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Service With a Snarl

November 16, 1986

Regarding John F. Lawrence's Oct. 5 column, "Bending the Rules to Satisfy the Customer": I was the recent owner of a service-oriented retail clothing store, and believe me, I understand the problems involved with customer relations. However, some situations are beyond my comprehension, and this is one of those:

During an afternoon at a trade show in a hotel, my associates and I went into the restaurant hoping to order a late lunch. We were approached by a slovenly hostess inquiring whether we wanted lunch or just coffee. Because if it was lunch, we were too late, but coffee was "OK." What with the large amount of dandruff on her soiled black crepe dress, and her unkempt hair, I wondered if even coffee was a good idea, but at the urging of my associates, I acquiesced and we were allowed to be seated.

Noticing that all of the tables, except ours, were set with tableclothes and linens, I questioned the hostess as to our having a table with a cloth, and was informed that since we were not having lunch, we could not have a tablecloth. If we were to order lunch, we could indeed have the crisp, white cloth. "But . . . but . . . but," I stammered, "you said we couldn't have lunch." She deftly replied: "I changed my mind" and walked off.

A smiling busboy brought the cloth, and we waited. After 10 minutes or so, we flagged down a waiter and requested menus, only to be told disdainfully that he was not the waiter, but the captain, and grudgingly handed over the menus. Another 10 minutes went by and after frantic arm-waving we begged to order and asked the kindly busboy to bring some water, service and napkins.

When I opened my napkin, I found it to be very dirty, whereby I signaled the "charming" hostess, whisked the napkin off of my lap, and gleefully exclaimed, "Look at this!" She very casually replied: "So, you're perfect in your business?"

No, you can't win. Service no longer exists, nor do some people care.

LARRY CHRYSLER

Beverly Hills

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