Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Dave's Bowl

I recently undertook some hedge cutting for my mother and the visit was notable for two short stories worth sharing with you all, Dave's bowl and being thrown out of a pub.

Dave's bowl

Dave's Bowl

Californian Dave, who lived just down the corridor from me, was on a University exchange at Warwick back in the eighties.  He visited my folks several times at their idyllic cottage garden in Sussex and got on with them rather famously (I've never been that good at trans-generational conversation making myself).  

At the end of the exchange year Dave needed to down size and kindly gifted me his eating utensils, a matching set of one plate, one bowl, one cup, most likely procured from the Tesco store that was located just off campus.  Gifting or off loading, perhaps a bit of both ?  Of course, after graduation, I left to work internationally (Germany, then Russia) so somehow the bowl made its way back to my parents house.  You can see from the photo above - it is a good size, functional, but neither beautiful nor ugly.  What is amazing about the bowl is that more than 25 years down the track my mum still uses this bowl every day.  She has two or three sets of different dinnerware, all of it more appealing than this particular bowl.  But somehow, this generic, low value item, with a strong personal link to 'cousin' Dave as we called him, has endured, and I was delighted to be reacquainted with it again.

Dave was very instrumental in my life.  Knowing of his programme and insights into various cross cultural challenges ("divided by a common language"), I ended up winning a scholarship to attend University of Illinois in Shampoo-Banana (Champaign-Urbana), three hours dead flat and due south of Chicago, in the American mid-west.  Which lead to working as a travel rep in Italy and joining British Airways graduate trainee scheme and a fantastic 16 year career as a global citizen of the airline industry that included opportunities to immerse myself as an expat in Moscow, Frankfurt, Mumbai and Toyko.

The bowl is photographed on top of a real Mexican blanket, a purchase again inspired by Dave's love of South America (Argentia in particular).  I thought Dave's bowl was the kind of summer blog story I should be sharing with you.  

Link here to Dave's blog

Being Thrown Out of a pub 

On the same trip 'home' (my wife does not like me to refer to the place I grew up in, Sussex, as home)  we were thrown out of a pub.  Being solidly middle class, I don't go to the pub very much.  But in my mum's village the pub we used to hang out in on a Friday as A level students has received an amazing make-over, carries 8 (yup - eight ! that's 5 more than most pubs) real ales on hand pumps and boasts an authentic Thai restaurant.  You know I'm writing and researching real ale beer & the craft revolution in particular,  and love Thai food - so this is an ephiphany that makes choosing this pub a no brainer.

As I have been learning about the ale industry I have discovered most people involved in it are very hospitable.  On our recent MBA Stockholm visit I met up with two independent breweries who were a-maz-ing.  The guys at SAB Miller and Windsor and Eton have opened their doors and generously engaged with my student visit groups.  

The Thai kitchen is excellent, producing beautifully flavoured meals that clearly benefit from a range of fresh, authentic raw ingredients, including generous chunks of lemon grass in the Tom Yum soup.  My oldest son was rapturous about his first experience of a Tom Yum (his usual order is a bland chicken noodle soup).  

Hence we (mum, me & my two boys) wandered around the corner for some tea after blasting phase one of the hedge trimming.  On arrival at 19:10 I opened a tab with my credit card and ordered some drinks.  Having indicated we were looking to eat, the barmaid stated that children weren't allowed in the pub after 20:00, but if we ordered quickly the kitchen would deliver in 15-20 mins and we'd have time to eat and still leave by 20:00.  We ordered quickly, requesting that the kids starters and the adults mains arrive at the same time.  Around 19:50 the starters appeared and at 20:00 the mains were put on the table.  

At 20:15 the self-same barmaid re-told us that children were not allowed in the pub after 20:00 and effectively kicked us out.  I mentioned that our food had not arrived until 20:00, the response "I didn't know the kitchen was so busy".  So it was my fault that I had ordered quickly and got food late ? I should have known.  As it happened we were just about done, and an unusually easy going me had to deliver some blunt feedback around the treatment we had received.  Said barmaid was not subtle enough to come and ask if I'd like to pay the bill even.  I was indignant & now have a major conundrum on my hands  - will I ever visit again ?

Over night and the next morning I was still indignant at being asked to leave, I even took time out to discuss the situation with my customer service oriented wife.  What should I do ?  Wander back down and catch the landlord and explain my displeasure ?  Or call ?   Or better still vent my anger with a damming review on trip advisor ?  Or just fester annoyance and never go back ?  In UK you are allowed to leave your contact details with the business and leave without paying if you believe you had sub-standard service.  Now that is an interesting option !

On reflection, I noted that barmaid two didn't know how to order food on the computer and neither of them knew the barrel size that was supporting the extensive array of real ales (which also included the US 'faux' Blue Moon imitation craft beer that hails (discreetly) from the Coors brewco).  Thus they were probably lacking the appropriate training expected at a restaurant and still on a learning curve for their bar duties.

Blue Moon from Coors: Big corporate credentials obscured

Perhaps the appropriate approach (note that I have not identified the location) that I will take is rather than to rave about the fantastic Thai food and wonderful collection of beers (it included the CHOICE of two summer gold ales) as I have done previously,  I will talk about the poorly trained staff and the bad customer experience I received, despite complaining.  (note, no follow up...).

The next day, on seeing a cutsie "Jars wanted for Jam making, please leave behind the bar" hand written note in said pub window, I swallowed my 'oh - isn't that a nice community request' with the bitter taste of being thrown out two nights before.  

A brilliant experience for the next batch of MBA's methinks, who will be invited to critically analyse two service experiences and perhaps note issues around training, communication and customer service ?