Thursday 3 July 2014

It Came With a Smile

Louise and I were in an iHop today for a late breakfast. Well, Louise did have to fast and being the thoughtful, kind, loving husband that I am, I fasted with her. Some people call it sleep, but whatever it’s called, I didn’t eat for well over eight hours. I expect Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and a film crew to arrive any minute. Of course it will look better if I can get some flies crawling on my eyes, perhaps if I spread honey on the lids…

So, we were at the iHop and after being seated we waited for about five to ten minutes for Joel to introduce himself as our server. I would have been surprised if Joel were just some stranger that happened to have a pot of coffee in his hand. Mind you, I wasn’t too surprised because I had been contemplating getting my own coffee as well. We told Joel what we wanted and off he disappeared with the coffee pot and a swish of his tail. Well, if he had a tail it would have swished.

Ten…fifteen minutes later, an over worked, underpaid, middle aged woman came trundling up to the table with our orders. She was smiling and seemed to be amazed that she not only got the food to the right table, but she got it there while it was lukewarm. Everyone was happy!

The food was good or we were so hungry that anything would have tasted good by that time. The first few minutes were taken up eating and sating the initial stages of starvation. Next came the conversation. I mentioned that if this were an iHop in the USA, we wouldn’t have waited as long for coffee or the meal. The food would have been cooked a little better and our wait staff would have had smiles and a winning attitude. I think that’s because in the US, a career in the food service industry isn’t considered the first step on the corporate ladder. It is a viable and satisfying occupation. Sure it can be a pain in the ass, back, feet and other places, but it is something to take pride in doing a good job. Not all servers are like that of course, but there is a much higher percentage like that in the US.

I don’t know why that is, or how it became that way in Canada. We are no better than the people in the US and in fact we are arguably exactly the same. Our language is the same, well, except for local dialects and those wacky French speakers. We just wave a different flag.

My personal belief (this can change from minute to minute) is that the Canadian Service Industry is far more interested in the “Industry” part than the “Service” part. Don’t get me wrong, our friends south of the border are no slouches when it comes to making a dollar, they just seem to understand that in order to make that dollar, the customers need to come back again and again.

I had occasion to work with some people from Kentucky a few months back. They were telling us that the first day in Calgary they went for breakfast and were stunned that the bill was $25 dollars for the two of them. They wrote it off to picking the wrong place. When the same thing happened the next day, they asked their Canadian counterparts and found that $25 wasn’t too far out of line. This Kentuckian told me that if he had to pay more than $3.50 for breakfast and a coffee, it was a very fancy place and he wouldn’t go back a second time.

I bet that $3.50 came with a smile too.

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