It’s a seven o’clock on beautiful Monday night. The Bistro’s half full and we only have a few reservations. But, after being driven indoors by a rainy weekend, the Yuppies will probably want to bust out of their Williams Sonomanized cocoons so they can narcotize the new workweek’s anxieties in a bottle Chianti. We’ll probably get slammed with walk-ins.
Sure enough people start crashing though the door. I quickly pop an eight top in the back and a five top on the aisle. Looking at the computer I notice a VIP customer reserved the window seat several days ago. I place a reserved sign on the table to avoid trouble. The door chimes. A two top walks into the foyer.
“Hello and good evening,” I say cheerfully, “How many tonight?”
“Two,” a tall mustachioed man in a three piece suit answers.
“Do you have a reservation?” I ask politely.
“Yes,” Moustache answers, “I called twenty minutes ago.”
I took that reservation. “Easterbrook for two at seven?”
“Right this way sir.” I grab two menus and lead the couple to a perfectly nice table near the window
“I want to sit in the back,” Moustache snaps.
“I’m sorry sir,” I reply, “There’s a party seated in the back.”
“Then I want to sit in the window,” Moustache says, pointing to the table reserved for the VIPs.
“I’m sorry sir but that table’s reserved.”
Moustache looks at me incredulously. “I beg your pardon?” he asks, glowering.
“I’m sorry sir,” I reply, “But someone specifically requested that table.” I neglect to mention the VIP’s asked for it a week ago.
“I can’t believe you won’t give me that table,” Moustache exclaims, the busted capillaries in his nose flaring.
“I’m sorry sir. If you give me a moment perhaps I can……”
“Come on Phyllis we’re getting out of here,” the man huffs.
“Honey,” Moustache’s wife says, “Maybe…..”
“I don’t like this guy’s attitude,” Moustache barks, angrily jabbing a finger in my direction.
“Sir…” I start to say, ignoring the sudden detonation of anger in my innards.
“Is the owner here?” Moustache asks, “I’m good friends with the owner.”
Whenever entitled customers don’t get what they want they always claim to be “friends of the owner.” Let me clue you in on something – telling the waiter you’re friends with the owner is not going to help you. The owner can only have so many friends. Don’t you think we know who the owner’s friends are? You might eat in here twice a year. The owner might have stopped by your table and exchanged some pleasantries and you have a nice memory. But do you think that means he’s your friend for life? Godfather to your kids? You’re an acquaintance at best. When you get all puffed up and tell me you’re a “friend of the owner” you’ve just been relegated to asshole status.
“Fluvio’s not here tonight,” I reply, struggling to keep my voice even.
That was the only arrow in Moustache’s quiver. He’s shot his bolt. Now he’s looking at me as if I was something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. I begin to wonder if Moustache be’d pitching this hissy fit if I was some guy on the street. Probably not. I toy with the idea of asking him to continue his evaluation of my attitude in the back alley…….
No, I don’t have that luxury. I have to be the grown up. I stuff the anger back inside. I feel a tad nauseous. I always feel that way when I can’t express anger. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t seat the man where he wants and I can’t tell him to fuck off.
This is what I call a customer service Kobayashi Maru. The dreaded “no win” scenario.
Moustache stares at me angrily.
“Sorry sir,” is the only rational response I can formulate.
Moustache storms out. His wife slowly follows him.
“I’m sorry for the difficulty madam,” I whisper as she passes me.
“That’s ok,” the wife replies quietly. Something tells me she’s seen her husband act like this before.
“Good night madam.”
As I watch the couple walk away I take a deep breath. I have to call Fluvio and tell him what happened. I’d rather he hear about this from me than from some angry email or phone call.
Sighing I pick up the phone and start dialing. This whole mess would have been avoided if Moustache had just planted his ass in a chair and ordered. After some good food and wine he’d have relaxed and started to enjoy himself. But in the restaurant business you quickly discover there are customers who’ll never be happy. Waiters face their own personal Kobayashi Maru moments everyday. But, as Captain Kirk proved, it’s all in how you handle it.
And that’s why I write this blog.