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Civility

Lately I've been reading too many stories of raging customers asking questions like "do you know who I am?!" ...all these poor people out there with amnesia... No wonder there are so many grumpy, cynical and demoralized service workers about.

But it can't be all entitled knuckledraggers out there, even in a city like Toronto with the ubiquitous Mayor MacCheese and the entire Ford family.

Please share your stories of great customer service and human exchange. It can't all be crazy angry selfish oafishness out there!

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  1. Unfortunately, I can't recount any specific stories. It's rare that I experience less than acceptable service. Nor have I ever witnessed a customer tirade such as you suggest you've regularly read about. Maybe where I am we just have fewer arsewipes than where you are. Or, at least, less vocal arsewipes.

    I suspect that, like most employers everywhere in any industry, they are more grumpy, cynical and demoralised because of actions and attitudes from their employer than from customers. Solution is for employers to respect and support their employees. Simple, good management.

    1. along with "do you know who I am"...

      Many years ago I was supposed to be on a flight that was cancelled due to bad weather at our destination.

      This was in the days before cellphones and instant rebooking...so the only way to get a hotel voucher and a new booking was to stand in line.

      The desk attendants were already at the end of their shift, but pressed into overtime to handle the mess...and they were taking no end of grief from the passengers (as though they could control the weather...)

      A corporate blowhard shoved his way to the front of the line and cut into the line. The clerk asked him nicely to take his place at the end of the line (several times), but he was having none of it.

      He finally slapped his palm down onto the counter and bellowed "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?"

      Wonderful soul that she was, picked up the intercom and made the announcement that would the persons traveling with the upset gentleman at the counter please come to his assistance, as he apparently has no idea who he is.

      Dead silence, then applause as he turned crimson, gulping like a goldfish, and stormed to the end of the line.

      8 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        I've heard that,or similar, stories before but always as a "friend of a friend" urban myth. Good to hear it from someone who actually witnessed it.

        1. re: sunshine842

          The story is supposed to end with the corporate blowhard yelling at the gate agent, "Well f%&# you !!!"
          And her response? "Even for that, sir, you'll have to wait in line."

            1. re: sunshine842

              He is referring to the very famous urban legend airline passenger story that is the same as yours, it's the next to the last story on the page:
              http://www.snopes.com/travel/airline/...

              The story usually ends with the "you'll have to wait in line for that too"....

              1. re: sedimental

                Yeah, I've heard & read that one a few too many times.

                1. re: sedimental

                  Yes, they must teach that at Airport Gate Keeping 101.

                  1. re: sedimental

                    I'm quite aware of that.

                    I was pointing out that I indeed saw it in real life, but the real-life version didn't end with the final epithet.

                    I also mentioned that this happened before smartphones...it happened before widespread internet, too.

            2. had driven to central Ohio for a New Years Eve wedding and arrived as a blizzard began. I just followed the tail lights of the semi-truck in front of me and hoped I wouldn't become one of the dozens of cars stranded in snow banks. Fortunately my hotel was at the foot of the exit and I arrived safely.

              The next morning I opened the door to snow mid-thigh high. The parking lot had not been plowed. Even the interstate was silent. The hotel clerk was unconcerned, unhelpful and useless about the situation. I spotted a Denny's a block away - the only place which appeared open. I layered every stitch of clothing I had and started to trudge my way there.

              Minutes before I arrived the sign turned off and the restaurant went dark. I knocked on the locked door anyhow and a kindly waitress opened up. They had closed since the next shift could not safely arrive due to road closures.

              Once I explained my situation and said I was happy to buy any leftover breakfast meats, biscuits, pie, etc. and whatever coffee was still available she told me to have a seat.

              10 minutes later they sent me back with a thermos carafe (to be returned later) of fresh coffee, bags of biscuits, toast & muffins, 1/3rd of a chocolate pie, crackers and cheese, apples and bananas. They also gave me packets of half and half,sugar, mayo, mustard, butter and jam, a box of bacon, ham, and sausage and another box of just made scrambled eggs. Plenty of disposable cutlery too!

              They wouldn't take a cent.

              Their generosity really made my snowed in stay a much more pleasant experience. A cold scrambled egg and ham sandwich can be a pretty delicious thing!

              1 Reply
              1. re: meatn3

                A blonde got lost in her car in a terrible snow storm. She remembered what her dad had once told her, "If you ever get stuck in a snow storm, wait for a snow plow and follow it."

