There is definitely something to be said for how a person interacts with the world differently based on factors such as upbringing, social circles, life experiences, or cultural differences. But at a certain point It would seem that people would be able to streamline certain interactions after having repeated it so many times.
Take last Sunday for example. A man walks up to my bar and says “I need to get a hamburger”. He immediately proceeds to walk away without uttering another word further. I may be wrong here but there is no place in the world that a transaction that simplistic is possible. Even if you were to go to a restaurant where they only served one food item (maybe something like that exists) and no options to modify it there is still a major part of the transaction missing. The part where you pay for the item or service.
As all these thoughts are bouncing around in my mind I yell after him to return to the bar. Begrudgingly he returns, as if I’m inconveniencing him even though I’m the one on pause with the numerous other things that I need to be doing causing customers to wait and service at my bar has to screech to a halt. As he walks back up I begin trying to extract the list of information that I need to fulfill his request. “How do you want that burger cooked man?” “Oh, medium to medium well is fine.” At which point he proceeds to walk away again. “Hey, buddy, I have a few more of these types of questions for you.” Sighing, he drags his feet back to the bar while the 10 or so new customers standing at the bar stare at him wasting their time. I am barely able to keep his concentration on me long enough to get through all of the options for the meal he is trying to order.
Once this portion of the exchange is finally done I proceed to ask him about payment. “Um, can you put it on my tab?” “Sure I can…” “OK, thanks.” “Well it would really help if I knew the name on the tab, but I guess I could just guess.” “The name is Steve.” “Alright, good to meet you Steve but bar tabs go by last name typically.” “My last name is ________.” As I say thank you and turn to my register to add the burger to his tab he begins walking back to wherever he has been in such a hurry to go this entire transaction. Lo and behold, no tab exists for his first or last name. Cringing and doing my best to stay civil I am forced to call him back to the bar one more time. “Hey Steve, I don’t have a tab for you under your first or last name.” “Well yeah, I haven’t started it yet, I though you could do that for me.” “That’s perfectly alright, I can certainly do that for you but to start a tab I need a credit card from you to secure it. Or you are more than welcome to pay cash.” “Well I don’t like to start tabs with my credit card, I always forget to close my tab and leave my credit card.” “Well Steve, that is exactly why we require a credit card, so that I don’t have to buy your hamburger for you at the end of the night when you forget to pay your tab. If you’re worried about leaving your card here I can just run it for the burger and give it back to you.” “Well can you try to run it and see if it goes through?” “That’s sort of an odd question. You expect that you don’t have enough money to pay for the burger but you order it anyways?” “Yeah, I’m not sure if I do or not.” “Okay Steve, I am going to go ahead and take care of the rest of these customer who seem fairly certain about their financial situation. If I have time afterward I can see what I can do for you. Bye now.”
I don’t see how a transaction that dysfunctional can be explained by people’s differences. This man had obviously been to a bar before. He admitted to it when he mentioned that he leaves his tab open and his credit card behind fairly often. He didn’t talk like an imbecile so I don’t think it was a lack of reasonable intelligence. I never saw Steve again that day, otherwise I might have asked him why a typically smooth type of transaction like that could have broken down so badly. I feel that I was patient and mostly guided him through the process but maybe there is some better way to handle that transaction. I have to handle it hundreds of times per shift so maybe I need to keep looking at streamlining it more.
Maybe some kind of questionnaire or form system might work better. Talking is hard.