Literal Thinking

Real stories of workplace follies

Two girls in the cafe

Posted by A Friend on 4 April 2009

Girls in the Cafe One of our few personal indulgences is a lazy weekend brunch. We have been regularly going to this small café just a short stroll from our place in the last two months, and every time we ordered the same thing: bacon and eggs on toast, special request for the eggs to be scrambled, and a long macchiato.

We have had two ladies serving us alternately depending on the time and day, and the way they have gone about their business has been an interesting case study on good customer service and taking personal responsibility for us.

The first appears to be no more than 18 years old and is most likely a full time student waitressing part-time for extra pocket money. We observed that she is a very efficient worker and seems to know her way around the café very well. We actually half expected to confuse her with our order as it was not in the menu, but we were pleasantly surprised when she got our order right first time.

She made a mistake the second time we placed the same order with her: she took our money and order right, but she failed to tell the chef that we requested for the eggs to be scrambled. The scrambled eggs were really just a preference, so we let this pass without even mentioning the oversight.

We got her again around two weeks later, and we placed our usual order. To our surprise, and without our prompting, she said that she felt really bad about getting our order wrong the previous time. The mistake was not really a big deal to us, but it obviously was to her. Not only that, she remembered us, and she remembered to apologize. We were suitably impressed.

The second lady is more mature, probably in her early 40s, and she appears like she’s a career waitress. In contrast to the young girl, this one seems unsure of herself, and she totally got lost the first time we placed our “special” order with her: she actually had to ask around whether the order was possible, and we had to even tell her how much it cost (she charged us a dollar less).

As with the younger lady, we did not really mind the small inconvenience. This was after all a small neighborhood café, and it might have been possible that our request was not so common. We did not even mind when she repeated exactly the same mistake on two other occasions.

However, just last weekend, she stumbled again. This time, she actually got our order wrong, and instead of giving us the bacon and eggs on toast, she only gave us scrambled eggs on toast, a different item on their menu. We brought this to her attention, and she promptly took our order back to the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later, with our correct order. Then she said: “Apologies for that, it was the chef’s mistake.”

It was clearly her mistake. She took our order, so she knew exactly what it was. She would have given the order to the chef, and even if the chef got it wrong, she would have had the opportunity to immediately correct this before taking the food to us. She did not do this, and instead of just unreservedly apologizing, she decided to put somebody else in trouble to cover her own inadequacy.

The two girls are a contrast of each other. The former is a quick learner, is customer focused, and takes personal responsibility. The latter does not seem to learn from her mistakes, does not remember her customers, and is quick to blame others for her own shortcomings.

This story also shows that good customer service and taking personal responsibility knows no age boundaries. These can be learned at a very young age on the one hand, but can also be totally missed by more mature aged persons despite their years of industry experience on the other.


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