I learned a lot of new stuff last night on my management course. Last night’s topics were “dealing with conflict” and “establishing a good rapport with your customers”. These are obviously hugely important things to master when you are wanting to run a successful business. The most important thing that I discovered last night was that – contrary to the old adage – the customer is not always right. In fact, even if the customer has a valid complaint and speaks to you about it in a calm and rational manner, then you are quite at liberty to tell the customer that he “has an attitude”.
The management course in question was an impromptu affair, held at the Ocean Basket in Plumstead, Cape Town. I’m a big fan of the Ocean Basket chain of restaurants – it’s good food, it’s well cooked and they have quirky adverts which often spell the word “fish” as “feesh”. And it was for these reasons that we decided to get takeout from their Plumstead branch. Having ordered by phone and been told it would be ready in 15 minutes, we arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes later and were greeted by a very friendly lass called Robyn, who happily took our money and showed us our food, ready to go.
But uh-oh. That’s a Hake and Calamari Combo with rice and we wanted a Kingklip and chips. Just like we ordered and just like it says on the till slip, see? Never mind says Robyn – she’ll sort us a Kingklip post haste. Of course, at this point I should have remembered all the bad things that I have experienced at the hands of the South Africa Post Office. Yes, of course they are known for the speed of their service, but not in a good way.
Time passed by and pretty soon, we had been waiting half an hour, not enjoying the unenjoyable view. And so had the rest of our food, which had been placed in a prime position for looking at the funeral parlour across the road, quite literally chilling by an open window at the front of the restaurant. Which was nice. Unless you like your food warm.
As we (once again) asked Robyn to check on the status of our Kingklip and watched as she went across to talk to the restaurant manager who was barking orders from the kitchen hatch, we were bemused to see an argument begin between the two of them.
I went over to the manager and – noting how firm he was being with Robyn, impressed by his authoritative approach and anxious for my management workshop to begin – asked politely where our Kingklip was.
He grunted, like a manatee. Actually, I have no clue what noise a manatee makes, but think of what a manatee looks like and you’d imagine it grunts in a manner similar to the way in which the manager of the Ocean Basket who I was just talking about, did. Phew.
“It’s in there,” he stated (the bleeding obvious) flapping his right flipper toward the kitchen, “my Kingklip always takes 45 minutes.”
“Oh right,” I countered, mildly confused, “but your staff told us our order would be ready in 15 minutes, so…”
“They lied,” he interrupted.
I was taken a little aback. “Well, perhaps you should sort that issue out,” I suggested.
“What do you think I’m doing?” he asked, incredulous.
At this point, I resisted the huge temptation to suggest that what he was doing was not getting my Kingklip and, eyeing his somewhat portly figure, I began to wonder if he had actually eaten it himself.
Then I reminded myself that manatees are vegetarian.
Then I reminded myself that he wasn’t actually a manatee, he just had some of the physical features and the grunt of a manatee (if, as was queried earlier, manatees do in fact, grunt).
Sadly, this hypothesising took far too long and he dived, sea mammal-like, into the waves of the gap in the conversation.
“You have an attitude,” he stated.
Perhaps it was the manner in which he said it, but I had a feeling that this wasn’t a compliment. But as I was about to respond with a magnificently pertinent and witty comment that I, sir, would still be drunk in the morning (or something of that ilk), which surprisingly appeared on cue from the depths of my brain, a box of Kingklip was thrust under my nose and the moment was lost.
After a short seethe home and some hot microwave action, we enjoyed the feesh. The Kingklip, ironically, was especially good. The service was bloody awful, but made for a blog post. What you might call a win-win situation.
If it wasn’t for the poor service.