Tuesday 5 May 2015

South Africa: This humble customer is not a diva

Drop the stars and give me service
Why? I lamented, do I end up in places where I have to demand they raise standards? This is not my calling. When an expectation is set, I expect it to be exceeded, especially if a hospitality establishment dares to boast a 5-star rating.
It is important we understand what hotel ratings are and I am afraid, this hotel fails to breach the mark it has been assigned.
Earl Grey, yes, Earl Grey
This morning, I arrived for breakfast and the standard should be once I am seated, I should be asked if I want tea or coffee. I was not asked until I had to go up to the waiters and ask for a pot of tea. I wanted Earl Grey tea. That is standard fare in any self-respecting place.
The waitress said, there was no Earl Grey tea and then asked if she could offer me another flavour of tea. No, you do not ask to change the desired taste of a customer except when you have something better to offer. I refused and insisted on being served Earl Grey tea, failing that, it should be available tomorrow morning.
She flipped back at me that there is no Earl Grey tea. At which point, there was no point wasting my time conversing with her as I made for the reception and put in a formal request to be served Earl Grey tea tomorrow morning. Soon, one of the managers came to me and promised that my request will be fulfilled.
I’m not signing what I shouldn’t
Then, this evening, again I paid a deposit at the reception and was asked to sign the slip when the receipt slip clearly stated “No customer signature is required.” Much as the Chef de Réception insisted my signature was for accounting purposes, I refused to offer a signature where it was not needed.
In fact, one of the two lifts has been out of commission since this morning and did I mention they seem to have allowed their television channel subscriptions to lapse since yesterday.
Not like the menu says
Then for the third time of being a masochist, I returned to the restaurant for dinner. I received the menu, scanned the options and asked for smoked salmon roulade for my starter and spaghetti Bolognese for my plat principal.
The waitress returned apologising that the salmon roulade was not available, to which I suggested they take it off the menu, because this was my third night of asking and it was not available. I then asked was the ‘Soup of the Day’ was, she responded, 'mushroom soup'. Well, I had that yesterday, so I offered another suggestion that they rename the menu item, ‘Soup of the Week’, we both laughed, but I was serious.
I ended up with a carpaccio of beef, it just about passed the muster, before my main course arrived. I put my fork in it, twisted and rolled the pasta and to my buccal cavity it went before I motioned to the waitress to bring me the menu to confirm what I ordered.
I checked and it said, spaghetti Bolognese cooked al dente. I was missing the al dente part, now if I were in a papier-mâché art class, the pasta would have been gooey enough to use as binder for paper. I was having none of it, so I first told her, what I was served was not what I had ordered and suggested she return it to the chef because the spaghetti was not al dente.
Amends made
A few minutes later, the chef came out to apologise and said he will make amends, then another chef came to chat to me, apologising again and promising I will get me spaghetti, the way it is supposed to be made. Suffice it to say, pasta should be the simplest of meals to make, but it is also one that betrays a lack of attention to detail of the very basic cuisine.
Ten minutes later, my meal arrived and yes, there was a bite in the spaghetti, it was al dente and I more or less cleared my plate. If I have been poisoned for my insistence on quality, I will have suffered nobly for the sake of what is right.
I decided there was no point ordering a dessert lest they come up short of what was needed. When the bill came, the chef said my meal was on the house. To be honest, like I have said many times before, I pay because I expect the service, I am not waiting to be compensated for what should have been there in the first place. I signed the bill and offered a gratuity too.
I fear, my situation makes it appear as if I am a diva, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am not a vexatious customer, I am a humble customer with simple requirements that I appear to expect to be met. Surely, there is nothing wrong with that or with the expectation that a 5-star hotel should aspire to be what it says it is.

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