Sunday, September 20, 2009

You can't fix stupid

We're just back from a birthday party for one of Z's little kindy friends at the local bowling alley, and I'm quite simply flabbergasted at how totally and utterly appalling the service was.

The faintest of alarm bells started clanging the minute we walked through the door and went to the reception desk, behind which slouched at least 4 bored looking teenagers. 8 minutes later, I was still standing there, hoping against hope that one of them would spot me there, 70cm in front of them and direct me to the party. No such luck. A very exasperated "exCUSE me?" and one looked across at me, managing not to lose 1 iota of the bored look on his face. I was then pointed in the direction of the party, not asked to get shoes, not asked for our name or anything.


I must admit, the bowling session wasn't too bad, with 20 3 - 6 year olds over about 4 lanes. Two attendants were there to help, but decided it would probably be easier if the parents did it, so we did. The one thing that did seriously piss me off was when the attendant on our lane switched the monitor off just as the last kid took his last shot, thereby ensuring that none of the kids actually knew the final outcome of the game.

On this point I must digress a bit. Z was doing well. She nearly won, and I'm embarrassed to admit how frigging competitive I got! I was mentally willing those nearest to her in score to throw themselves down the lane, fall over, or drop a bowling ball on their toes. Sad, isn't it? Z didn't give a shit, she was just having fun. I was the one sweating bullets when little Johnny nearly got a strike on his last shot. As I said, embarrassing, but totally out my control!

Anyhoo, as the bowling came to an end we were all ushered into the "dining room", which is used as a creche and storage room when not used for parties. There were boxes piled up half way to the ceiling against one wall, 3 long tables with tacky plastic tablecloths and absolutely no sound insulation whatsoever. Add in the 20 excited kids and the noise was deafening.

The kids had pre-ordered their meals - chicken nuggets and chips or hot dog and chips. Both utterly revolting options, as far as healthy eating goes, but I suppose for a kid's party one is expected to overlook these things. Heaven help any poor child burdened with food allergies, I suppose they would starve in such an environment.

This brings me to another bit of a digression. Children's party venues are a huge business, and generally charge through the roof for incredibly mediocre food and service. Surely, with the current trends towards a healthier lifestyle, these places would start to cotton on to the fact that some of us do care what our children eat, and avoid deep-fried sodium-filled lard whenever possible. Would it be so terribly difficult just to throw a couple of healthy options in? Even sandwiches and popcorn as opposed to hot dogs and over-salted chips? Apparently it is, and I'm just not happy about it, thank you very much!

Anyway, back to the party...

Our 2 attendants were there, I assumed to serve food, tidy up, refill drink cups and so forth. Again, no such luck. One chap brought in a tray loaded with about 8 paper plates of nuggets and chips, put them down on a nearby table and walked, taking one tiny plate at a time, doling these out according to some mysterious list. After 2 minutes or so, he had managed to hand out around 3 meals, so the host and I took over, getting the remaining 18 kids fed within a minute. It wasn't even that difficult, amazingly enough!

Oh, look, I could write pages and pages of every single fuck up, which would ease my need to vent, but would probably be highly boring to read, so shall just sum up the basics:

  • When serving hot dogs, please don't wait to be asked before providing tomato sauce. It's pretty much a given.
  • When serving finger food to 5 year olds, napkins should not be on a request basis only.
  • When you are finally asked for tomato sauce, don't tell me you're re-supplying (WTF?) and that it will be there in 5 minutes. The hot dogs will either be cold or eaten by then. Sort it out.
  • When the host asks you to bring out the cake, would it not be GLARINGLY OBVIOUS that you need to clear the table of the nugget-hotdog-chips mess? No? Morons!
  • Once again, when feeding birthday cake with masses of luminous green icing to a bunch of small children, please don't make me ask you for napkins. Again.
  • When charging ludicrously high rates for this "food" and "service" please have the decency to wipe that blank look off your face and try and look interested. These are kids. The birthday boy's parents have just spent a small fortune to be here. Smarten up, Emo kid!

To be fair, apart from the sullen attitude and blank looks, it's not really the teenagers' fault. I blame the management. These kids need to be properly trained and supervised. I didn't see a single employee over the age of around 16 today, and that's simply not good enough.

Now, I realise that I look at these things a lot more judgementally that other parents may do, as I have 20 years in the hospitality industry, however the vast majority of the things that went wrong today were simply a total lack of common sense.

Since I moved to Australia, I have been horrified on a weekly basis at the standards of service in the hospitality industry, compared to other countries I have both worked in and visited. Unless you are dealing with a seasoned industry veteran, and one who both loves and takes pride in their work, chances are you're going to get a slouchy, bored looking blank-faced twat serving you.

I have tried for years now to train the staff that I have worked with to take pride in their job, and to put themselves in the position of the customer to attempt to anticipate their needs. It's been a losing battle, I can assure you.

It would simply appear that you can't fix stupid, and you can't train someone to care.


(image courtesy of )


So Now What? said...

Great vent. Loved it. Have been to about 50 of these freak shows in the lat 6 or so years. The most popular is a playhouse with ginormous play equipment (PL Insurance must just about fucking kill them) and $5 coffees for the mothers whilst they wait for their kids to either a) break their legs or b) get knocked out by the giant medicine ball that gets pushed from the top of the play equipment. Again, practically run by teens who do NOT GIVE A FUCK and have no rapore (sp) with kids. To be honest, the maccas party which cost me $100 in total for 18 kids was great. The host was a pocket rocket (who may or may not have had one too many V's that morning) and it all moved beautifully.

K, seems I had to vent a little about this particular subject too.

