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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 8:31 pm | Fair 50º


Paul Burri: When Customer Service Is Too Good to Be, Well, Good

Over-the-top service can cross the line to offensive over-attention

Years ago I went to a restaurant where the service was superb. It took three people to fill our water glasses! One person came to our table, took the napkin out of the glass, carefully handed it to each person and then poured water into the glass. A second server came over to add a few ice cubes. Then a third server came by to add a lemon slice. The rest of the service and the food were equally good.

But recently I had a restaurant experience where the service was too good. Too good?

There were four of us at the table. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while and it was catch-up time. We had lots to talk about.

Our waiter came by with menus and the usual, “Hi, my name is Frank and I’ll be your server for today. Can I get you anything to drink before you order?” So far so good.

Two minutes later he was back with the waters and drinks and, “Are you ready to order yet?” We asked him to give us a few minutes. Two minutes later (it seemed more like 30 seconds), he was back again to take our orders. (We were still doing the “How are you’s?”) Five minutes later he was at our table again ready to take our orders. We stopped talking long enough to order two appetizers to share. (We still weren’t ready to order.)

I won’t bore you with an exact count of how many times and how often he was at our table asking whether we were ready to order, whether we wanted refills on our drinks, how was the salad, was everything OK, was the steak done correctly, did we want to see a dessert menu, here’s your bill, plus the three times to see if we had put a credit card in that folder thing they use — on and on.

Talk about over-the-top service! It wasn’t service so much as it was offensive over-attention.

Later I realized that we had come in near the end of Frank’s shift and his over-attention was his way of getting us in and out before the shift changed and someone else got the tip he expected.

I thought about mentioning the situation to the manager — not necessarily as a complaint — but as a way for the restaurant to improve their service by being a little less attentive. It sounds crazy, I know.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He has been a counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) for the past eight years. SCORE offers free business counseling to local businesses. He is also the membership director of the Channel City Camera Club. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

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