This New Years Eve I fancied a trip to London to see the fireworks. It’s a lot of hassle, shuffling among the crowds, cold feet, trying to sing Auld Lang Syne when you don’t know all the words, hugging strangers and smiling until your face hurts. And even when you’ve had enough you have to keep stretching those muscles because it’s a special night.
Instead we went out for a meal.
And then played Monopoly after. I lost in case you’re wondering. Stupid mortgages.
The fireworks would be edited to a cute 5 minute clip on the Beeb so I was happy. I like fireworks.
So, here’s where the rant starts and it’s a good example of bad customer service.
I had a table booked for five at The Travellers Rest, a Beefeater Grill in Cambridge. We’ve been there plenty of times in the last 15 years or so. I’ve always liked it. Good burgers, dark and moody lighting, tasty smells, cheery waitresses. It’s not the most expensive or glamorous place, but it’s nice. Just nice.
Rant 1 – Waiting – Mini Rant
Our table was booked for 8.30pm. We were seated at 8.55pm which meant hanging around in the bar. My cynical side says that’s a ploy to suck money out of hungry customers at the bar before they stuff their faces.
Waiting isn’t that big a deal. It happens. People stay later than planned, so the next lot have to wait. You deal with it. That’s not bad customer service as such, but the longer you wait the more annoyed you get. It’s a fine line.
Rant 2 – The Loud Tossers
Take note of that sub-heading as it’ll crop up a fair amount in varying degrees.
There are 3 levels at the Travellers Rest – ground floor, mid section and upper section. We were seated in the upper section. Nice booth. Cosy you might say. Opposite us were a group of elderly types, 4 or 5 of them. We’ll call them the Silver Party. They were supping drinks when we sat down.
Behind us was another table, occupied by a group of obnoxious, rude, loud mouthed twats. Rough guess, 6 or 7 of them. Although a couple left because they had better things to do, like going to a proper place for NYE – a bar or club for example, you know, where all the children hang out.
When I was young I had a vague sense that old people (those in their 20’s and 30’s) must have been young once too, but I just couldn’t picture it. Looking back I’m aware I was one of those arrogant loud turds that pretty much all adults hated. That gives me some insight on how to spot the same level of idiocy now I’m older.
Back to the Tosser Crew. Picture these idiots below, but with a little more class. Though not much. That’s who we were sat near.
From their accents I’d place them as Cambridge tools, or possibly Essex wide boys. The kind who are fuelled by their own self-importance, driven by an insatiable desire to feed their ego and declare to the world they’re the shit. The only shit. The best kind of shit. Total shit.
The girls are the same. Loud, squeaky, taking selfies every few seconds, talking words that makes no sense whatsoever. The type who buy clothes from Primark, possibly a tad more upmarket, but not much, and then pass it off as something more expensive.
All high heels, slinky dresses, tiny shoulder bags, bouncy titties and rapid thumbs to flick screens up and down.
To anyone with a brain it was clear they were jars with very few rocks in. So, lots of noise and no sense.
Devil’s Advocate – Side Bar
On the other hand I could be wrong here. They could have been high-spirited young people on a night out. Some may have even been intelligent, caring, sensible and genuinely nice if you got to know them.
I was actually laughing as I typed that.
They weren’t any of those things. They were vacuous, shallow cretins where their only contribution to the world would be to breed and, by some miracle, their offspring might rise above their pointless parents and actually offer the world something of worth.
Back to the rant.
Our waitress arrives. Hands out menus. We peruse. We become aware the Kiddy Crew are loud and as a result we struggle to hold a conversation around our table. It’s fine, for the moment. Just teenagers in high spirits on NYE. I soon lose interest in the menu and listen in on what the idiots are talking about.
There’s some talk about Facebook, Instagram, what someone’s mate, Jaffa or Bazza, is Tweeting about now. Cue raucous laughter. Some of them get up and go outside for a smoke. Some go to the toilet. After a few minutes another set do the same thing like they’re tag teaming the smokes and bog runs.
Each time one of the children get up, they continue their loud conversation over the table of the Silver Party. It borders on shouting as if they think they’re in a bar or club. I find I’m focussing on who is coming and who is going. And at some point 1 or 2 of them leave.
We place our order. Nice starter to share, some kind of big tray with nachos, potato skins, dips and stuff.
It’s actually very tasty. Nice chillies in there too.
While we eat I listen in on the conversation coming from the Kindergarten Club. There’s some talk about one of the girls having been outside and her nips got all hard. Cue guffaws and comments from “the lads” about how they can be put to good use.
