Adventures in tourism

Pam
Pam Frampton
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"If my best wines mislike thy taste, and my best service win thy frown, then tarry not, I bid thee haste; there's many another Inn in town."
- Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907), American writer and traveller

By the time you read this, dear misguided readers - whoever and wherever you are - I may have taken to the open road.

Or I might be in the backyard, enjoying a nice chilly glass of sauvignon blanc and a nibbly or two.

Or I might be struggling up the side of the steep Southside Hills, the promise of a picnic lunch with my husband and a spectacular view my only incentives to keep going.
(Up ahead, our 12-year-old dog will be trotting briskly along, not even panting; wait a minute - then I must be the one whose breathing is ragged and shallow. Don't laugh. It's that steep! I should've given up the #@*&^$% smokes years sooner.)

At any rate, I will be on vacation, and somewhere close to home.

And no, I wasn't swayed by the province's "Summer Love" tourism campaign, as compelling as it is.

It was more the compelling nature of my bank balance.

I'm not complaining. I love vacationing in this province, particularly when the weather co-operates, and there are many nooks and crannies we have yet to explore.

And one of my favourite things about holidaying at home is the wonderful customer service and warm hospitality you can find - sometimes the best where you least expect it.

But there are exceptions. Not everyone working in tourism has gone to charm school, and I've heard more than my share of horror stories.

Perhaps I shouldn't repeat them. After all, as someone who grew up in a house that took in boarders, it was I who insisted on sleeping with the home economics teacher, and I'm pretty sure she hadn't bargained on having to share her bed with a seven-year-old when she agreed to pay room and board.

Nonetheless, I will relate some of those experiences as cautionary tales; a kind of "what not to do" for people in the hospitality business.

If you advertise a service, provide it.

I once foolhardily returned to a photo-finishing shop at 3 p.m., just more than one hour after paying for one-hour developing, only to be met with a staffer who was seemingly incredulous at the level of my audacity: "You want what? My God, my dear, I got film backed up to the rafters back there. You might get it back at 3 p.m. tomorrow, if you're lucky."

At least pretend to care about safety.

A lovely B&B where I once spent a night had a tiny shower with a curtain hanging from a tension rod. When I slipped in the shower, naturally I made a grab for the shower rod to save myself. It came away in my hand and I ended up flat on my back, banged up and bruised and half smothered in a shower curtain.

On my way out that evening, I said to the woman at the front desk, "Uh, you might want to do something about that tension rod in the bathroom. I slipped in the shower and reached for it, and it came off, and I wrenched my back badly."

Her reply was blithe - she clearly hadn't watched enough courtroom dramas: "Oh yes, my dear," she said with a wave of her hand. "That happens all the time."

Don't try to pull a fast one on your customers.

My friend Heather and I were out at a late-night eatery in downtown St. John's one night, and she ordered a caesar salad. It's pretty hard to mess that up, and yet …

When it arrived, there was no caesar dressing, just huge dollops of Miracle Whip on some wilted romaine, as if someone had doled it out with an ice-cream scoop.

"This is not caesar dressing," she said, clearly astounded by the presentation. "Would you please take this back and bring me a caesar salad with caesar dressing?"

When our server returned, the salad was exactly the same, except that the clumps of Miracle Whip had been scraped off with a butter knife.

Don't denigrate your customers if they are within earshot.

This story was told to me years ago by a reliable source, so I hope he forgives me if I get any details wrong.

A couple of American tourists enter a restaurant somewhere on the Northern Peninsula. It is nearly 6 p.m. and - unbeknownst to them - time for a shift change in the kitchen. A waitress takes their order, which involves one of the most expensive entrÉes on the menu: steak.

The waitress smiles and thanks them and then conveys their requests to the cook in the kitchen, who then proceeds to throw a conniption fit which is easily heard by every patron in the restaurant.

"What?! Steak? Steak! Yes, you knows, now! Here it is almost six o'clock and Miss Priss got to have her steak!"

Somehow, I doubt if the Americans went back.

If you've got a customer service horror story you'd like to share, drop me a line. You don't have to name names - after all, one bad experience does not a bad business make.

Pam Frampton, The Telegram's story editor, welcomes comments by e-mail: pframpton@thetelegram.com. Pam writes a food blog at wininganddiningwithpam.blogspot.com

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  • Michele
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I agree 100% with Pam Frampton's story. My family and I were transferred back to NL after 13 years in NS. I have to say the thing I miss the most about NS is the customer service. I have yet to walk away from a store in NL and feel that I have received excellent let alone good customer service. Most times I don't even hear the word thank you. It always seem like the people working there are doing you a favor by serving you. I think most of the friendly Newfoundlanders have moved away.