Perhaps you can start some sort of healthy kids party. We have one here at this
and it was unreal. The kids did not stop running and didn't even give a shit about the food (which was all healthy bar the lollies they had to run and collect),


Nettle & Brier said...

This is freaking fabulous, love your work and your openness to swearing. I was just saying the other day that far too many people are cutsie nice in their blogging. My own blog may have A LOT of pink on it at the moment, but personally I swear like a trooper and have been holding back for too long in the blogosphere.

Oh and just one note about Emo kids- you really need to stop concentrating on what they can't do and acknowledge how good their hair is, it's all about the hair. Sure they have zero personality and absolutely no clue to speak of but not everyone can get their hair to perfect peaks and such pointy edges without losing an eyeball! And that is a skill:)

Sparkly Tiara said...

Bern - I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets the shits with this kind of thing! I also loved the idea in that link - made me tired just looking at the pictures!

Neen - Yes, I did think a bit before allowing myself to swear on here, but then I figured that if I didn't, it just wouldn't be me, lol! Good point on the Emo kids - they have serious talent to get that hair working so pointily!

Amanda {My Life Badly Written} said...

I have yet to find a good kid party venue - it's an uptapped market!!!

You have been awarded on my blog! Come check it out!


oops - there you are amanda - found you from her blog, i nominated her for a splash award, she nominated you, and here i am - wubba wubba

i highly encourage swearing on blogs b/c then it makes me look almost normal

great rant! LOVE IT! now following

Stephanie Faris said...

I encountered the bored employee thing at a skating party for kids I went to. The service was horrible. We basically did everything ourselves. We just had cake and ice cream that we brought in, though, but clean-up was one hundred percent us. The employees acted like we were just a nuisance.

daharja said...

WoooooBOY..where do I begin on this one?

First of all, I hope you're writing a scathing letter to this place, telling them about how appaling they were. If they don't come back with at *least* a free bowl for ALL the kids (and a parent) at the party, I'd be disgusted.

If the don't write back with the above apology (or similar), send in a letter to the local paper, and name and shame them. I would. This sort of thing is taking advantage of honest families who often plan these parties a long time in advance. Can I say "disgusted" again?

I'm (uh oh, here comes that word again!) disgusted at the lack of healthy food options for kids at party venues.

From talking to parents, teachers and child care workers, you ARE NOT ALONE in wanting and requesting healthy food choices for kids. We keep asking, we keep not getting. Bt if McDonalds - the land of the grease - can offer apples and juice (a lame variety, but still...!) there is absolutely no reason why places like this cannot offer nice quality wraps, sandwiches, fruit salads (my kids love fruit salad!), fruit, muesli bars, hard boiled eggs etc. I'd mention this as a key point in your letter to them. This is a particular issue to me, because I have a son on a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian diet and he can NEVER eat the crap that is on offer at these places.

As for my daughter (just your average ovo-lacto vegetarian), there's nothing for her to eat either, except bloody hot chips. Not what I want her to grow up thinking of as a "treat"!

Don't get me started on teen attitude emo-shit (ok, now I'm past the "disgusted" stage). These kids, even if they're paid crap money, are PAID to attend to you. That's your money! If they can't act respectfully, they can find another job. I worked all through my teenage years and was respectful and positive in every job I worked in. Save the emo shit for after hours. It's not appropriate and not acceptable. That place needs to smarten up.

Overall, I think you should never go back. I also think you need to talk about it with other parents, and let them in on it. But first give the place a chance to hear what you have to say. Maybe (I doubt it) they just had a bad day, and had to find temp staff in a hurry. Maybe.

Yep. I'm disgusted. I'm ashamed and sorry on your behalf that you had to put up with such rubbish. I just hope the kids had a good time, despite such a foul attitude on behalf of the venue.

daharja said...

As an added comment, if these places don't start supplying decent food, just bring your own. And make sure it is AWESOME stuff the kids will love!

I bring decent, healthy food into cinemas shamelessly and openly these days. When they try to stop me, I simply point out that they have no healthy food options available (which they don't) and that their water is all in plastic bottles, which I refuse to drink from.

They've never stopped me from entering with my stash yet! :-D

We bring (to the cinemas): dried fruit, home air-popped popcorn, rice cakes, home baked cookies, fresh fruit, water, chocolate milk (rice milk based) in bottles for the kids, trail mix, cashew nuts. They love it.

Sparkly Tiara said...

Daharja, wow, I can see this is a big issue for you as well! I wasn't actually hosting the party, but the parents that were called me afterwards and are happy for me to follow up on their behalf.

I've got a half written email on the go, just trying to cut out some of the swear words, lol! Oh, and this has also inspired me to write a healthy lollybag post on htpp:// and will be following that one up with healthy party food options!

Thanks so much for all your comments. It really seems like this is a problem at the majority of party venues rather than just a few, which is not only sad, it's totally unacceptable!

TKW said...

Hahahahahahaha! Did you really do that with the ketchup and mustard? I love it!

Kids' party venues in the States aren't much better, if at all. Sad.

S3XinthePantry said...

Oh, sounds like the kids were too young to notice, but how frustrating.

I HAVE to ask...did you take the blog photo there - scribble on the table???

Sparkly Tiara said...

No - I found the photo online!

jeanie said...

A bit late on this - just found your blog but I have to say YES to the lack of healthy options.

My personal hobby-horse is kids meals, where it is deep-fried crap and chips. I have asked numerous times to remove half the chips and add some veges or salad, with no luck thus far.

(BTW - I post under another username on a messageboard - and said something about political shopping trolley, which is how I found your blog...)

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