I used to be a waiter. In fact, I was in some form of customer service whether it was bartending, table waiting or drug peddling for almost a decade. Therefore, I feel like I can speak about customer service in an almost expert capacity. Not only did I watch hours and hours of 'how to treat a customer' and 'when a joke becomes sexual harassment' videos, I watched career waiters and bartenders with eager eyes so I could learn the secret to their semi-success. After all, I wanted money and the best way to do that I learned, was to pucker up, put on some chap stick and kiss some serious customer ass. After ten years in the service industry I broke free and now work at a job that does not require me to clock in, wear a name tag or refrain from freely making sexually charged jokes at my co-workers. Yes, life is good but that doesn't mean I've forgotten about my former life as a Friendly's waiter or weeknight bartender or CVS 'Customer Care Representative.' And it is out of these dark, dark memories where I have found my latest source of hatred and rage; bad service.
There is something about being treated well by someone at the coffee shop or the parking garage that makes you happy. Here you have come in and taken up some of this person's time; time they could've spent chatting on the phone or watching scrambled porn on the 12" Quasar TV in the break room. So, when they greet you with a pleasant smile, prompt attention and quick service it's a welcome surprise. It's like they understand that you'd like this interaction be it ordering food, parking your car or burying Grandma to end as quickly as they would. There's an old saying that goes 'if you have good service, you'll tell two people. If you have bad service, you'll tell ten.' Well, there's also a saying that goes, 'if I go to Pizzeria Uno and have to wait ten minutes to even be looked at again I'm going to burn that motherfucker down.' What, you've never heard it?
My experience at the Pizzeria Uno epitomizes all that is wrong with the service industry: stupid waiters, slow service, lying, laziness and not bring me my loaded pizza skins while they were still hot. Goddamn it, a man needs his skins! But the real shame in this scenario lies not with Uno, but with me for after having arguably the most infuriating dinner there six months ago, I went back for seconds over the weekend. When will I learn?
It started like any other dinner: sore feet, cold weather, an irritable girlfriend, the beckoning glow of neon and promises of real Chicago deep dish delight. "Ok," I though, "I'll lift my boycott of this shit hole and give them another chance." My girlfriend and I made our way up some creaking stairs and were welcomed into as generic a restaurant as you can imagine. But, it was warm and it didn't seem to be very busy considering tourist season in New York ended weeks ago. Immediately a man in a headset came up to us and, menus in hand, guided us to a charming table right next to the bathrooms; just like I like it. Aside from the bathroom thing, I was pleased with the service. "hey," I said to my girlfriend, "They've gotten better." Oh, how wrong I was.
I have alluded to a previous visit to Uno in this article and, to understand why I acted the way I did, I think I should share with you the horrifying details of that experience. I had just signed the lease on my brand new, grown up apartment and I was in the neighborhood checking it out with my college roommates. We toured the 8×8 box they call a 'spacious one bedroom' and then headed out on the town to grab a quick dinner. "Uno," I said, "you guys want to get some pizza?" As any real college kids would answer, they came back with a resounding "DEF!"
As soon as we sat down after twenty minutes of waiting our waiter approached and that's when we met Steve; the biggest douche this side of the equator. Complete with spiked, frosted blonde hair and suggestively low black cargo pants, Steve was just what the doctor ordered; if your doctor was a Nazi doing stress tests on prisoners of war that is. We started to order and each had to repete ourselves because Steve simply couldn't be torn away from the conversation he was having with one of the female bartenders.
"Yeah, I'll get a personal deep dish "
"Hold on .yeah you going later? nah, my girlfriend's in town .what? hahaha Ok, sorry bro, what did you want again?"
"A personal deep dish pizza with "
"Hold on again, I'll be right back." And off he went.
When Steve came back, giggling about his conversation with the bartender, we finally finished our order. Feeling slightly more relaxed I finished off me beer wholly confident that in a few minutes, I could order another one. Again, as with so many things that night, I was dead wrong.
Forty five minutes later, Steve appeared again, this time with our appetizers which had clearly been sitting under a warming lamp for quite some time judging by the congealed fat ringing the mozzarella sticks and the off-white film gracing the top of the blue cheese dippin' sauce. I ordered another beer when he dropped the slop-trays off; that was a beer I was destined to never meet. Our actual order took another half hour to arrive and when it did, it looked strangely foreign. We had ordered a classic cheese and tomato pizza but what came out appeared to have feta cheese and pesto in it. "Hey," my roommate said, "This isn't what we ordered. We ordered a cheese and tomato pizza. This has pesto and feta cheese on it."
Steve stood for a few seconds, considering his options. He could 1) admit he had made a mistake and bring us our order or 2) pretend that Uno's regular tomato sauce had pesto in it. Guess which one Steve chose? When we demanded that he bring us our real order he was apologetic and promised to "go in the back and whip it up myself." Weird yes, but strangely comforting that Steve was prepared to fully take responsibility for his mistake and craft a juice DDP with his own menthol-stained hands.
Tick tock, tick tock, another half hour passes without a Steve in sight. We decided that it was time to leave with or without our pizza. On the way to register to complain/pay for our drinks my roommate spotted Steve laughing it up outside, having a smoke. There has rarely been a time in my life when I have considered actually murdering someone knowing full-well the consequences of such an action, but man, was this one of them. We left Steve a whopping 1 cent tip because if there's one thing worse than no tip at all, it's a 1 cent tip and we left Uno, never to return again.
So, as I sat there by the bathroom with my girlfriend closely observing the room for signs of poor service, I was almost disappointed that nothing horrible had happened yet. I wanted my suspicions about Uno to be confirmed, I desperately wanted to be right. A tall waited was walking toward us, his pony tail flapping in the steamy pizza air, and we braced ourselves for a quick order. He was three tables away when he abruptly stopped and turned a table on his left. "I'm so sorry," he said, "your food will be right out." Shit. Then, he turned to the table directly opposite them; "I'm so sorry guys, but your food will be right out. The kitchen is a little backed up."
"Grab your coat," I said to my girlfriend, "we're leaving." Sometimes like when you suspect your spouse is cheating on you or that your son did kill the neighbor's cat it hurts to be right.