Monday, November 28, 2005

Balm of Good Service

I know I've posted on this before...but really, what is really fabulous service? Is it merely politeness?


(Illustrative anecdote) Metro and I went to a possible wedding venue a couple of weeks ago...and it was perfect in every way: a heritage manor near our home. A lovely room for the actual ceremony. A beautifully furnished room for the bride to get ready in. A park across the street to take a couple of pictures. A great big room downstairs with a bar for the 'apres' party, with a dance floor and a place for the band. Pricey, but not over-the-top, sell-your-first-born-to-pay (seriously, take a look at the pictures).

We had an appointment for a tour...she showed us the place...took us to a room on the second floor to talk about menus and money -- then left us there. "Okay, good-bye," and she walked away, went back to her office down the hall.

What? Can't walk us downstairs and see us to the door? Did you write us off -- assume that we're not a good prospect, that we wouldn't actually pay to have our wedding at this place?

She was polite, but there was something lacking.

I think what was lacking was an attitude of consanguinity.

Rachel, the woman at Birks who sold us our wedding rings today, treated me as an equal the moment I walked into the store...dressed in my normal casual attire.

Jim, my real estate agent from a few years ago (when I bought my condo), was the same. I had watched a new condo building go up, and went in to view the suites, just like any local looky-loo. A slob in a jeans and t-shirt. But I got hit by the bug, and a couple of weeks later, I was calling him up to see some places (with my excited mother in tow). I bought a place, and when those little ubiquitous notepads of his cross my path, I proudly say: "Hey, that's my real estate agent. He's great."

Am I right? We can all describe poor service -- but what is the fabulous variety? Help me out here!

Next time, I will avoid blogging about a certain rap star wanting to make a bright blue, larger-than-life, waterproof, "motorized version" of himself...(I'm not sure about the larger-than-life aspect, just sounded good) I guess he wants to appear sensitive and hip.

Gads. Now that's absurd.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Eating Dinner Out

Last night I was working late. As I was leaving the office (I'm helping out at one of the most innovative social activist organizations in North America -- Pivot Legal Society. They're having their annual charity auction on Monday, andI'm doing what I can to help with the production.), I was hungry. The most convenient place to get something to eat was an overpriced brew pub, called Steamworks.

Now, I'm going to pause here and clarify some aspects of dining out in Canada (and the USA), because I know some people who read this are from different parts of the world.

Point #1
A brew pub is a restaurant/bar that actually makes its own beer. Often quite tasty beer, in fact.

Point #2
Tipping in pubs/restaurants is something that is taken for granted here, and is an annoyance, especially if you've had a few of those beers....Essentially, restaurant owners can pay their staff low wages because they know that the customers will leave 10% to 20% of the total bill, extra, for the server. And of course, the customer is already paying for the food, which includes the profit margin for the restaurant owner. The server is dependent on the tips, because it is the difference between a minimum wage and a liveable wage. Let's see, who wins in this scenario? Pause, think for a moment....Ah yes. The restaurant owner. The customer pays for the food, and helps pay for the staff. [Don't get me started.]

Point #3
Many people use their bank cards to pay for things instead of carrying cash, or using a credit card. It doesn't take any longer for that to be processed than it does a credit card, and it costs the customer nothing (or very little, depending on the bank plan you have). It costs the business a little bit, like a credit card: I think up to 4% on the amount. Generally, for small businesses it can be expensive, so I try to use cash. For larger businesses, well, it's part of the cost of doing business.

Point #4
Bank machines are everywhere, and nowadays, not only at banks. Businesses can now get a bank machine in their establishment that charges the user $1.50 to $2 to use (and the business gets a big chunk of that). Bars and restaurants sometimes do it -- mostly bars. It's tacky. People hate them, because it costs them that extra amount.

So, back to my story.

I had an overpriced salad and a pint of beer at this restaurant, and went to pay with my bank card. My bill was $19.04 (oh yeah, that includes 14.5% tax as well!). The server (a lovely woman) smiles apologetically and tells me that they don't take bank cards, but that I can use the machine downstairs to take out some money. This annoys me, so I go and take out $20 -- no, sorry, $22 (paying the restaurant that extra 10% on my bill!).

I asked to speak to the manager, 'cause I was pissed. His answer: "We're too big to be able to accept bank cards." Too big?!? McDonald's takes bank cards! Many bigger and better places take bank cards. And if Steamworks gets so many people using bank cards, why isn't there a line up at the machine?

Of course, at the time, I was too angry to point out these rational arguments to his ridiculous claim, so I just didn't tip the server. I told her (and the manager) that the restaurant owed her the 10% I would have left for her.

Did I leave in a huff? Yes. Do I feel bad about it? Yes. She was very friendly, and she'll never get a raise from that skinflint restaurant, much less the $2.

Will I go back there? Ah, that's the really ridiculous thing...I probably will.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Big 'i' or little 'i'?"

Last night, Metro and I were having a discussion about what may/might/could happen after death ("Good grief! Why?!?" I hear you ask. As always, it was prompted by one of those "What would you do if you knew you only had X amount of time to live?" questions asked of both of us in the last couple of days...)

This of course led to a discussion of what annoys me about Atheism/Skepticism -- not that atheists don't believe in a god (I'm with them on that), but that they so strongly don't believe. Ain't that a belief? (Oh, I'm simplifying this for the sake of the blog, not to mention the fun of being contentious...I'm sure I'll catch some flack for it.)

Personally, I'm agnostic (yes, I know it means that I'm unable to make a decision!). I believe that there are forces/energies in the universe we don't understand, and probably never will, but I do not believe that there is any personality/intelligent design involved.

Do not get 'intelligent design' confused with "Intelligent Design" (Gads, don't get me started. Just suffice to say I'm glad I don't live in the States, and if you want intelligent contradiction, visit Pharyngula, a great blogging scientist that enjoys ripping silly arguments to shreds.)

Which brings me to a page -- making fun of the very real (and scary) (and as of May this year, unconstitutional) practice in Alabama of putting evolution 'disclaimers' in textbooks.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bilingual Jokes

A Japanese woman I've been working with has fabulous English. So good, in fact, that she's utterly comfortable making fun of her pronunciation.

Yesterday, as I was leaving work, I said: "Bye, folks!"

Her response? "Bye, spoon!"

I giggled all the way home.