From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

“Let’s Start Over”

Do it big, do it right and do it with style.

Fred Astaire

Some time ago, I had a direct experience of what I describe as “High Performance Customer Service.” It occurred on a Saturday, on a cold winter’s day in Toronto.

The weekend began, as with many other second-family situations, with my children visiting their mother. My wife, Kate, and I had a weekend alone. Saturday was an exercise in leisure and tranquillity. We got up late, and everything in the day was a pleasurable three or four hours late.

After browsing shops and galleries, we arrived at a prominent four-star hotel at around four o’clock in the afternoon, ready for a late lunch. The restaurant staff was most accommodating. Kate ordered a stir-fry of some sort, and when it arrived, the real adventure began.

Nestled neatly in Kate’s stir-fry was the tip of a finger from a latex glove. I called the waitress. “What is this?” Kate inquired with an appropriate level of indignation.

“I’m not sure,” replied the waitress as she whisked the plate away to the kitchen.

In less than a minute the waitress returned with the maître d’. “Madame, we have made a dreadful mistake and apologize sincerely.” So far so good. “Let us start over,” the maître d’ continued. “Remove everything from the table,” he instructed the waitress. The waitress proceeded to remove everything—the wine, the cutlery, my food, the tablecloth—everything! “Let us erase the memory,” said the maître d’.

The table was reset, menus presented, and new wine and food ordered. We were on our way once again to a fantastic lunch.

The maître d’ took a bad service impression and replaced it with an outstanding one. He did not deny the experience, but substituted a higher, richer one in its place. The food was good, the service superlative. This was theater.

And the meal was complimentary.

Richard Porter

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