I Can Throw A Fit & A Football

The report that good service is dead is greatly exaggerated.

There are days when no one loves their job. I saw a rare human interest story on the news about a guy that makes tiny prosthetic feet for ducks who have no feet. I'm not sure if they were born that way or lost them in a fight; but I know the duck feet guy is their hero. I bet even he sometimes bitches about the tiny shoe laces and wonders if he is doing any real good.

I figure that if you have to work somewhere -- work hard and be happy. And have some fucking fun. When I got a job as a waiter in college, my wise Aunt Jewell told me to “bend over backwards until they give you their last dollar.”

Some people working in restaurants or stores while pursuing their true passions on the side, often lack dedication to their “day job".  But I recently encountered several people that buck this trend.

The food at Mozza is great. I don't know if Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali are making out in the kitchen, but they're popping out dishes of love. It’s crazy crowded and I am happy to eat at the bars at either Pizzeria or Osteria, because the bartenders impress me. Their interest and passion about the food is as high their wine knowledge. I praised my bartender there last week, and said he loves the food and works on tips, so why not? Duh. (Tip: Eat at the bar, your server not only has booze but also is captive.)

Sometimes you need time to solve world problems, like the recent dinner I had with my friend Mary Ann at Magic Cheese, where we formulated a plan to end the terrorism problem. The waiter interrupted us and we lost it.

At Fishbar in Manhattan Beach recently, Susan Swerdloff and I ordered all of our dishes at once; yet asked the waitress to pace it with the kitchen so that they didn’t arrive at the same time. We thought we made it clear that we weren't in a rush.

Susan and I trusted that Fishbar waitress. I wanted give her the short Life isn't about the destination, but the journey speech and explain to her that it applies to dinner, careers and sex; but she rushed off 

Smash cut to:  

Me and Susan, mid-conversation and salad.  A smiling busboy appears, carrying a platter of yummy lobster tacos.

                                        Hey, that's our entree and we're still on salad!

                                        Oh, snap. I'll bring these back when you are ready.

                                        The same ones? They'll be all old and gross. 
                                        You might as well bring back Ed McMahon.

                                         No, I'll push these on some foreigners. We'll split
                                         up another couple of lobsters that mate for life and make you fresh
                                         tacos when your highnesses are ready.

                                         See that you do.

                                         Are you a waiter?

                                         No, I'm a busboy. (pointing at the lines above) Can't you read this script?

                                        Well, you oughta be a waiter, 'cause our waitress totally messed
                                        us over and now some rubes have to eat tacos that weren't 
                                        intended for them originally and that I kinda poked.

                                         Lower you voice, sir.

                                        Sorry. (whispering) I didn't actually poke them.

                                        No, speak deeper dude, you sound like you breathed helium.

Busboy exits, smiling.

I pulled the manager over, wanting to ask her why she was wearing a tailored skirt in a fish shack. Instead I told her how our busboy cared deeply about our experience. He solved a problem in a manner smoother than their lobster mac n' cheese. I whipped off my glasses and demanded that the busboy be promoted to waiter. I imagined a little ceremony in the dining room where I'd give a moving speech and Instagram the moment.

Susan, or maybe me, told the manager that the busboy had "actor good looks", which is important.

Instead of being excited, the manager responded that she was now sad that her well-trained waitress was not up to par -- as if the waitress were an old circus monkey who stopped doing its one good trick. Her lack of enthusiasm meant either that she saw no promise in the eager and good looking busboy or that our waitress was her lover. Perhaps she despised the busboy and later made him rinse out her pantyhose in the mop sink while she smoked.

I made a note to write a letter, or at least a comment on Trip Advisor, to see if Fishbar's owner might care but I never did. I wish I had more of these positive examples to write about; but in fact I get more incidents of negative service. I practically have American Airlines on email "speed send" if my seat snaps off and sails back a few rows mid-flight. But rarely do I get to write a note of praise.

I finally did last week. After above-and-beyond service, it took five minutes to find the emails for the General and HR Managers of Bloomingdale's Century City. I fired this note off as fast as if it had been a long winter and I was a slutty single mother sending my kids off to summer camp:

"To Whom It May Concern:

Last night about 7:30PM, I came to your store in Century City. My niece turns five tomorrow and she asked me for a tea set - I went to Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma near my home in Santa Monica, neither had one. I wasn't excited to drive into CC, but was with my brother who insisted you'd have something that I needed.

