Am I Asking Too Much?

Today, I took a cold call from someone who reached out to me 2.5 months ago. I told him, when he reached out (to me any everyone else in my company) that I’d be happy to talk to him, gave him a time that would be good, suggested that he get back to me with some suggested times.

When he called today, he gave me the broad sketches of what his company did, but it seemed clear that he’d done literally no research on my company or what we do, or the ways we might need/be interacting with the services he’s trying to sell me.

So after I told him what we do and who we serve and the kinds of products we offer (all available from our website), he said, “so, do you think you have unmet needs that my company could help you meet?”

And I got very irritated.

I understand that sales is a difficult business— that you have to make dozens of cold-calls to get a lead at all, and you can’t necessarily invest a lot of time up front in customizing sales pitches.

But once you’ve heard back from someone who agrees to talk to you, shouldn’t you Google them, so you don’t have to ask them to make your sales pitch for you? If someone says “sure I’ll talk to you— pick a couple of times in a given week and we’ll set aside some time” shouldn’t you answer that email in a somewhat timely fashion (something less than the 75 days it took between when I said that and when he called me out of the blue without taking my suggestion)?

I Googled his company while we were on the phone— they actually look like they’re offering services I might be interested in. But he’s some kind of VP or something, and my assessment of him is pretty low. My interest in the product has to be weighed against my willingness to sell it to myself for no commission. Which is pretty low, I must admit.

I had an encounter, recently, in a restaurant, where a very young waitress seated us, demanded our drink order before we sat down. When we asked about happy hour, she said there was no printed list and she’d find out. She returned and said “we have a full bar.” I said “right, but what are your happy hour specials?” She left and sent a manager to our table to take our drink order. Then she flung our silverware at us, and sent the bartender over to take our dinner order. The bartender stopped back by after our drinks were delivered—“Sorry guys— what did you order from the bar?”

Twenty minutes later, the waitress showed up with my dinner salad and entree in her hands (nothing from my companion’s order.) “Did you order this?” By then, I was done. I had a dinner salad and my companion had a cup of soup that were supposed to come out before the entree. You don’t have to have been a waitress long to understand that soup or salad comes out before the entree, in America, unless otherwise specified, you just have to have been to a restaurant or seen one on TV.

I said, through clenched teeth, “I did order that, but it wasn’t all supposed to come out at once…” “Well, sorry, the kitchen told me to take this order out.”

I didn’t yell, but I told her to leave my food and I literally could not look at her for the rest of the night— my irritation was pretty unmistakable. I should have asked that our table be reassigned at that point or even earlier. It was clear to me almost as soon as we walked in that this waitress was narrating a victim story in her head about how busy she was (by this point, she had maybe three tables) and how the kitchen was yelling at her and we were asking all these questions, and our experience as patrons wasn’t really on her radar. Eventually, in parts, my companion’s meal came out. The food was fine, and apologies were made by the bartender, and the waitress explained again and again how the kitchen made her bring the food out like that. I should say I’ve been there before, and what she’s saying isn’t true— they deliver the soups/salads first, then, when you’ve finished, they bring the entrees. They typically bring the food for everyone at the table at the same time. They typically keep track of what you order and don’t have to ask you what you ordered repeatedly, after you’ve done it.

I tend, under many of these situations, to be pretty slow to get irritated, but chucking anything at me in a sit-down restaurant, as she did with the silverware, is likely to start me on a bad road. My problem with the bad waitress and the bad salesperson is fundamentally the same problem. These people have a job to do. It’s their job, not my job. Nobody pays me to know her wine list or her happy hour menu. Nobody’s paying me to sell software to myself.

After our meal, the waitress cornered my companion and told the story of how she was expected to tip out other people who served, and people were tipping her badly and how she had slipped on the ice and…

I’ve worked, myself, since I was 15 (not counting babysitting and lawn mowing, which I did from 12 on), and I know what it is to be simultaneously overwhelmed, underpaid and under trained. I frankly know what it is to have customers and coworkers yell at you for things you don’t think are your fault. I know what it is to have to go to work when you’re not feeling well.  I’m under the impression that those are problems that I shouldn’t allow to affect the customer experience of my employer’s core customers. And shilling for sympathy/tips after you’ve seriously crossed a line— she’s fortunate that I’m not the type to ask people to fire bad employees. (For the record, I did downgrade the tip I left, but I downgraded it from the more than 20 percent that I typically leave to a stingy-for-me more than 15 percent, because the food was good and the bartender partially redeemed the experience (by acknowledging the poor service and adjusting our check a little.)


2 thoughts on “Am I Asking Too Much?

  1. Oh, I hate to paint with too broad a stroke here, but these sound like problems common to the generation coming out of college and into the professional world presently. As my husband works with this crowd an awful lot, he is doing substantial learning about how to retrain and work with these people. There are wonderful exceptions, but even college professors are having a hard time because their office hours are way up dealing with conflict that these students have not learned to work through on their own (this from an article and then heartily seconded by a friend who is a History Prof at West Point). It is entitlement in a way I hadn’t thought of. Entitled to my tips regardless of service rendered, entitled to your account because we are just that good. The usual methods of bringing awareness to a situation are pointless. (And my gosh, at the ripe old age of 33, I sound like an ancient, crotchety granny!) Anyway, all that to say that you are not expecting too much, but your approach might need fine tuning if you expect to have an impact…???

    • Maybe it’s generational— I suspect the girl is not cut out to be a waitress, and natural selection will take care of that— she’ll either be tipped so poorly that she seeks other work or she’ll be edged out by someone more mature. Maybe she’ll learn or be taught or mature into someone better able to face the responsibility.

      I’m not sure I feel the need to fine-tune— both of these people face market forces that will change them or point them in a different direction. I think the fine tuning I’m inclined toward is of the help-them-less variety. I’ve resolved to request a different server, if faced with such a situation again, and I eventually said to the sales guy “Listen— why don’t you look at our website and determine whether you have a case to make to me, and you’re welcome to call me back when you’ve done that.” I’m a softy, so both of those feel really cold and harsh, but at a certain point, I’ll get what I settle for. I wouldn’t take that level of service from a software provider, so it’s a mistake to take it from the salesperson (like boyfriends, they don’t typically get more conscientious on longer acquaintance). I won’t stand for that level of service in a sit-down restaurant again, so I’ll demand a different server. And if her management doesn’t like that, or doesn’t appreciate having to give good-will refunds for ordered items, then they’ll staff more appropriately or hire/train better.

So what do you think?

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