Friday, October 9, 2015

Goodbye, Pretty Girl

Zelda was a rescue of sorts, a beautiful, one-year-old Golden Retriever when she came to us not long after Ashley and I were married. Her given name was Zelda Moonpie, and we didn’t bother changing it because it just fit. We also used nicknames Zee and Zellie, but I started calling her Pretty Girl.

A runner when she was younger, but always a lover, Zelda became equal parts protector and tackling dummy for our boys after they joined our family. She tolerated rides and wrestling and sometimes even curious pokes in the eye.

She was intelligent and funny. Early on, if she thought I was paying too much attention to Ashley, Zelda would insert herself between us to let Ash know she had competition for my affection. She would let me know she needed to go outside by standing in front of me and growling or softly barking, and if I said, “Go tell Ashley,” Zelda would go over and stand in front of Ash until she let her outside. Both of these quirks make us laugh.

If I have one complaint about Zelda, it’s she REALLY liked one spot in our yard and rolled there so often it caused the soil to compact so badly that it sits a little lower than the rest of the yard and I can’t get grass to grow. We call the spot “Zelda’s Buffalo Wallow.” If we were outside, or when she’s done rolling around, she would sun herself in the cool grass right next to it and watch cars and squirrels and neighborhood cats go by.

She hated getting her picture taken and would turn to hide if she knew we were trying to get a snap of her, which is why she's sleeping in almost all the pictures we have of her. During thunderstorms, she would hide in the bathtub, of all places. Same for Independence Day. She loved rubs on the ears and cheeks and down her velvety snout, and, oddly enough, steamed broccoli. 

She developed cataracts and couldn’t hear very well, and later on, arthritis in her hips, but was still a lover, and still a beautiful dog as her muzzle turned gray. She hadn’t been getting around very well for two or three months and a couple of weeks ago, she started having other issues. Her health deteriorated quickly, and blood tests indicated she had either cancer or a fungal infection in her blood. Neither offered a good prognosis.

Today was Zelda’s last day with us. When we get her ashes, I’ll bury my Pretty Girl in her wallow, so she’ll always be in the sun.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Service so bad, you just have to laugh

Having worked in the industry, I understand bad days happen. Things beyond your control can affect the service you give your guests. But what happened last night was just comical.

I understand that everyone can have a bad day when they're waiting tables, especially when they're busy. But there's simply no reason for what happened. After putting menus on the table, there was a snafu at every contact. I felt like we were on a TV show to see how long it would be before we walked out.

Here's a bit of background: Having owned a bar, I'm a fairly observant customer. I watch how things happen. My wife and I don't get out without the kids very often, but when we do, all we want to do is relax and enjoy the experience. We're very patient customers, low-maintenance, and having worked in the industry, we're big believers in tip karma, even if we don't work in the industry any longer. Even if you tell me the Cardinals suck and I shouldn't be wearing a St. Louis hat in Kansas City when the Royals are in the playoffs, you're still getting 20% if you give decent service. (Yes, that actually happened.)

60 Minutes in a bar
Ashley and I wanted to watch a hockey game and walked into a half empty bar and grill with flat screen TVs mounted everywhere. A UFC fight and basketball games were on half of them; the other half had "60 Minutes" on. The only thing worse than watching "60 Minutes" is watching it with no sound. In a bar.

The server greeted us and I asked if she could see about getting a hockey game. She said "Yes!" and took our drink order. Here's where it started to all go wrong.

About 10 minutes later, she brought two beers. Mine was correct; Ashley's was not.

Five minutes later, the correct drink arrives. Cool. How about that hockey game? "Sorry, I forgot to ask. I'll ask now." We see the manager is in the pool table area banging away on his cell phone. She talks to him and walks away. He looks pissy.

At this point, Ashley notices her glass has a crack in it. It takes about five minutes till the server reappears to tell us the manager is checking on the hockey game. We tell her the glass is cracked and she apologizes. "It happens," Ash says and she goes to get another beer.

She brings it and we order a buffalo chicken flatbread. Maybe things will smooth out now. "60 Minutes" is still on. She swings by and says they don't have the NHL package. "That's OK. Can we get a basketball game? ESPN, maybe?"

She speaks to the manager again. He looks a combination of put out and flustered, with just a touch of douchebag thrown in. They both disappear.

Finally, ESPN is on. Our flatbread arrives 10 minutes later and she said she needed to get us silverware, plates and napkins. She disappears quickly, even though the servers' station is only 20 feet away.

At that point, we noticed she brought a chicken pesto flatbread and not the buffalo chicken we ordered. She's nowhere to be seen.

After five minutes, I spot her by the servers' station where they keep silverware and napkins and plates and stuff. She is talking to the manager who is still paying very close attention to his phone. She notices I am standing and gives me a cursory smile and goes right back to talking to the manager douchebag.

The wheels come off
I motioned her over and let her know we're leaving. I tell her I don't want to get her in trouble, but there's no reason for a failure at every point of contact. She said they were short-staffed (lie) and really busy (she had four tables).

Remember the part where I said we start at 20%? That goes out the window if you lie to us.

I explained to her how this experience never got on track. After the wrong beer and the cracked glass, I would have made sure everything was right for the guest, which just didn't happen. And even the douchebag manager couldn't be bothered to do something as simple as change the channel for a half-empty bar after being asked two or three times by a member of his staff. It made us feel like they didn't care about their guests at all.

I told her we'd pay for the two beers, but since the flatbread wasn't what we ordered, we wanted it removed. She brought us the tab, which was $13.26. I gave her a $20. I told Ash I didn't even want to leave a tip, but I couldn't not leave one. "Just leave a dollar and the change. That's still 15%. Maybe she'll get the picture since you talked to her," she said.

The server returned with change of $6. Not even getting the change correct seemed like a fitting end to a less-than-perfect experience. I looked at Ashley and she said, "You just have to laugh. Let's go somewhere else."