You Say “Tomato,” I Say “Oops”!

I was a clueless, self-absorbed teenage boy. (Is there any other kind?) While working at Taco John’s one evening, a guy came in and ordered two tacos, no tomatoes. As I was preparing his delicious meal, I started yapping with my co-worker and friend, Juanita. When I wrapped up his tacos and handed them to him, he looked at me disdainfully and said, “I said, ‘No tomatoes.'”

I felt my cheeks flush with a hot rush of embarrassment. I apologized profusely, took his tacos out of the bag, unwrapped them, put them back on the rack as I continued my conversation with Juanita, took off the tomatoes, put the tomatoes back on, wrapped up the tacos and gave them back to him.

“I said, ‘No tomatoes,”” he said coldly, not even trying to conceal his disgust. I froze, aghast at what I had just done. I reached for the sack again but he pulled it away, said, “I’ll take them off myself,” and stormed out the door. I wished I had had a shovel to dig a hole in the ground for me to crawl into.

I still can’t believe I was such an idiot. Sadly, I see this same inexcusable service play out at pretty much every retail place I visit. What’s ironic is that the people who get annoyed when salespeople don’t give them their full attention are probably the same people who give poor service to others when they step behind the counter themselves. It takes a high level of awareness and a commitment to excellence to avoid that fate.

So to all you salespeople, clerks and servers out there: Smile, give your customers your full attention, and act like you’re waiting on yourself. Either that, or watch out for flying tomatoes!

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8 Responses to “You Say “Tomato,” I Say “Oops”!”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    Funny story. Imagine that, a teenage boy finding a girl more interesting than a customer’s request for “no tomatoes.” You’re right about presence, but you certainly can be forgiven your youth and inattention. You were just learning how to be in the work world.

    As for customer care, I find that most people in service jobs are attentive and do their jobs well, though not necessarily with joy. I disagree with your contention that those who are annoyed with bad service would, themselves, give poor service. Some of those who would criticize give exactly the kind of service we would like to have in all retail experiences; they just have no patience with those who don’t.

    What’s important here is that none of us stand in judgment and just do the best we can at all times, whether we are serving or being served.

    I like my tacos WITH tomatoes and since your current job is writing, I think I’ll probably get my tacos exactly the way I want the next time I visit Taco John’s.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    The only advice I can give you, Kathleen, is to make sure you sit at a sturdy table outside at Taco John’s!

  3. Kathleen Says:

    A sturdy table is essential but so is a clue. I assume you’re referring to the time when Momma Bear, Papa Bear and their cub went to Taco John’s, purchased their food and went outside to dine at a picnic table that was all one piece – table and seats connected. We all sat on the same side. And the table fell over on us as did the food and drinks.

    A lovely memory.

    Makes me want a softshell.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    A lovely memory indeed! I can still see and feel the moment when we tipped over!

  5. Suzanne Says:

    Great comment Kathleen :) I have to agree. There’s nothing *wrong* with us… we as a species are evolving and so what if we aren’t fully present yet. Experiences like these illuminate the way. I think too often we fixate on what we can’t do by 15 years of age, 30 years of age, 45 years of age… but evolution spans millions of years. We forget these moments are but a blink of an eye of all that is. As far as the irritated guy who didn’t want tomatoes? He probably drew himself to you because he needed a lesson in listening to himself. You know how you run into irritating situations like that and then you fuss about it all afternoon? Eventually you start asking, “Do I ever do that to myself or to others?”

    I trust everything is as it should be ;-)

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    It’s amusing to think that that customer and I met before incarnating and arranged a tomato-intensive encounter to further our spiritual evolution. But I’m sure we did just that! Thanks, Suzanne!

  7. Suz Says:

    LOL wouldn’t the truth about spiritual agreements be entertaining after all! Got a good laugh there too, and perhaps that could be the title of your next book. The Tomato Chronicles: 60 Ridiculous Agreements That Propelled Spiritual Evolution. I probably have a few for you ;-)

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I like it!!!

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