Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I just wanted a cup of tea, damn it

When my friend Kathy was in Louisiana recently, she could not get a decent cup of tea. When she asked for hot water, she received a styrofoam cup of boiling water. In my part of Louisiana, as Kathy knows, there is an authentic English tea room, run by Brits. However, my office is nowhere near the lovely tea room. There is another tea room in the next town, but it is inconveniently located, and besides, the management had a right-wing speaker at one of its salons, so I do not go there anymore.

So today, I tried to go to a Starbucks near my office, but it was closed because of some type of sidewalk construction. So I went to a local coffee place that serves good food and coffee, and asked what type of black tea they had. "We don't have any black tea," the young woman at the counter said. "But you must," I told her. "Do we have any black tea?" she asked someone else, who shook her head "no."

"The teas are over there," the counter clerk said, so I "over there" and immediately found black tea. Mind you, there was only one variety, what with all of the flavored teas and all of the tisanes, which are mistakenly called teas. I brought it to her, and she looked at it as though I might have brought her a dead mouse. She then gave me--you know what's coming--a cup with hot water in it.

You do not put a tea bag in a cup of hot water; you pour hot water over a bag or over loose tea. Why, oh why, in a country that is obsessed with gourmet coffee, can't people be trained to provide even the most rudimentary service in presenting tea?

Getting this type of service made me think of my other huge peeve--having grocery store checkers ask me "What's this?" after every other product is delivered on the belt. We used to have two Albertson's stores in our community, and no one there ever asked me what the products were. But now I am once again stuck with untrained help whose cooking and shopping experience is apparently very limited. I have to pay close attention and be on the ready to say "leeks," "Japanese eggplant," "Romaine lettuce," "kale."

I just wanted a cup of tea, damn it.


Oh, mais cher, you are singing my anthem! As a shamelessly desperate life-or-death tea addict, here's what I've discovered works in a dire pinch: order iced tea, but ask them to put it in a coffee mug and nuke it. Just about everybody in Louisiana serves ice tea, and once in a blue moon it's even plain, unsweetend, without lemon, and not made from a powdered mix. If they look at me funny, I just explain that I recently moved here from Neptune. Which they had already guessed anyway.

By Blogger Lymphopo, at 10:37 PM  

That's pretty creative!

Really, I don't usually have this problem. Starbucks is okay about tea, as are the other coffee places, except, apparently, this one I went to yesterday. Never again.

By Blogger Diane, at 10:35 AM  

> Getting this type of service made me think of my other huge peeve--having grocery store checkers ask me "What's this?" after every other product is delivered on the belt. Oh Dear. Welcome to the other dimension of the RBC - those of use whose service expectations are (mostly) out of step with the mainstream—we actually demand decent service.

Given the choice between cheap goods and good service, it depends. If I can get it myself or it needs no assembling, preparing, stuffing, boxing or folding, then poor/no service is fine: I'll buy based upon price. A perfect example of this is gasoline. I'd rather pump it myself and could care less about what "additives" or "cleansers" one gas has over another. I expect no personal service from the automated pump, and poor service from the Schlub in the glass booth. Whichever one is cheaper at the time is the one I get.

If, on the other hand, I'm going for the experience or the expensive whatsits I'm trying to guy requires outside assistance to complete the transaction, then there damn well better be some snappy, competent, johnny-on-the-spot service. If I'm paying $4.50 for that Double Choco-Latte, I expect the Barista Schlub to get my order right the first time (none of the "Er, what did you say? I was distracted" stuff). If I'm going to drop $1,500+ on a decent suit, you better provide good service every step of the way, not act like you've never fit a suit before or could care less (for all their faults and cheapie product, Men's Wearhouse actually does a good job training their Sales Schlubs).

Of course, only us middle-class Schlubs have this problem. When one makes it to the level of the Rich, then all of these problems magically go away. How would you like the clothing store to call you when some new clothing comes in that 1) would look good on you, and 2) is compatible with the rest of your wardrobe? What about having your butcher call you because he knows you love a certain filet of cow and he just happened to get some really good, tender, tasty filets the other day?

By Anonymous Bryan, at 1:26 PM  

An American friend today was telling me about eating in a fancy restaurant in London (supposedly the oldest) and she ordered tea while the rest of the table ordered cappucino with dessert. She didn't get her tea, and asked for it. She was told they don't serve tea until everyone has finished eating. She insisted, and was told that was the way they did things here.

She told him she actually lived here, and he asked "how long?" (12 years, in all)

But by this time, one of her dining companions got involved, and ended up telling the server that if it wasn't for Americans they'd all be speaking German now.

Sometimes you understand how Ugly Americans get that way.

By Anonymous KathyF, at 1:55 PM  

What a story. When I hear things like that, it only renews my conviction that London is totally unfamiliar with the term "customer service."

By Blogger Diane, at 6:51 PM  

And as you imply, there is definitely a difference between London (and sometimes the wealthy suburbs) and the rest of the British Isles.

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