Are You Being Served…?

October 10, 2006 at 7:10 am (Uncategorized)

What’s your worst service industry experience? Was it a special occasion, where you booked 2 months ahead and were rewarded with the worst seat in the house? Was it a customer service representative hanging up on you when you called to query a charge? Was it a waiter telling you it’s not their problem that you never got your main? Was it, and I think this still takes out my own ‘lowest ebb’ prize, a Coles supermarket checkout boy screaming “FAAAAAAAAARK!!!!!” at you, because you and your purchases had the temerity to appear at his register? Because despite Sydney’s reputation as a – so we keep telling ourselves – “friendly” city, I think we all have a list of injustices simmering just below the surface. And the list just stews in its own juices, getting longer and longer, because for some reason, we take it. We just roll over, and we take it.

Llew always looks at me as if he’s my 10 year old son, and I’ve turned up for parent’s tuck-shop duty dressed as Little Bo Peep. Total and utter social mortification is emblazoned across his face. “Don’t say anything,” he’ll plead. “Please don’t worry about it.” “But… but,” I’ll stammer, “we’ve been waiting here for over an hour. It’s a fruit plate with yoghurt, what’s so hard?” And why shouldn’t I say “Something has gone awry here. I am paying for a service I am not receiving, and I am dissatisfied”?

At Vini last Thursday, at 9:50 pm, upon paying our large bill, Sarah, Sheena, and I were unceremoniously informed by our efficacious and snooty little waiter that he needed the table – something that should not E-V-E-R happen – but we didn’t wither him with a collective stare as we should have done. We also should have said “Hospitality 1:01, boy. That’s a big no-no.” But we didn’t say that, either. We said a mock “Oh, well, sorr-ee,” and we left. But instead of talking about our beautiful food and the lovely time we’d had, we left miffed and indignant that this little upstart had kicked us off our table when we were far from the last patrons there. What did he need the table for? Staffies?

The thing is, I love good service. In my undergraduate years as a waitress, I even loved providing good service. I genuinely appreciate, remember, and, in the case of hospitality, reward it. But sometimes when I am leaving a tip, when the experience was mediocre and when I am in Australia, where award wages are adequate, I do wonder exactly why I am expected to pay extra for receiving only what staff is employed and paid to provide. As for poor service..well, it just shouldn’t exist, except perhaps as a quaint little oxymoron.



  1. Sarah said,

    i don’t think you are expected to tip when service is mediocre – for me that’s the beauty of living in Australia. (conversely, i will be forever mortified by the memory of our inadvertantly paltry tip at Fi & Me!) as for our rude little man last week, while he won’t stop me going back (am already chomping at the bit to try the sardine crostini next time) he certainly took the shine off it. ciao (practising on your behalf) x

  2. doctordi said,

    Really? I feel like it’s changed, and that there is an expectation to always tip now that wasn’t here until a few years ago. It’s crept up pretty subtly, but I know I feel obliged pretty much everywhere now, except when someone’s really been a creep. I blame the Olympics, and all those well-meaning North Americans tipping left, right, and centre like they were angling for a podium placing. Certainly when I got back from London in 2001, Sydney was tipping in earnest.

    I think the rudest – and I think this is rude universally, appalling base wages be damned – is when someone reaches into a fridge for a beer, takes off the cap, places the bottle on the bar top, takes your money and returns the difference in unnecessary coins nestled in a tip dish. I’m sorry, did I miss something? Exactly what did you do for me that I should feel so grateful?

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