I’m no prude. Indeed I’m all for gutter or toilet jokes and no topic is taboo around our dinner table. The older I get the more my filter seems to erode. But I know there’s a time and place. I knew it when I was young too because I was taught good manners.
One of the squeaky girls decides now is the time to get up and rush around the table to give everyone hugs. Selfies are taken because if you can’t put it on Facebook then it didn’t happen.
Christ, life sure must suck for kids these days who have to share every moment of their lives with the rest of the planet just to validate their existence.
They order food. One of them asks for a steak. Just steak. He doesn’t want the mushroom, bit of salad, chips. No. Just a steak. A big steak because he’s a big boy and big boys have to eat steak to show how big and strong they are so all the girls will want his ding-a-ling.
More of them get up. Toilet breaks. Smoke breaks. I see cheap clothes. Slick trendy hair. Skimpy dresses that are just begging to be left on the floor of some strange guys bedroom on NYD morning.
One of the boys, let’s call him SlickHair #1, calls out to our waitress. He starts banging on about how he wants to pay for the drinks. He’s desperate to pay for them. I can’t work out if that’s because he’s stupid and doesn’t realise drinks go on the bill. The waitress tries to explain this, though she calls out rather than visits the table.
SlickHair #1 goes on about this for a minute. Then suddenly declares it’s all okay. He’s got enough money. He’ll pay for them later. Maybe his mum only gave him a £20 note for his NYE night out and he was worried he wouldn’t have enough for his bus fare home.
Rant 3 – Main Course
Our food arrives. I’ve got a nice juicy burger. Stacked with bacon and other stuff. The chips (fries to you Yankee Doodle Dandies) are listed as “Triple cooked” on the menu, but they look a bit limp like they’ve been shown the oven door for a minute or two then plopped into a small bowl on my plate.
What happened to putting chips actually on the plate? When did that stop being a thing? Why do restaurants now squeeze chips into a small container? I think it’s so they can still charge you the same price, but cut down on cost by giving you less.
That’s a photo from 2011 when chips at The Travellers Rest were proper. You get about half that amount now.
Our waitress bustles about, handing food out. She mutters about bringing “other things” in a moment and then vanishes. Ten minutes or so go by and I’m wondering where the sauces are. Shouldn’t there be a condiment tray or something with tomato sauce, mayo, salt and vinegar? Indeed one of our party is missing a sauce he ordered with his burger.
It’s around this time when the Silver Party get up and leave.
Apparently they were seated with drinks and then waited to be seen by a waitress. Probably too long considering how they muttered about it being a long time and being unhappy and let’s just go home for a cup of cocoa and a bit of Big Ben on the telly.
I’d clocked their sour expressions directed at the Loud Oiks and figured they were pretty pissed with both service and atmosphere.
I stroll down the mid section and ask for this sauce and could we please order some more drinks?
The strong language is loud and clear on mid section. The Tweenie Club are having a great time. Nice and loud with their nightclub voices.
The sauce came, but the waitress didn’t come to take our order for more drinks.
Rant 4 – New Table Please?
Annoyed at not being able to hear anything but the obnoxious caterwauling I head down to reception and ask a young lad if we could move tables. I’ve spotted two on the ground floor that are free so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Request denied. There’s nothing they can do. All tables are in fact booked.
Weird. I can see empty tables.
Maybe those customers are in a different dimension to me.
The waiter doesn’t seem bothered by my annoyance at the Howling Idiots and hurries away.
Rant 5 – Enough.
Two meals are left unfinished. Our waitress comes and smiles in a stressed way. The expression on her face says: “Just keep smiling and the bad things won’t happen.”
She asks if we’d like desert. There’s a pause. No one wants to say no. Waitress says something about “not leaving her alone up here” which I found odd.
So we say sure, show us the desert menu. We’re British so complaining is not the done thing. Shit. I wish I could be a Yankee every now and then and speak my mind when it’s needed.
It was needed.
I head back to reception and ask to speak to the duty manager. It’s the waiter guy I spoke to earlier. Surprised, I ask him again if he’s the manager. Apparently he is. I state my case of unhappiness. I’m calm though just beneath my skin I’m screaming. Gotta love Faithless, right?
I stress how their topics of conversation are not suitable for a family restaurant, how they’re loud, abusive toward the waitress and the fact we could have moved tables 30 minutes ago. By this time the rest of the family have arrived on the ground floor.
