Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
As a youngster, I waitressed at the same restaurant in the centre of Pietermaritzburg for 9 years, and what valuable experience I gained doing that. I learnt the value of a smile, particularly when customers were being difficult or demanding, and I learnt how worthwhile it was to go the extra mile – to call my customers’ by name and show that I was pleased to see them, to remember their usual orders and to reserve their favourite tables for them when I saw that they had booked.
I learnt to be considerate, sensible and responsive. I learnt the value of customer care, and because of this, I like to think that I am sensitive to the needs of my members, and I expect my staff to respond in the same way.
In fact, I specifically look for this kind of experience on applicant’s curriculum vitaes when I’m employing people, because it is not a skill that you can simply take for granted.
The more that you are a customer, the more you realise how important a skill it is, particularly in the service industry.
Last week my family and I flew to Cape Town from King Shaka International. The lady who checked our luggage in at the Mango counter couldn’t have been less friendly if she tried. No smile. In fact she looked like she was ready to roll her eyes and release a huge sigh of exasperation. All before we even got started. I smiled despite this, and said “hi”. Still no smile. She instructed us to put our bags on the scale, which we happily did.
Now it’s important to explain that I am very particular about weighing all the bags (several times) before leaving home to make sure that we meet the 20 kg limit per person. I drive everyone quite mad with my OCD about this particular matter, because the only thing that I dislike more than being over-weight, is having to pay excess luggage charges.
To my surprise, the “not-so-friendly” lady then declared us to be 2 kg’s over our allocated 80 kg’s. At this point, I must say that I’m flabbergasted. I request the individual weights of each of the cases, because I know that this is not possible, unless my new scale at home is faulty (a small moment of panic). I then discover, from the exasperated clerk (how dare I question her), that if the bag is 19.5 kg’s, she then has to round it off to 20 kg’s, and she has done this with each individual bag. I ask her to please add them all up and then round off the total, because if she does this, I won’t be overweight. The 2 kg’s, I explain patiently, are in fact, a result of her rounding off the weights, because there are four of us. She flatly refuses to do this and tells me to either take something out of a bag or pay for the extra 2 (imaginary) kilograms.
I realised at this point that I was going to get absolutely nowhere. There was a queue behind us getting tetchy, and I was starting to feel a bit like a criminal, so, I unlocked my case and removed my toiletry bag and slipped it guiltily in to my hand luggage. Can you imagine? All this fuss about 2 non-existent kilograms. I muttered my way through security and on to the flight, vowing to never put myself or my loved ones through that agony again. Both my children are at Stellenbosch University, so I could have been a very regular client.
Anyway, it’s left me thinking: how different an experience that could have been, had that young lady had some waitressing experience.