obviously throwing off her entire day, I am ready to order. “Can I create my own omelet?” I ask. “Sure,” she replies. “OK, I will have a bacon and cream cheese omelet please. Is that a possibility?” “Absolutely,” she says. My food arrives, she drops the plate off at my table, and moves on.

No problem there, as she may be busy, although I do take notice that the restaurant isn’t overly crowded. Things happen in a restaurant, so no sweat.

The problem lies here: My food is wrong; but, while I was looking forward to trying a twist on the average bacon and cheese omelet, I can deal with cheddar instead.

Like I said, I am low maintenance, and I am going to get full either way. My issue is the service part of this exchange. My server never came back to ask how my food was. Not one time. She sat down with some friends, and in my annoyed state, I make conjecture as to the subject matter of their conversation, assuming it was to talk about how wasted they got last night. She did not return to my table for some time. As I ate, my coffee runs…. Out. No sign of said server, so I ask the young lady cleaning the table next to mine if she would mind grabbing me another iced coffee.

Wait for it…… “I will try.”

This gets a big C’MON MAN! Are we building a rocket ship here? Headed to the moon? I say none of these things aloud, obviously, and kindly explain the procedure once again. Hey, at least she was willing, unlike my missing soldier. OK, back on track, I see my server extraordinaire approaching, and I begin to feel guilt that I was bothered by her lack of concern, because here she comes to save the day. She approaches the table, drops the check, and says “No rush.” This is not at all an exaggeration of my experience. I see her one more time to take my money, and she is off like a thief in the night.

This is getting a little long winded, so I will save you the obvious things she could have done, while minimal in the whole scheme of things, to have completely changed my experience for the better.

My question is, what has happened to the service industry? I come from the mindset that I want every person that I come into contact with on a service level, to tell at least one group of their friends how great an experience they had with me. I enjoy and expect repeat customers, and I appreciate great tips because I earned them.

Speaking of tips, my outlook on that has changed with the downturn of service. Whereas 20 percent was and is my bottom rung, 30 percent used to be for good service and 40 percent for great, I now want to clear out my bank account on the tip line when I get great service.

This is because, for the most part, great service doesn’t exist. It is a dinosaur; the Loch Ness monster, if you will. Some see it, none can prove it, and if you are lucky enough to find it, it is a glimpse and then it is gone again.

So I will end with this: Service folks, enjoy your job. Understand that you are there to make someone’s day better. Know that there is a thin line between good service and poor, and the effort is nearly the same. Oh and patrons, tip your server.

All the best,

Tripp Kearley

Yellowfin Realty

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