Front Desk

When familiarity breeds contempt

Exhausted from a day of yard work and other fun chores, my beau and I slipped into a local TGIF eatery and bellied up to the bar for a couple of well-earned cocktails. As we wearily scoured the encylopedic drinks menu, a bouncing blonde server who looked all of 16 years old, high on Red-Bull and corporate cheer (please bear with a few literary embellishments here), pounced on us with rocket-fire patter—"Hi there, how ya doin? Iâ€â„¢m (fill in the blank…Amber, Heather, Tiffany)…Whatâ€â„¢s your name?"

Whatâ€â„¢s my name? I exchanged a glance with the beau. And then, Amber/Heather/Tiffany extended her arm over the bar for a handshake. I meekly proferred my own hand and shook her damp mitt. I mean, what does one do in a situation like this?

Is it just me? Am I simply woefully old and out of touch? Are we, as customers, now supposed to become best buds with every service person to cross our path? Hey, Iâ€â„¢m hardly a snob and in my youth I paid my college dues in service jobs. But even back then, what with my ingrained sense of propriety (thanks, Mom) I would have been mortified to think any customer wanted to know my name, let alone how I was doinâ€â„¢ on any particular day. It just wasnâ€â„¢t done. There was a mutual respect and well understood role for customer and server. Each knew his or her place. That doesnâ€â„¢t mean, as a customer, Iâ€â„¢m any less respectful of a server because I donâ€â„¢t feel compelled to be on a first-name basis, let alone make physical contact. Whatâ€â„¢s next? A farerwell hug after we pay the bill?

Speaking of propriety, according to a report last week in the Wall Street Journal, Ritz-Carlton is replacing its 12-points guidelines for its "ladies and gentlemen" employees for a more intuitive, organic guideline, to better reflect todayâ€â„¢s changing standards of luxury and social structure. While I applaud a move away from some of their more rigid standards (I think I counted 13 "itâ€â„¢s my pleasure" robotic responses during my last Ritz-Carlton stay), I pray this doesnâ€â„¢t portend a move into TGIF territory. Call me old-fashioned, please.

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