Three days ago, on Diwali day, we landed in Pondicherry for a short vacation. Due to the rush for their popular Diwali-day buffet, the hotel where we are staying could not accommodate us for dinner. We then went down to the Pizza Hut, a few minutes walk away.
Initially it all went well. The first orders were taken promptly and the pizzas came on time. The problem started when we wanted to order dessert. For a long time we were unable to catch the waiter’s eye. Even after we finally managed to tell one of the servers to send someone to our table, it took quite some time for our cheesecake order to be taken. And then started the interminable wait. Ten minutes passed. Then fifteen. The kids were tired and sleepy and we wanted to go back to the hotel. I went to the counter and politely requested them to cancel the order and to give me the bill. No one would make eye contact and the request went unheeded. I tried again after raising my voice a bit and one of the girls promised to get me the bill. Five more minutes and…nothing. I went back to the counter. The supervisor came up and apologised and promised to get the cheesecake. I tried to get through to them that I was done with the cheesecake and just wanted to pay and leave. They still didn’t get it. Finally when I raised my voice even more, they brought the bill…with the cheesecake charged for. When I pointed this out, they suddenly produced the cheesecake. I had to gesticulate and shout a little more before they finally took away the cheesecake and corrected the bill.
Walking back, my wife gave me a knowing look. I had again lost my temper on the first day of a vacation.
I don’t have high expectations during vacations when I am in local hotels or restaurants. But with branded chains, my argument for many years has been that irrespective of where in the world I am, I should expect the same service if I am paying for the brand and its experience. Two years ago I had written about the “poor” service we had received on the first day of our holiday at a multinational brand hotel in Goa and the article had kicked up quite a storm within the hotel chain when it was forwarded to them. Over the last couple of years, I have had similar run-ins on the first day of a vacation or trip, with service staff of branded, chain hotels, in places ranging from Jaipur to Alibag to Indore and even Kolkata.
I now believe that the problem is me. It is completely wrong of me to expect from branded, chain hotels and restaurants, the same levels of service across the country.
Each place has its own rhythm and way of working and we can’t realistically change human behaviour. The ebb and flow of a day are very different in Mumbai as compared to Goa or Pondicherry or for that matter even Jaipur or Kolkata. When people are laid-back they will continue to function in the way that they have been hard wired to from birth, irrespective of how much training is given or processes adopted.
And so now, the rule when traveling is simple! Keep your levels of expectation of service as low as possible when outside Mumbai, even with branded, chain hotels and restaurants. Don’t lose your temper when faced with poor service. Chill and learn to flow with the local tide, however shallow it may be!