You did. Her name is Lauren and she works in housewares. I stepped off the escalator and headed back to casual china and dishes. A salesman said you had none, but I could walk to the other end of the store and check in fine china. You have a large store. I searched the entire china department, unaided or approached by the two staffers on duty. I went to luggage and asked a salesman there, who suggested I return to housewares and ask them.

Again, I discovered you have a large store; however I was eager to make my nieces wish come true. The night was almost over, so I walked all the way back to the other side. I passed the Nespresso counter for the second time and was impressed that it took three employees to staff a counter.  I asked if they could help me but they said they work for Nespresso. Who is using so much Nespresso?!

I finally found a young girl behind the counter in Housewares, Lauren. I told her what my need was and she smiled, said she remembered being five, and led me to the back of the dishware section. She showed me every single teapot you carry. Patiently, but with the intent to sell. I didn't like any of them for my niece. At this point, every other employee I encountered last evening would have, if they had even helped me, ended our transaction, my hunt and their interaction with me, right then. More importantly, they would have cost you the $80 bucks I spent with Lauren.

Lauren, of her own volition, immediately asked if I could wait a few minutes while she searched the back of the stock room to see if she could find any teapots that were not on the floor. Soon, I saw Lauren emerge from the back. Your store is so large, she was so far away, but I could see she was struggling to carry many items in her sweet hands. I could make out the shape of a teapot, and it looked fun and whimsical. As she neared, she was beaming - so excited by what she found.

The teapot and cups were fun. They had a Disney-esqe swirl design all over them. We looked at them and were all in agreement that this was the perfect tea set for a five year-old. I asked if she thought there might be saucers, and she laid down what she had and went back to look. The three Nespresso tram members continued getting caught up on their texting.

Lauren returned with four tinier cups, four matching saucers, four tea plates, a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, and again, more excitement. I bought it all - and the shocker was
not that it was on sale (which got it out of your dusty stockroom) but the 25 minutes that Lauren lovingly took (including two trips to god knows where to get boxes) to carefully wrap each piece in tissue and box them. I felt Lauren was boxing them to give to someone precious to her.

I love the time I had with Lauren and feel that she is an above exemplary employee to
Bloomingdale's. She doesn't know me; but I'm a better person for knowing her. As we left, my brother said to me that he had a renewed faith in retail salespeople, totally provided by Lauren.

Hold Lauren up high for her co-workers to see. You have lots of display pedestals in that huge store, put her up on one. Remind her co-workers why they are there. Give her a raise. Make her employee of the year. Send her to your national conferences and bring her up on stage and have the president say, "Do what Lauren does." I hope Lauren is with you for as long as it is best for her. Whatever her future, she'll be an asset to any company.

Oh, and tell Nespresso they can easily cut their staffing costs down by two thirds.

Lauren made a sale last night - and a customer of me for life. And I cannot wait to watch my niece delightfully open her tea set tomorrow night. I'll tell her about the care Lauren took in finding it. My niece will listen and remember that someone she doesn't even know made a big fuss for her birthday. Lauren made more than a little girl's 5th birthday wish come true. Maybe I'll bring my niece to Bloomingdale's one day and introduce her to Lauren -- and tell her that whenever she needs something in a store, to always look for a "Lauren".

And if you see Lauren, please tell her to be patient with her bothersome younger brother she told us about -- he might turn out just like her."

The General Manager called me, telling me that they knew of St. Lauren's promise. She said that when they gave her the letter she replied "I was just doing my job." They do plan on recognizing her in some way. I had a sweet email from Lauren. And the GM invited me to lunch. I've had emails from other Bloomie's corporate execs and a Nespresso rep wrote me that they need to have a loooong internal meeting. I do hope the attention doesn't cause Lauren to be a victim of any Bloomie's Bullying and get beaten in the alley by thugs from Cosmetics. Those women are tough.

I do wish that I had more chances to write these types of letters. They're more fun. Takes more muscles to frown than smile. We all want validation for our life choices. It feels good when someone thinks you have on a nice shirt. That same pride can be contagious in the workplace.

I will for sure go back to Mozza, Fishbar and Bloomie's, just to check on my little stars. And for my free lunch.

We're all in customer service, whether you are a housewife or Warren Buffet, In our workplaces we need to always do our best to turn lemons into lemonade.

And like lemonade, good service is refreshing and sweet.

Grateful 5 Year Old aka Future Customer


  1. Good on ya! So glad both you and your niece were pleased, and i was pleased with the time i spent to read this epistle. It put a smile on my face, and i can always use one more.

  2. And your niece, from the picture, has learned to say "thank you" in a most endearing way. So adorable!


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