                Pretty soon a snow plow came by, and she started to follow it. She followed the plow for about forty-five minutes. Finally, the driver of the snowplow got out and asked her, "What are you doing?" She explained, "My Dad told me, 'if you ever get stuck in a snowstorm , follow a snow plow.'" The driver nodded and said: "Well, I'm done with the Wal-Mart parking lot. Want to follow me over to K-Mart?"

              2. It's because many more people complain then praise. Even on this site the posts that recount positive experiences with good food rarely get more than a handful of replies, if they even get that.

                However post about a negative experience and watch it go viral with dozens and dozens of replies. Most them will be trying to one-up the others with more stories of bad service.

                Post something negative about a board darling and the same will happen while positive ones usually get no more than few thumbs up, plus ones and thats it.

                Human nature is what it is.

                I for one have never personally experienced "Do you know who I am?". I have witnessed it on the news, usually from local celebs and their off spring, but thats it. All of my many dealing with celebs (I lived/worked in a popular celeb destination) have never been less than pleasant.

                Probably the most negative experience was when the has-been tv star wife of a then huge movie/tv star dragged the kids in at around 9:00pm screaming that he needed to go home NOW. He graciously paid the bill and left the four just opened $300+ bottles of wine for the staff, all while quietly apologizing for her outburst

                1. At Dan Tana's in West Hollywood, an actor walked in with his entourage and demanded a table. Told there would be a two hour wait, he thundered "Do you know who I am? I'm John Travolta!" 'Oh!' said the head waiter, suitably impressed, 'For you, Mr. Travolta, the wait will be *three* hours.'

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: mwhitmore

                    I have met him a number of times and chatted with him at length. This is completely out of character - he is very down to earth and treats service people very well.

                      1. re: meatn3

                        If Alec Baldwin is swapped in for Travolta, does that make it funnier? I am sure he has a sweet side too, though.

                        1. re: tcamp

                          I simply believe in speaking up if I feel inaccurate things are being said about a person. I know dozens of people who have interacted with this man over several decades and the one thing always commented on is how unbelievably nice he is. Never a hint of self entitlement.

                          1. re: meatn3

                            Hey, I didn't buy it about Travolta anyway :) Plus does anyone that famous actually say "do you know who I am????". It's Travolta. He knows we know! It would be a better story with a more arrogant, less well liked, less recognizable celebrity swapped in.

                            Basically, I vote for a complete revamp of this story ;)

                    1. i am a "restaurant person"
                      meaning that i LOVE restaurants.
                      i eat out AT LEAST 5 times a week.
                      i have a "regular rotation" of restaurants.
                      when i was relocated to the east coast, i developed a "regular rotation" there also.

                      in my experience, folks like me, who make it a point to be agreeable, tip well, and in all other respects behave as "good" regulars, almost always receive terrific, top-of-the-line service.

                      too many stories to tell.
                      the snowstorm in NYC when i was sick and all the delivery guys had been sent home. the manager walked my meal to my apartment and comped the meal.
                      when i was crying in my beer when i had to put my dog down. the management comped my entire meal and all my drinks and the entire staff made it a point to visit my table to offer their condolences.
                      when my car failed/
                      when i left my keys/credit card/jacket in a restaurant and they DROVE THE STUFF TO MY HOME.
                      when a bar stool was stashed in the kitchen so that if i came in when the place was full, they would retrieve the stool for me so that i'd have a place to sit.

                      and
                      and
                      and.

                      most restaurant owners and managers know that "good" regulars are the lifeblood of a restaurant.
                      the PITAs, normally don't get the same treatment.

                      1. My husband and I had made reservations at a 13 room B & B out in the country in northwest Indiana for a 5 day visit at Christmas time. When we got to the inn, it had been snowing a few hours, and the roads were a mess. By morning, we had had 19" of snow, the other guests had left the day before, and the innkeepers couldn't get back to the B & B. They called us on my cell, and said they'd come as soon as they could. The inn had a small restaurant that was only open Thurs-Saturday. Our snowed-out hosts told us to make ourselves at home in the kitchen, since the chef couldn't get there either. DH and I had the place to ourselves for three days, dining on leftover prime rib, shrimp in some delicious sauce, potatoes, etc. We cooked up scrambled eggs for breakfast. When the innkeepers finally arrived, they apologized over and over for not being there, and we told them what a great time we had with the delicious meals and the beautiful setting. Best Christmas vacation ever.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: kitchengardengal

                          What fun! Someone should make a movie out of this story.

                        2. Tho haven't been there in YEARS, have to praise Waterville Valley ski resort in VT/NH... off top of head, not sure which??

