Daylight savings time was like turning on a switch. One day it was business as usual and the next day it was gangbuster busy. The holiday season has officially begun, which means that a lot of people who don’t normally go out descend en masse upon us who work in the service industry year round. It makes for an interesting dynamic.
The couple walked in the front door and breezed past the mass of people at the front door, through the crowd and up to the busy bar. The crowd was three deep with people jockeying for position while reveling in the earlier darkness of fall. It just so happened that as soon as the couple approached the bar, two people stood up from their barstools, said their good-byes, and left. The couple pushed their way in and slipped into the two barstools almost before the people had gotten up.
I had turned around briefly to ring some drinks up and when I turned back, there they were. Another younger couple that had been patiently waiting for over twenty minutes didn’t know what to say. The two single women that had been politely waiting at a respectful distance registered shock at the couple’s chutzpah. They and many more looked to me to rectify the situation.
“We’ll have two house wines,” said the fortyish man with the slightly receding hairline, sitting on his ill-gotten barstool.
“I’m sorry,” I said gesturing to the mob of humanity surrounding them on all sides. “But we have several people waiting for those seats.”
“We were here first,” said his equally pushy salt-and-pepper haired companion.
The young pre-movie couple to their immediate right chimed in. “Actually we’ve been waiting for about half an hour.”
“And we’ve been here longer than them,” said the two sports fans bobbing and weaving their baseball hat clad heads as they tried to catch a glimpse of the bar television through the amorphous crowd.
I looked at the couple surrounded by glaring patrons and gave them the shrug that said, “No you weren’t”. There seemed to be a pause in the air while they decided what to do.
The pushy couple looked at me, looked at the moviegoers, the two sports fans, the young couple, as well as an older couple that had now moved in, poised to give their two cents, and decided to give up the fight. They probably felt like Frankenstein surrounded by a pack of flame-wielding villagers, and decided that if they stayed seated the only outcome would be equally unpleasant.
“We didn’t think anyone wanted the seats,” said the man disingenuously as he feebly pushed his barstool back to get up, struggling against the dozens of people jockeying for position.
Bars operate on the honor system and bartenders often try to enforce it, sometimes with limited results. But, every year when the cold weather pushes people inside there are always a few people who decide that they are either smarter than everyone else or more deserving.
These folks decide that they are going to drive past the valets and park their own car in the lot, ignoring the signs to the contrary. Or, that they are going to sit at tables with reserved signs on them, even though there are dozens of people waiting and in spite of the fact that they themselves have no reservations.
These people are the road bumps in the service industry. Sometimes they do it out of ignorance and sometimes they do it out of spite. The ones who are just trying to cope but don’t understand the system are relatively easy to work with. The ones with a distorted sense of entitlement create a difficult situation for service people and other customers as well.
For instance what exactly could I do if my late arriving couple decided to not get up, even if it was clearly demonstrated that they were in fact not “next”. Would throwing them out physically or calling the police to have them removed really enrich anyone else’s experience? It’s doubtful, however it would have created an extremely uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone else involved, service personnel, as well as customers.
It’s for this reason that I’ve decided to put together a little list of things to consider when you go out these holidays that might help you enjoy your experience a bit more. Some might seem obvious but you would be surprised at how many people ignore them.
1) Make reservations, even if you don’t think it will be busy; it is better to be safe than sorry.
2) Restaurants are usually at their busiest between 7:45 and 8:45, if you have reservations in this time slot, your table might not be ready, so be prepared to exercise some patience. If you decide to “just show up” in this time period expect to wait a long while. Adjusting your arrival even ten minutes either direction will greatly cut down on your waiting time.
3) Reservations are estimations, not guarantees. Restaurants do their best to schedule tables, but when was the last time you were asked? “How long will you two take to dine?” Or told that, “Your time for this table has expired.” Hostesses cannot control every detail and when dealing with thousands of details sometimes things take longer than anticipated.
4) Signs mean what they say; if the sign says reserved, it means reserved, not seat yourself.
5) If you enter a bar full of people expect that they are waiting for the same thing you are waiting for, and be appropriately considerate. Just because you can get to that table quicker than that gentleman with the walker doesn’t mean that you get to sit down first.
6) Busy restaurants and bars are, well, busy. Don’t try to impose peace and quiet on a busy bar, try going to a quieter or less busy bar. There are plenty of them around.
7) If there are twenty people in a bar watching a sporting game, don’t insist that the channel be changed because you want to watch something else, because it won’t be.
8) Telling the hostess that you know the owner won’t speed up your reservation, if you really knew the owner that well, they would have called ahead and arranged your reservation themselves.
9) If you are trying to avoid paying the valet fee by parking yourself, don’t expect the valets to watch your car; they will be busy watching all the cars that actually paid for parking.
These suggestions are not designed for me; they are for you, the customer. Hopefully they will enhance your holiday experiences, but remember it is not just your experience that we are talking about here. It is also the individual experiences of the entire crowd of people that are surrounding you, as well. As for me, I will be perfectly happy to wait on anyone who sits down, because it’s a whole lot better than having two empty seats.