No desert. We just want to leave.
Each of us say how unhappy we are. The DM says sorry. That’s the full extent of his reaction.
He says he hasn’t been in our section so hadn’t noticed the problem. I point out you can hear the Tweenie Tosser Club loud and clear on the mid section, where I saw him earlier.
The DM says he’ll have a word with them. It’s too late for that we tell him. We’re leaving. He should have done something about it earlier, like when they arrived and started acting like a pack of monkeys howling in laughter by chucking their own faeces at each other.
Our waitress is waiting for our cards. She looks nervous. The stuck on smile is freaky. Just behind her eyes I can see her brain screaming: “Please take me with you.”
DM says sorry again. We give him the “We’ve been coming here for years…” speech, not that he cares. He looks kinda blank like we’re in his way, using up his time, an inconvenience to the restaurant or possibly to his entire life.
His “sorry” was perfunctory with zero sincerity. Charming.
I’m not expecting anything at this point. “I’m sorry, sir. Please shag my wife, sir. She’s good for it, sir. She’ll see you right, sir. Then after you can cut out my eyes because I’m not worthy to gaze upon your magnificence.” Nothing like that.
The DM is a kid and it’s clear by his body language and hunted look in his eyes that he’s barely keeping his shit together. I feel sorry for him. I’m guessing he just wants to get through the night without too much of a fuck-a-roo, go home, drink a beer and fall asleep, praying that next year some other moron will draw the short straw for the NYE shift.
Rant 6 – The Complaint.
Earlier this evening I sent an email to Whitbred, the parent company of Beefeater who run The Travellers Rest in Cambridge. As you can imagine by the length of this post my email was lengthy. Sharing is caring, so they say.
I also wrote a review on TripAdvisor. It’s a shame because The Travellers Rest used to be a good place to eat. Recently it’s earned some very low scores. Check them out if you like. TripAdvisor – Travellers Rest Cambridge.
My complaint wasn’t about the Turd Brigade, but about how the staff didn’t react to them. They should have dealt with it before it became a problem. And when it did become one, when I asked to be moved for a good reason, the DM should have done something about it.
But he didn’t.
From my point of view he wanted to get through the evening with as little fuss as possible and go home to sulk. Or cry. Or perhaps become a monk.
Dealing with rowdy morons and whining customers were at the bottom of his to-do list.
Customer Service – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
I work in retail myself. I like it. It’s more than a day job. I enjoy my work and as much as I want to be a full-time writer I know I’d miss it if I left.
I know what good and bad customer service looks like. I know how to react to it. What we received was bad customer service. Okay, so no one’s perfect and mistakes do happen. The DM might have experienced his first shift alone that night. He might have been out of his depth. Or tired. Or about to hand in his notice so he didn’t give two fucks what we had to say.
The fact is that I expect better from Beefeater. And not just Beefeater but from a human being told that someone isn’t happy. A previous visit back in 2011 NYE was outstanding. Excellent customer service, smiling, jubilant waitress, good food, good atmosphere. Very enjoyable.
I wasn’t fishing for a discount when I complained. It would have been nice to be offered a 20% off the cost or something similar. But that wasn’t the point of my complaint. I was annoyed that I had received bad customer service start to finish and as a result I won’t be visiting The Travellers Rest again.
What people often fail to remember is that it’s not that single customer complaint you have to deal with, but who they tell, and who that person tells, and so on.
Retail can be very rewarding, but it can also kick you in the nuts and make you feel like a complete loser if you’re not careful.
Okay, I’m done bitchin’.
Apart from the fact I’ve just spent two minutes coughing when a Jaffa Cake got lodged in my throat. My eyes are watering now. And no, I won’t be complaining about Jaffa Cakes. They’re just too tasty.
End On A High Note!
Let’s see… I’ve just started reading Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams. First short story done. Just the right amount of creepy in classic Kingy style. Lots of people tend to talk trash about SK, but he has a unique way of connecting with the reader with his intro’s and reasons for writing.
(After editing and previewing this post a bunch of times the Homer Simpson gif is really getting on my nerves.)
I’ve been beavering away on The Holt after a bitty period of not getting into the flow. I’ve broken the hump and I also have a new deadline for completion. End of May 2016 for that important first draft I can then rip to pieces. Looking forward to that.
Also, I’m making an effort to post more regularly. Once a week is my plan.
So there you have it, dear blog reader, my new year starting with a rant.
May yours be a prosperous and enlightened one.