                          First time we went there, entailed a 400 mile (give or take) drive from NJ to resort. Drive started before sun came up, snow lightly started falling about half-way thru drive, turned to flat-out RAIN before we got there. We sat, crying in our beers in the lodge, and watched the rain CASCADING down the slopes!?! Weather is something you just can't blame on anybody. BUT one of the selling points in their brochure was all the OTHER things you could do beside ski. Fully equipped gym, indoor pool and hot tubs, tennis/handball courts, the whole 9 yards. SIDE NOTE: Do ya know where the phrase "the whole 9 yards" comes from??

                          Pool and hot tubs were available, but EVERYTHING else was part of NEW stuff which was behind schedule for completion... guess after Mother Nature, construction can't be predicted either, huh!?! Planner of trip went to main office, DIDN'T cause a scene, and came back with a voucher that pretty much said... give them anything they want (there wee 6 of us) at the BEST restaurant in resort area. We had a VERY nice meal, drinks, apps, wineS, etc. Also told to call when we were heading to pool or hot tubs... drinks and munchies on the house!

                          Next time we went (same place), there were 12 of us. Had planned ahead to book a BIG 6 BR unit so we could all be together. When we got there, got the look like we had 3 heads EACH... what do you mean reservations?? Seems there was some big "celebrity" thing going on that weekend/week and SOMEBODY famous apparently bumped us nobodies out of our reservation?? We didn't throw a temper tantrum in lobby, but voices DID start to rise a bit. They quickly came up with two 3 BR units almost next to each other... AND another comped, soup-to-nuts meal at a really nice place.

                          6 Replies
                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                              Really? I'd always thought it was from WWII machine gunners. The ammo belt was 9 yards long.

                              1. re: Hobbert

                                and I've always heard it was from the building industry, as the standard capacity of a cement mixer (cement truck?) was 9 cubic yards, so "the whole 9 yards" was an entire truckload.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I saw it on a History Channel piece...Heard about the cement mixer thing, but not the mg belt. Google results aren't conclusive either. Curious

                                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                  I heard it was a three-masted sailing ship with sails on all three yardarms on all three masts.

                              2. "Sir, I know who you were," usually works.

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: beevod

                                    saw another story reported in news outlets in the UK that Victoria Beckham (aka Posh Spice) went into some shoe boutique in Beverly Hills and requested that they close the store so she could shop in peace. When they refused, she apparently asked, "don't you know who I am?" and they actually didn't know who she was...

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      wonder if it was the same trip that she and Gordon Ramsey went to one of my favorite restaurants that has a "no substitutions and no modifications" policy and expected the restaurant to modify her food.

                                      the restaurant refused.
                                      Ramsey made a big PR stink.
                                      the restaurant stonewalled it and never responded to him.

                                      a few months later, a regular Chowhound on my local board was dining at the restaurant and saw Ramsey and his dining partner "holding up the wall" waiting for their table just like everyone else.

                                  2. My Aunt wanted to treat us to lunch one afternoon while visiting my family at my fathers small southern home town. Well we had a lovely lunch and when it was time to leave my Aunt approached the counter to pay and realized she has left her home with out her wallet. Not concerned we offered to pay but she would have no part of it.

                                    She told the young girl at the register.........my name is ****- **** and I will be back later to pay this check, just hold it for me. The girl not impressed by my aunts name (My Uncle, now deceased was a prominent business man and the family business is very well known in town) she wouldn't have any part of my Aunt leaving, and not allowing one of us to pay.

                                    After a few minutes of arguing the manager caught wind of what was going on, the manager actually recognized my Aunt and asked what the problem was. My Aunt explained, the manager ripped the check up for the hostess's inconvenience to my Aunt and lunch was on the house!!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                      Dang, are you a member of the southern mafia Bobby Jo Cletus Bodean clan? Is that poor dimwitted young girl swimmin' with the fishes?

                                    2. I was once at a Baryshnikov performance. During intermission an elderly gentleman in a wheel chair managed to get his wheel caught up in the drapery at the exit of the aisle. It came crashing down cracking open a huge gash in his head. An ambulence was called and when dealing with any head injury, precautions were made and take time.

                                      A middle aged woman of certain social class due to her expensive clothing and accessories approached the house manager and demanded the man be moved immediately and the show go on, because she had a plane to catch. Bless his heart he looked at her directly, turned and walked away to deal with the medics. She then huffed about being insulted and would be contacting the theatre owners.

                                      1. It's been quite a while ago, but Mr. Sun an I tool MIL to Tampa's beloved Mise en Place for a nice dinner.

                                        The waiter knew every dish -- ingredients, how it was cooked, and how it was plated, and was attentive and gracious without being ingratiating.

