Monday, June 3, 2013

SERVICE ... is just another word!!

For some time now I have been quietly objecting to the so very obvious deterioration in standards in Trinidad & Tobago, not the least being the absolute absence of even a modicum of understanding of what the word "service" means, especially in fast food restaurants and those restaurants that advertise themselves as "family" restaurants. I am not just referring to the total and complete lack of understanding of the concept of service in places like MacDonalds and Burger King ... in those places "service" is clearly something that obtains on Mars or Jupiter, not a concept that applies on planet earth! I am also talking about places like TGI Fridays, Trotters and Ruby Tuesdays. In those type of establishments (and especially in those establishments) service is so lousy and so inexplicably inefficient that you would be easily forgiven from coming to the conclusion that the owners and management care only about making a buck and couldn't care less about giving their customers any kind of value in return. It is one thing to serve lousy food (which they all do). And most certainly, it is also more or less the same thing to charge exorbitantly high prices for the lousy food. But it is really, really insulting to serve the lousy food at exorbitant prices and not just couple it with absolutely terrible service, but to charge the customer an additional fifteen per cent for the privilege of getting lousy service. Put another way, "service" is just another word that has absolutely no meaning in this little country of ours ... at least as far as they are concerned.

I will confess that from time to time I go to one or the other of these really bad restaurants. Usually it is because I am either taken there by a client or my two sons beg me and I can't say no to them... although they are beginning to realise that what I have been saying is true. Thankfully, we haven't been near any of those places since the beginning of this year.

But yesterday (Sunday) being the end of the long week-end, when my ten year old son asked me to take him to Hagendaaz in Ellerslie Plaza for an ice cream I readily agreed. After all, I reasoned, what could possibly go wrong in ordering a few scoops of ice cream? Huh!?!? Guess again! My wife, my son and I entered the little ice cream shop and sat down. After about five minutes a waiter came to us and took our order. Because we had to be somewhere else at 6pm I glanced at my watch to check the time. It was exactly 5:20pm! My son ordered two scoops of ice cream and my wife asked for a piece of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on it. That was it! Now guess how long it took?

Twenty minutes later I got up and went and quietly complained to the manager that our order had not arrived. He very politely informed me that our order was coming "now"! Now, I don't know about you, but my understanding of "now" is "now", i.e. immediately! Not in five or even ten minutes time! Five minutes passed with no ice cream or apple pie. I got up again and quietly enquired as to why our order had not arrived. To my great surprise, the manager told me that as it was Sunday afternoon they were very busy and that three or four parties had come in ahead of us so we just had to wait our turn. But, not to worry, our order was coming "now" (that word again)! Incidentally, at that time, not all of the tables were occupied!

I had to ask myself 'how long does it take to get and serve a scoop of ice cream'? And the answer has to be less than a minute. You try it sometime. So even if there were, say, four parties ahead of us with, say, an average of three to a party (and most of the tables at that time were occupied by parties of two ... we were the only three person party at that time), then with four parties ahead of us there is absolutely no good reason why we could not have been served in ten minutes (or less). If we were in the States or Canada, for example, I know that the service there would have ensured that we would have been served in less than ten minutes!

I can hear you say 'but this is Trinidad. What do you expect?' And my answer is that I expect right minded citizens to refuse to accept such a lousy excuse and to criticise severely all those who would accept lousy service with a shrug. We didn't make a fuss. We just walked out of Hagendaaz. I saw the manager and a waitress looking at me with some surprise as if to say that I was being unreasonable, especially as they had told me that my order was coming 'now'. But up to the time that we exited the place our order was not on it's way to our table.

To wait twenty-five minutes for a few scoops of ice cream and a piece of apple pie is totally and completely unacceptable and the owners of that ice cream shop ought to be ashamed of the very poor service ... worse still because it purports to be a high class joint! But then, so do all the others!

It is time that we start to complain and refuse to spend our money in those places that encourage their staff to be rude, surly and inefficient. I know that this can be done. For example, there is a great little pizza restaurant in Victoria Avenue called La Cantina. The pizzas are the best in town and the service is superb ... first world in every aspect! And all the waiters and waitresses are Trinis to the bone. What do they know that the others don't? My guess is that the owners and management really care ... the others don't care a fig! But then, why should they? We continue to support them without complaint! And therein lies our tragedy!!

