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 http://matchstic.com/blog/?cat=4 )