Clam Chowder & Telling the Truth
My hotel room wasn’t going to be ready for a few hours. It was well after lunchtime and I was hungry. I felt Holy Spirit telling me to go the next beachside town south, so I headed that direction. That leading continued until I found myself at a well-known seafood restaurant. It’s a destination for vacationers, and people go there because that’s what everyone does.
When I mentioned it had been over 5 years since I’d been there, the hostess proudly highlighted out the improvements they’d made since then. She was super-friendly and gave me a green comment/scorecard as she seated me (it’s customary to complete this after you’ve eaten here).
My server came by a moment later to ask me what I’d like for a beverage. “Hot water with lemon, please,” was my response. I studied the comment card and knew in my gut I was going to complete it before I left.
I shifted my attention to the menu and settled on a basket of clam strips and a cup of New England style clam chowder. The server came back to take my order. She wrote it down and went on her way. It was then that I noticed she looked away when I tried to make eye contact with her. The service was fast, and I had my food in no time. However, each visit she made to my table was abrupt.
I ate the chowder and the clam strips but felt disappointed at the normalcy of the chowder and excessive breading on the clam strips. I looked over at my comment card and clicked a pen. I gave an “A” for the hostess who seated me, and “A” for the prompt service but the other marks weren’t as favorable. I graded the clam strips and chowder with a “C,” and my server also got a “C” for friendliness.
I went to pay my bill and found the hostess who seated me. I smiled at her and asked, “Whom can I give this to?” She smiled back at me and said, ‘I’ll take that.”
Her smile quickly faded. “Do you have a minute to talk with my manager?” I hesitated, but said, “Yes, I do.” It was still early and I had no place to be but right there.
“I’ll be right back,” said the hostess. Moments later she came back with another young woman. “Hi, I’m the manager,” she said. “Can you tell me more about why you were unhappy with your food and service?” Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw a line of customers formed behind me waiting to pay their bills. They’re watching and listening to our exchange. Now, I’m mortified that I’m causing a delay and a scene at the same time.
I leaned across the counter to her and whispered, “I don’t normally do this. Can we sit and talk?”
“Oh, yes, let’s go sit over there.” We moved to a table out of earshot and sat across from each other. This is when it turned into an episode of Undercover Boss in my mind.
The young woman introduced herself and shook my hand. She called me by name (info from the comment card) and thanked me for my time.
Her sincerity and transparency caught me off guard. “I love getting comment cards that have all “A’s” on them but I appreciate these cards (holding mine up) even more. These really help us know where we need to improve.”
I explained that I hadn’t eaten there in a few years. I came back because, well, that’s what everyone does when they come to this town (flawed thinking and behavior, yes, but it had purpose in this lesson.)
“I expected to be wowed and I wasn’t.” Did I really just say that? “The clam strips had more breading than clams.”
“Oh, did you get the small pieces in your basket? I hate when that happens.”
“I worked at Best Buy Corporate Office for 10 years,” I offered. “It really irked me that they called themselves that when clearly it was about the shareholders at the end of the day. They offered the perception that they were the ‘Best Buy,’ but it wasn’t the truth all the time.”
I went on. “People come here because other people tell them to. It’s something they do just because and not necessarily because they give it thought.” She nodded, understanding where I was going with this.
“You want people to come because it is the best: the food is the best, the service is the best.”
I was on a roll. “It’s about engagement, too. There was nothing wrong with the service I received. She was prompt and she got it all right. What was missing was the engagement. I like to engage with my servers when I’m out, to find some way to bless them. I feel somewhat cheated because she didn’t give me the opportunity to engage with her.”
The manager looked at me, taking in what I was offering, nodding her head. “If she had given me 10-15 seconds more in our exchanges it would have been a different outcome.” Another lesson here: open your heart and give your time.
We talked more and I learned we shared more than love of seafood. I closed with this: “At the end of our time here on earth, how we engage with each other is what matters. This is where we impact each other, love each other, hear each other, and touch each other.”
She thanked me for my time, shook my hand, welcomed me back, and paid for my lunch. I told her I wanted to leave a good tip for my server…and I did. This was a great learning experience and my heart was to bless, not punish.
As I drove away I asked, “Father, what was that all about?”
His response? “Telling the truth.”
He continues to unpack this for me in different scenarios. Truth is good. Telling the truth in love always has a good outcome.
Editor, Writer, Administrative Professional, Friend, Mother, Daughter and Sister
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