Customer Types: The Decision Muddler

Your first clue is when you take them to the table.

Wife: ‘Is this okay with you?’

Husband: ‘Yeah. Sure. It’s fine.’

Wife: ‘All right then. But it is near the aisle. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable up over there?’

You offer appetizers, suggest a prawn cocktail. He says, yes, that’d be great. She agrees. Then she asks, ‘Are you sure though? The dinners are big here and you might want a salad.’

‘So I’ll order a salad,’ he says huffily.

As irritating as the Decision Muddler is, I do get some satisfaction that quite often her mates find her just as tiresome.

It gets worse, naturally, if there are more than two diners. Then the Decision Muddler gets involved with everyone’s order. ‘Ooh, that’s good,’ she comments. ‘But don’t you usually like the lamb?’

It takes a hard-headed individual to resist her, because people out to dinner with ‘friends’ are always so courteous of each other. So her fellows humor her suggestions that they reconsider what they really want. What should take two minutes balloons out to ten or more as you try to convince everyone that their first instinct is absolutely correct.

So you can repeat the scenario through every possible action. As a waiter, I quickly adopt the strategy of avoiding eye contact with DM; I behave as if she has said nothing when she questions another’s choice; when a friend does waffle, I strongly reinforce how incorrect she is and how correct the friend was from the beginning; and I draw attention to what DM is doing.

Me to other diner: ‘See? You thought you wanted sea bass, and it turns out you were wrong. Ha.’

Me to DM: ‘You’re obviously having a hard time deciding, so we’ll do you last.’

Me to DM when it’s her turn to order and she still can’t decide: ‘Tell you what. There’s no rush. I know it’s not helping, me standing over you like this while you decide. I’ll just leave for a bit and give you a chance to figure it out.’

I generally place my hopes for containment on peer pressure I can manipulate. Sometimes just a cross word from the spouse can improve things for everyone.

On occasion the DM will be relatively unhappy with her choice when I do the check-back (part of the Steps Of Service where the waiter returns a few minutes after serving the entrees, to check how everyone likes their dinners). I’ve been known to say, ‘It’s too bad you didn’t go with your first instinct.’

* * * * *

As this is the first post since Wednesday, I’ve really let things slide. At Michael’s (lunch), $114 and $130 Thu. & Fri. At Carney’s, $155, $200+, and $250 Thu.-Sat. Pretty good business.

Friday at dinner saw myself getting zero tables before 8 p.m. Looked grim. But there was a big-spending 14-top at 8:15 p.m. Some company supplies the military with NASA-type stuff, all European guys with a taste for serious eating, drinking, and after-dinner drinking (Courvoisier VSOP). I garnered a $418 tip there, and pulled down $465 for the night before pooling and tip-out.

Michael’s on Friday was busy with banquets, just ordinary with regular business (considering it’s ‘the Season’). I was on a banquet for a big VIP who brought in more than two cases of wine for 65 people. Despite corporate rules that corkage is waived for no one, we don’t charge corkage to VIPs. This hurt the bottom line, obviously, but then, we did get the rest of the business in a rough climate. I’d guess the final tab including gratuity was in the $8000 range. As always with Michael’s, even with volume down, the people with money still have money and still spend it.

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