Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Smart Phone, Dumb Idea

The Event:I went to a newish West Side watering hole and restaurant Saturday night. Since we didn’t have reservations there was a 20 minute wait for a table. We told the hostess we’d get a drink at the bar — which wasn’t particularly crowded — while we waited. The hostess, who looked around 12, asked for a cell phone number.
Excuse me, I replied.
She repeated the request.
I asked her why she wanted it.
So I can text you when your table’s ready.

I was dumbfounded. Our party of three was going to be perched on stools, 20 feet away and within sight of her station. I refused and suggested she like, you know, come get us. How hard could it be to walk over? Apparently quite a challenge because this girl actually complained that it's tough to remember and identify patrons. My failure to cooperate meant she’d have to look up, look at me, and commit the impression to memory. Not trusting she was up to this formidable task, and sighing to indicate that I was really putting her out, our hostess wrote down that I was wearing large red earrings. By the time she made her way over, successfully picking us out from the dozen or so others, we’d decided to eat elsewhere.

The Analysis:
I didn’t particularly like the idea of sharing my number with a stranger. I found the presumption that everyone texts, and has an unlimited plan, annoying. Then there are those of us who like disconnect when we go out and sans phone focus on the folks in front of us (a dying breed I know). But what really bothered me was the lack of personal, attentive, service oriented treatment. This is called the hospitality industry after all. The policy and the attitude fell short of what I'd call a warm welcome.

I suppose there’s a case that can be made for texting patrons that their table is available in certain situations, just as there’s a justification for those irritating blinking beeping disks that are sometimes handed out at huge, mobbed chain venues. But that didn’t apply here.

So tell me, what’s your opinion? Am I being unreasonable? Hopelessly out of step with the times? Or is my complaint legit? I’d like to hear from others.

One thing I know — if this is the wave of the future for restaurants than I’m going to be wanting some numbers too. Because when my server's nowhere in sight I'll be texting Hope 2 C U Soon and complaining to the manager U Take 2 Long or wuz ^ w/ my soup when orders are slow to arrive.


tuscansunsmama said...

I would not give my number out either. I patronize restaurants and businesses because they know me a value my presence not my essence. I guess it sounds hip to "TWYTiR" (Text When Your Table is Ready) but the pervasive technology disconnect from face to face interaction, has concerning implications for future generations. Sheer laziness for the sake of convenience, lack of honed and appropriate social skills, lack of customer service (in this particular case). It's a real concern. This young hostess will never value our patronage, if she doesn't recognize us when we walk in the door for the 3rd, 5th or 6th time. Unfortunately the owner of the restaurant won't know to miss us either...until the doors close and they wonder why. The food business is very competitive...and I'll take my business where they know how to welcome it.

Joe Harvey said...

wow.. agreed, Laura... while I do suggest restaurants make an effort to collect cell phone numbers via an intelligent opt-in marketing effort, this is just too impersonal. Similar to the banker or hotel that interrupts YOU while you're standing there to answer the phone instead. Digital communications are not a "priority", the customer in front of you IS. Personal attention will always win...