P.S. In addition to a service charge being tacked on to your bill at these places, you are expected to leave a tip. The whole concept of tipping has conveniently been forgotten. The word "tip" come from the acronym "To Insure Promptness". Ironic, isn't it!?


  1. Be happy with the slow service, Robin. At least you won't get fat!!!!


  2. excellent as usual...
    Chantal Maundy has started a FaceBook page allowing for comments (good and bad) ref service and standards in (not so sweet anymore) Triniwonderland.
    We really need to start using the social media to publicize this sort of thing..

    The FaceBook page is 'Make Trinis Accountable'


  3. I agree 100% and have had many reason to complain at those places. Sometimes my children gets embarrassed because I complain. And that is the problem with Trinidadians; they feel ashamed to complain.

  4. I thought that I was the only one who complained! Thanks for letting me know that I am not crazy and am not alone! You are right!

  5. Senator,

    Don’t get me going!!! Talk about service???

    I have an issue with Buzo restaurant who continue to ‘round up’ patrons’ bills if the bill is .50 or more of a dollar. WHATEVER YOU SAY THAT IS TIEFIN….AND ILLEGAL

    The proprietor Mr. Sabga offers a defence. If the bill is .49 or less of the dollar amount he ‘rounds down’..BS!!! If you as a proprietor wish to offer me a discount by charging me less than what I owe you, then that’s your choice., but you CANNOT legally charge me MORE than I owe you!!!!

    I complained to the Min of Consumer Affairs…in writing who did fart all!! So…multiply Mr. Sabga’s annual patronage, and take one half of that for ‘rounding up’….how much do you reckon he’s making …TAX FREE!!!!!!

  6. You are right! And in places like TGI Fridays when they eventually bring your food to the table it is cold! And when you complain the waiter/waitress looks at you as if you have no right to complain. And THEN they expect you to tip them!!

  7. Good piece. You are so right! And the tragedy is that we put up with it!!!!

  8. That's why I eat my roti quietly in my kitchen and save my money. I know exactly the frustration you feel Robin. try going to a movie in Chaguanas on a Sunday night - especially when one of the movies playing happens to be a Hindi movie. I can't wait to get back to Toronto where there is sanity, service and a few assholes as well.

  9. "My guess is that the owners and management really care ... the others don't care a fig! But then, why should they? We continue to support them without complaint!"
    Therein lies your answer Mr Montano.

  10. Unfortunately Robin this attitude of "take what you are given and shut up" also applies to Trinidad & Tobago politically - which is half our problem. Again, we can thank Dr. Williams for that - "not a damn dog bark".

    The only answer is to start in the schools (baby school for a start!) and re-inculcate principles into our society so that the people of T&T recognise that we are each and every one of us a part of the society and must do our bit and, very importantly also, without victimisation - not wait for someone else to do it for us. Maybe then we will begin to see a real sense of PRIDE in our citizens. Right now very few give a damn - particularly if "I'm alright Jack" (and I am not referring to Mr. Warner - he is putting his money where his mouth is) but this attitude has also come about over the years because of victimisation (eg Jean Miles and to a lesser degree my husband).

  11. But you forgot the worst culprit of all...RITUALS!
    They take Bad Service and downright rudeness to a whole new level.

  12. Hello Robin,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog on restaurant "service" in T&T, so much so that my wife and I had pizza at La Cantina last night. As a follow up, how about blogs on other service businesses. A good one to look at might be the legal profession which seems to be notoriously slow in producing its service i.e. legal documents.

  13. Dont get me going on Rituals. I went to the St Clair branch, which in the past like the rest, were notorious for bad service. One lady standing next to the cashier handed the woman infront of me, who was second inline, her cup of coffee before she even paid for it. I almost fainted. I thought my eyes were deceiving me. I thought that this was not real. But it was! The lady woman infront of me was a regular and that member of staff knew her preference for coffee. I comment to the employee how impressed I was and she explained she was the supervisor and was trying to instill that sence of pride to the job to all at that branch.
    Alas, two week's later the rest of employees obviously got to her, for she was grim faced on seeing me again and even though I was promised delivery of my panini outside, after 20 minutes I had to get it myself and recieve the, parden the pun, customary abonishment for expecting then to bring it for me.
    Is it that the salaries offered do not attached the correct people?

  14. We like it so! "We Freee!"