Friday, September 24, 2010

Take Off the Blinders... A World of Trays Awaits!

Cue creepy horror flick music

An unsettling phenomenon is sweeping through the cafe. Like a disease with multiple hosts, it travels on tour buses and in cars, through the MTA and Metro North. It may not be Bubonic but it is a plague… on my patience. Yes, I'm writing about patron tunnel vision.

Patron tunnel vision refers to the inability of some guests, possibly a bit overwhelmed by the menu, our charming decor, that handsome fella standing behind the line, to survey their environment and use that information to their advantage. Okay, I know I'm overwriting but hang with me.

We all know that ordering food takes more than skilled chefs and an appetite. In a cafe setting, it requires silverware, trays, cups, straws, a cashier… you get the idea. And every cafe worth its salt is organized with ease of dining in mind. For example, before a customer can reach my line, s/he must walk past a rack with trays and silverware, a soda fountain, cold beverage cooler, and a display with sandwiches and desserts. So why do I have so many customers make it to the line without any of these essentials? Immediately in front of the entrance are two checkout lines with POS system, desserts, and salty treats. So why do I have so many customers offer me money for their food?

This is a clear case of tunnel vision (the inability to see beyond the center field of vision). Sidebar: I remember the first time I wore contact lenses, the thrill of having sharp peripheral vision again, or maybe for the first time. I don't know why anyone would ever give up their peripherals - they're a gift and oh so useful when purchasing multiple food items.

So how does this play out? Here are a couple examples of a tunnel vision situation and my often snarky reaction.

Scenario 1: The Food Offering

Today, a single patron silently placed his sandwich, beverage and side salad on the counter at the back end of my line. He seemed so earnest in expecting me to ring him up but the question remained… with what? My response: "No thank you, sir. I'm not hungry quite yet. But if you would like to purchase these items, I recommend visiting the cashier."

Scenario 2: The Money Offering

A couple days ago, two separate customers offered me payment for their food. The first asked, "Can I give you money for this?" My response, "You can but you would still have to pay the cashier behind you."

The second customer spoke not a single word, instead waving a $20 in my direction. Already frustrated, I pointed to the cashier with the thought bubble "Wow, $20 and I didn't even have to climb the pole."

Scenario 3: The Cantankerous Tray-less Wonder

The cantankerous tray-less wonder is usually an elderly patron or an adult leading a group of children, someone who orders more food than can reasonably be carried in two hands, and has a tendency to make ridiculous demands based on ridiculous expectations. For example, this patron expects that I have a stash of trays hiding underneath my line, which might be a good idea if I want to corner the market and charge people per tray, but something tells me I would soon move from cafe line to unemployment line.

This charming individual can't request a tray without either snarling like a junkyard dog or whimpering like a neglected puppy. How many times have customers barked at me "I want a tray! You don't have any trays! Where are the trays?!" Again, I only ever point them in the right direction. But my favorite was last week when an overwhelmed customer exclaimed in a most passive aggressive way, "Well, I think I'll have to take multiple trips because I can't find any trays anywhere. it's really unfortunate but I'll make it work. My response, " Try right behind you."

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