December 13, 2010

Putting up with poor service and bad attitude

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Over the weekend I had a couple of instances where I came face to face with very poor service as well as bad attitude at dining establishments.  It made me wonder why we diners sometimes continue to patronize those same establishments where the staff and/or owners have treated us poorly.

I attended a beautiful wedding on Saturday, held at the Repulse Bay.  The banquet was a buffet lunch at the Verandah.  Everyone knows that this is run by the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels - the same owner as the Peninsula.  One would expect very high standards for food and service, but I was shocked by how poorly trained the staff were.  They looked like part-timers who were called in for a few hours just for the banquet...

There was a series of mistakes committed by several different waiters.  One was trying to serve us Champagne, announcing "ladies first" while putting down a flute on my right hand side - in front of my other wine glasses - instead of together with my neighbor's glasses.  Another tried to remove a duplicate flute of Champagne from a friend... is it forbidden to have 2 glasses of the same wine? 

Waiters in Hong Kong still do not understand that when a diner puts down his/her silverware in a cross pattern, it signifies that he/she isn't finished with the food on the plate.  I had to practically yell at someone so that he would put my plate back down with the last piece of lamb chop still sitting on it.  Then there was the clueless guy who was so eager to pour tea for a guest that the liquid escaped from under the teapot's lid and flooded the table.

A friend of mine joked that this was the training school for the hotel group... and I really did wonder whether all the clueless newbies come here and get trained before being sent off to the Peninsula...

Last night I grabbed a quick and casual dinner at Lotus Garden (蓮園) in my neighborhood.  The boss here is famous (or infamous?) for her attitude.  She has no patience for just about anybody, and if you don't like her hollerin' and her attitude, you know where the door is.  Last night was no different.  I saw customers who walked through the door, got a dose of her attitude, then turned around and walked out.  I know that the boss' bark is worse than her bite, and I just tune her out most of the time while I'm there.  And the place is always packed. 

Another place famous for poor service/attitude yet never short of customers is Da Domenico.  People either love or hate this place, and the hate definitely stems from the perception of overpaying for nonexistent service.  I had have some first hand experience with this.  So what keeps people coming back? 

Are we masochists?  Do we just love being abused, and go back begging for more?  If the food is good - in the case for Da Domenico - do we ignore the service part of the dining experience and keep going back, thereby condoning or even encouraging the bad service/attitude?  Surely we can find other places where the food is equally good but with better service?

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