It’s the same old story, yeah Everywhere I go, I get slandered, libeled, I hear words I never heard in the Bible And I’m one step ahead of the shoe shine Two steps away from the county line Just trying to keep my customers satisfied, Satisfied.
– Excerpt from “Keep the Customers Satisfied” by Simon & Garfunkel
What a chorus. One almost has to wonder if Art and Paul ever worked in the restaurant business before finding their voices! As someone who has worked in food service for over a decade, I know that “keeping the customers satisfied” is not always an easy job. I work for a wonderful company that treats me like gold, and the majority of our clientele are nothing short of a pleasure to serve. Still, I am no stranger to the occasional “entitled and unbridled” guest. After all, hard-to-please individuals are everywhere…they shop at every store, dine at every restaurant, and pay for every service known to man. It is an unpleasant yet inevitable truth that on some days these individuals will find their way to my place of employment, with a bad attitude in tow, and I must attempt to serve them with as much kindness as I would any other guest. This is my duty both as a Christian and as an employee. It’s a challenging task some days, I tell you…but not insurmountable.
I had a run-in recently with a couple of particularly difficult humans, and their less-than-stellar attitudes became an inspiration for this month’s blog topic. Allow me to introduce you to two very entitled and unbridled individuals…
The first, I will call “Timekeeping Tom”. The second has earned the title “Mashed Potato Myrtle”…
Upon arrival at work one day, my gaze fell upon a man seated at a table, wearing a scowl on his face. “Uh-oh, somebody’s not happy”, I thought to myself. As I clocked in, this crabby man marched up to my cash register to retrieve an order he had been waiting for. I went to the back to check on the status of his order, whereupon I was greeted with the last news I wanted to relay to him: the kitchen staff had made a mistake with it! I was doomed. I was given some good news, however: his order had been remade and was already only a few minutes away from completion. With inward trepidation but outward resolve, I returned to the man at the register and politely explained the mistake. I assured him that it would only be about four minutes longer and the order would be in his hands. (Notice I said “about” four minutes…I have learned not to make any promises I can’t keep!) Exactly four minutes later, as I was in the middle of helping another guest, the man got up from his table and marched up to my register again. He began belligerently and repeatedly tapping at his wrist, saying, “It’s been FOUR minutes! WHERE is my order?!” When I was through helping the other guest, I asked Mr. Timekeeping Tom to kindly wait a moment for me to get it. In the short amount of time it took for me to return with his order, he had sat back down at his table, wearing a bigger scowl than before. When I presented his order to him, he took one sidelong glance at it and roared, “IT’S BURNT!” (It wasn’t burnt) Not one to be easily moved by theatrics, I calmly explained the options we had for resolving his (perceived) problem. He opted to keep his “burnt” order, all the while mumbling about our “horrible” service, “horrible” food, and how next time he would be taking his business elsewhere. (I must admit that I’m not too disappointed on this last bit) Though I thanked him for his patronage, he never once thanked me for my service…which had no lack of kindness in the face of his dramatic outbursts. Pretty rude, Tom…pretty rude.
In addition to our out-the-door orders, my place of employment also offers a buffet. One day, in the middle of a particularly busy rush, I looked over at the buffet to see a woman staring at the buffet table with a grimace. In an attempt to please the woman by offering my assistance before she could offer her complaint, I approached her and pleasantly asked if there was anything I could help her with. Evidently this was not a woman to be won over by mild manners, for she churlishly announced: “YOU’RE OUT OF MASHED POTATOES!!” I smiled and said, “Allow me to check how much longer those will be,” adding with a wink, “just ask and you shall receive, Ma’am”. I proceeded to the back and asked the kitchen staff how much longer until we would have more mashed potatoes out on the buffet. The fellow in charge of this immediately began filling a container with freshly prepared potatoes and told me he’d be right out with them in under a minute. I returned to the buffet with this positive news, which, for all intents and purposes, should have overjoyed Miss Mashed Potato Myrtle. Presumably, she would have thanked me and waited patiently for 60 seconds; instead, she deepened her frown, spun on her heel, and marched back to her table in a huff. I never saw her come back up to get any mashed potatoes, which were out on the buffet in under a minute, as quoted. Perhaps the all-important mashed potatoes were not as coveted as she once thought? Let’s hope Myrtle got enough to eat that fateful night.
When dealing with unreasonable people, I have often wondered to myself how a person can become so entitled and unbridled that the smallest inconvenience sets them to ranting and raving. Waiting four minutes for a dine-in order, or one minute for some buffet mashed potatoes is – dare I say it – not the end of the world. Sometimes I imagine what I would say to entitled and unbridled people, if I was not under a restaurant’s code of conduct and had the authority to do so. These are some things I might say to give perspective of how small these problems really are in the grand scheme of life:
To Timekeeping Tom:
“Tom, how can it be that your patience has reached its end in only four minutes of waiting for a corrected order? If such a minor wait has rocked your world, what would you become in the face of greater adversity?
You could be waiting to find out if your wife’s cancer is terminal.
You could be waiting for the judge’s final say on a crime you didn’t commit.
You could be waiting to hear if the police have found your child who has been abducted.
You could be waiting to see if your company department will be outsourced.
You could be waiting in line at a soup kitchen for the homeless.
Please have some perspective, for your sake and mine. It shows how blessed you really are if a four minute wait on a messed-up order is the worst thing to happen to you this day. Galatians 5:22 tells us that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is…patience’. Rather than allowing yourself to become entitled and unbridled, why don’t you let this small inconvenience aid you in becoming a more patient person.”
To Mashed Potato Myrtle:
“Myrtle, how can it be that you have become so discontented at one item being temporarily unavailable to you, when dozens of others are available for your consumption? If such a minor outage has rocked your world, what would you become in the face of greater adversity?
You could be out of a marriage because your husband runs off with another woman.
You could be out of food living in a communist country.
You could be out of water in the scorching desert sun.
You could be out of medicine when your child has an asthma attack.
You could be out of a home after a fire burns it to the ground.
I believe a perspective shift is in order. Is it not a blessing that the only thing you are out of is mashed potatoes, and there’s more on the way at that? 1 Timothy 6:8 says that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content”. I can see that you are covered in nice clothing, and you are dining at an all you can eat buffet. Instead of being entitled and unbridled by focusing on the one item you don’t have, why don’t you focus on all that you do have.”
Yes, these are the things I wish I could say. And while I may not be able to say these things as a guest service representative, I can share this message with you. I can remind you to always look at the big picture in the face of miniature trials. Our petty annoyances are not matters of life or death. Now, the world is known to have intolerable and insufferable behavior (lost people have lost ways), but let us who claim the name of Christ never allow ourselves to become entitled and unbridled. Those of us who are in Him ought to be the most patient and content customers to ever enter the business world. May there be no Timekeeping Tom’s or Mashed Potato Myrtle’s among God’s kingdom!
He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones. – Proverbs 14:29-30
For God’s glory, Mrs. Dustin Bolks
Chaste Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.