Thursday, November 10, 2011

Customer Service

We went out for chinese food with our “Scarborough” (meaning “non-Tango”) friends tonight.  We go out with these friends at least once a week - just to hang out, to catch up, to eat (of course), and catch the current Hong Kong mini-series on the flat panel tv hanging on the wall of the restaurant.  It’s a very casual and relaxed get-together.

As usual, we ordered lots of food - roasted squab with pepper salt, double lobster in garlic and Maggi sauce, dried mandarin peel flavoured steamed eel slices, soy sauce fried beef noodles, jellyfish strips with wine-marinated duck tongue, crispy fried chicken, and, as an afterthought, stir-fried clams in black bean sauce.

Everything was delicious...except the clams were off.

The head chef came over to chat and find out what we thought of the food.  “It was very tasty,” said Man Yung.  “I especially loved the crispy fried chicken.  It’s such a simple dish - but it’s hard to find a place which serves it the way it’s supposed to be, with the skin crispy and juicy, and the meat tender and flavourful.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had chicken that was dry on the outside, and even more dry on the inside!” 

 “The only secret is to make it fresh everyday,” said the chef.  “Many restaurants don’t - they make all the chickens for the week in one go.  It can’t taste too good by day three!”

“Just one thing was not good,” said Man Yung - “Your clams were off.”

“Oh, is that right?” said the chef. 

He immediately rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a meat cleaver, and chased us out of the restaurant.

Savoury ingredients...expert cooking...immaculate presentation - but alas, the clams were "off"

Nah, I’m kidding.  The chef thanked us for letting him know.  “Please inform me if there is anything wrong with the food.  You’ve got to let me know, because otherwise, if something is wrong, we will continue serving the problem dish and we wouldn’t have a clue that our customers are upset at the food.  We’d rather fix the problem than lose our customers!”

We weren't charged for the clams and we got a 10% discount. That is one good, responsible chef - we’ll be going back to eat at his restaurant for sure!

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While the above is a very nice story, it is about customer service in restaurants.  It does not apply to Tango.

It is inappropriate to tell your dance partner before, during, or after dancing with them at a milonga that their dancing is “off” - in any way, shape or form.  Such words should not come out of your mouth; nor should you hint same with subtle (or non-subtle) body language.

No rolling of the eyes.  No sighs or snorts of contempt.  No pushing or shoving into place.  No slapping of limbs.  No body shimmies or arm jitters to loosen less than ideal grips.  No hanging onto your partner’s neck - and no pretending to be a metal anvil or a war elephant to slow your partner down.  No advice (except when expressly solicited by your partner - and only when you are off the pista and out of everyone’s way).  And, NO TEACHING ON THE DANCE FLOOR.

When you dance with someone, they are not a restaurant where the customer is always right.  In fact, you can throw the whole concept of customer service out of the window. 

I’m sorry, you should have known better than dance with the whirling dervish nutcase in the first place - weren’t you paying attention to all the dancers while you were waiting for the cabeceoDon’t forget, it is your right - in fact, your DUTY for the good of all tango-kind - to say no. It not your place, whether you are an amateur, an advanced, or a pro, to “correct” anyone’s problems - unless that person has paid to take your class and both of you are in the classroom. 

Your only recourse is the following:  Never eat at the same restaurant again.  Or, if encountering particularly repugnant, urgent horribleness (e.g. you found cockroaches practicing synchronized swimming in your soup, or strange hairs sprouting from your entree) - you can say “Thank you very much” and stop it right there before the dinner (I mean, the tanda) is over.  It is, in fact, totally appropriate to leave before the next gag-inducing course is served.

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Alberto Dassieu

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