Workplace Wisdom

Lying on the Menu

It was a special lunch, and the three of us were a little excited. Daughter ordered the salmon, which impressed the waitress. I ordered the burger (Daughter’s second choice, as insurance). Spouse asked for a cup of soup and a fancy chicken sandwich.

The waitress was friendly and interested, if not graceful, which fit with the tone of the establishment: traditional, comfortable, but not “fine dining.” She poured iced tea, brought the soup, and all was well.

Spouse had just finished the soup when a gentleman who appeared to be the manager — wearing a striped shirt rather than an apron or chef’s jacket — walked up to our table with a furrowed brow.

An Attempt at Service Recovery

He announced that a terrible thing had happened: He had dropped the salmon on the floor. He was really awfully sorry, and wouldn’t Daughter please choose something else from the menu?

We all felt bad for him, Daughter especially, and she chose the sandwich that he recommended. She was a little disappointed over the loss of the lovely salmon and jasmine rice, but she didn’t complain.

We waited quite a long time for our food to arrive. Unfortunately, when it finally came, Daughter wasn’t thrilled with her rather dull replacement lunch, so she ate some of my burger (yay, Mom, for being prepared!) and as much as she could get of Dad’s tastier sandwich.

When the waitress came around to pour more tea and see how we were doing, she apologized again for the lack of salmon and then, in a collegial sort of way, commented that she didn’t understand why no one had told her when she placed the order that they had used up all the salmon the night before — then she could have changed it right away instead of making us wait so long.

The Service Falls to the Ground

Used up? Not “dropped on the floor?” Of course, we didn’t say anything to the waitress, but what had that guy been thinking?! He could have at least gotten the staff’s stories straight so that his customers were distressed only once, no?

We had accepted his apology as authentic, but now we felt slicked, manipulated, and used. A sincere apology about a more mundane, actual error would have worked fine with us. Did this fellow think he needed to add some drama as a silencer, because the real mistake didn’t sound forgivable enough?

Now no one at the restaurant seemed credible — or competent. And the food seemed even less tasty.

What makes an apology sufficient?

Onward and upward,

LK

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