Looking at Greece

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Service with a snarl

A few nights back we went up to a place at the top of the hill in the town where I live, a place (imaginatively named “Hill” in Greek) where they serve drinks and snacks.  For many years this place was council-run, and therefore it was diabolically badly run.  The service was appalling, the tables and chairs outside consistently dirty, the waiters surly and the prices a rip-off.  Then the council decided to put the operation out for tender, and a pair of local businessmen won the contract and refurbished the place inside and out.  It started operating again in the early summer, and the refurbishment was a big improvement on how it had been before.  But – sure enough – the refurbishment was only skin-deep, as they made the fatal error of hiring serving staff from local adolescents and young adults who were unemployed and on a job placement scheme with the Greek Manpower Commission.  This was because the new owners would then only have to pay the pittance prescribed by the Manpower Commission rules on hiring such people.

As a result the new place looked good, but the service was once again appalling.  Ask for a pint of beer and the witless chumps they hired would pour cold beer into a thick pint glass fresh out of a hot dishwasher and within a few minutes your cold beer was lukewarm suds.  Time after time we had to wait upwards of fifteen minutes for our order to arrive and when it did arrive it was invariably wrong or flawed in some way.  Some of our group would order one sort of beer, some another.  When the waiter arrived he wouldn’t know which glass contained which type of beer.  One night my girlfriend ate some salted fish with some ouzo there and was violently sick with food poisoning two hours later…

Well, the latest incident highlighting the utter incompetence of the staff of this place came those few nights back.  We went inside because it was too cool to sit outside, but the music was far too loud (an all-too-common phenomenon, as mentioned in a previous post about places of “entertainment” here in Greece), so we decided to head for the quieter upstairs area.  However, a waiter pointed out that the upstairs area would be opening in ten minutes’ time for a special function and that we couldn’t sit up there yet, so I said that we didn’t want to sit downstairs as the music was far too loud to be tolerated.  This bright spark of a waiter then piped up, “Well, the downstairs area is more for young people.”  “Thank you very much!” I replied, and we left, but not before telling one of the two owners what his waiter had said to us.  After all, I am forty-two, not in my eighties…  In typical Greek style, the owner, on questioning the waiter, shrugged it all off as some big joke.  Needless to say, they didn’t receive our custom that night.


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