                                        The next table over proceeded to grill him about **everything** -- and bless his more-patient-than-me soul, he answered every question with grace and far more tact that these idiots really deserved.

                                        Mise en Place brings a basket of house-made breads, with a head of roasted garlic to enjoy before the meal.

                                        We all but fell off our chairs trying not to laugh out loud when the biggest asshole of the group (and they were *all* assholes) picked up the ENTIRE head of garlic and ate the whole thing -- roots, paper, and all.

                                        We quietly told the server, who grinned ear to ear and remarked that tomorrow morning, thinking about this guy would be worth more than the lousy tip he was sure they'd be leaving.

                                        1. Holding the door at a local store for someone, without even an acknowledgement or thank you.
                                          Not receiving any eye contact at the cash register despite my cash contribution to the store.
                                          People are just not engaged today, everyone is in their own little bubble.

                                          1. Not customer service... In Singapore, whenever the husband and I were out and about and looked confused about which train to take or how to get to...., someone would walk up to us and ask if they could help us find our way. Every. Single. Time. A few times, we've had people walk us (a short distance, granted) to a particular shop we were looking for because it was too confusing to explain and just easier. One time, we needed to find our way to the bus stop across the street which was barricaded such that pedestrians could not jaywalk across it. Plus it was a major and busy street. An elderly Chinese lady, who spoke very very little English, figured out where we needed to go, then pantomimed to us, very effectively I might add, that we needed to go back to the subway entrance, cross under the street, and come out the other side. Incredibly polite and helpful people, the Singaporeans.

                                            On a customer service note, when we go grocery shopping, it's pretty normal for me to look at unfamiliar items and try to figure out how it's used or think about buying it to experiment with. In Asia, it's pretty easy for me to find new-for-me items. Again in Singapore, there was one particular lady who worked the produce section. She'd approach me and tell me what the items were for and how they were used. Incredibly helpful. It may have helped that we went grocery shopping early morning during the week when the store wasn't busy, but still...

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: LMAshton

                                              We had similar experiences in Japan -- e.g., when changing trains in Osaka en route to Hiroshima, we were on the platform, having just gotten off our arriving train and had not even had a chance to check the departures board, when an employee came over to us to assist and advise of the platform where our next train was departing

                                              1. re: LMAshton

                                                I had a similar experience in France -- one of the produce vendors in our local market (on a slow Wednesday morning) recognized my horrid French and walked me around their large stall, telling me the French words for every single item they were carrying that morning.

                                                They thought nothing of it -- it was something to do on a slow morning, but to me it meant the world.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Many years ago my parents were in a train station in Zurich, attempting to discover which train they needed to get onto. After about 10 minutes, somebody came up behind them and asked my father, by name, if he needed assistance. It was a college student from our small hometown who recognized my dad.

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    those "small world" meetings always boggle my mind...the probabilities!

                                              2. I will be making mini-cupcakes for a memorial service later this week. I called my favorite grocery store and asked if they carried mini-cupcake papers. She checked and said no she didn't but please give her another minute. She came back on and said they made them in their in-house bakery but if I came in and asked for Heather, she'd have some set aside. She did and they only cost $1.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  My local grocery bakery is always willing to give me cake boxes for huge batches of cookies and cakes. Sometimes they charge me (and I willingly pay), sometimes they don't, all depends on who's working.

                                                2. Went to a local, Americanized Japanese place for dinner a week or two ago. The place was packed with a group of large, intoxicated business men. We were seated and I made a comment to our waitress, who spoke only very broken English, about it being a good night for making money. She smiled, sighed, and said "Good night for boss man." I felt so badly for her.

                                                  We put in our order. Drinks arrived. Water was served in disposable cups, because (I'm guessing), the BOH was running ragged dealing with this large group. My dining partner is mildly hypoglycemic. He was actually talking about going out to the car to see if he had a protein bar stashed in the console, because his blood sugar was dropping.

                                                  Waitress kept coming by, looking at our table and - seeing that no food had arrived - saying she was sorry. Then she started delivering unordered, uncooked food (a seaweed salad, the pickled cucumbers, edamame, even a couple of California rolls) and each time, she'd say "No charge, on house, so sorry" and then dash off again.

                                                  She was being run ragged by this other group, but she kept an eye on us and the other tables in her section, and was delivering free dishes to them, and keeping their drinks refilled, as well.

                                                  By the time our food finally arrived (over an hour after we'd ordered it), we weren't even hungry! So we ate a bit, had everything boxed to go, and left her a humongous tip.

                                                  It could have been a bad night for us, but it wasn't, because she was delivering incredible customer service and doing one heck of a job. The food wasn't great, but we'll go back because of her.