Creating a Culture of Engagement: Beyond the First Sip
In my new book The Tip Jar Culture, I introduce a concept that seems simple on the surface but is profound in […]
August 29, 2022 by Gregory Offner
How many times have you fantasized about that perfectly delivered line, followed by a hair toss and dramatic exit? For me, it almost always happens after the fact.
The perfect retort always pops into my head, usually much later and once the adrenaline has subsided.
But today was different…
Truth be told, the day started out rather ordinary.
I woke up and went about my business, although I was taking a bit more time to select my outfit for the day; owing to the lunch meeting I had with my boss.
The meeting had been placed on my calendar by her executive assistant. I say placed, because to say it was scheduled would imply I had some choice in the matter.
The upside to this was that we’d be dining at DelTuro’s, a very fancy steakhouse near our office. You know it’s very fancy because the tables are covered with white linen, and the servers wore bow ties and very long aprons.
The ceilings were higher than some church spires, and the irony that this palace existed amid a city drowning in poverty was not lost on me. In this city you were either nobody, or somebody. Everyone in-between had left for the suburbs.
I arrived 5 minutes early.
I reasoned it was smarter to wait for a table so she could choose where we sit. “I’m sure she has a favorite place to be seen”, I thought to myself as I mindlessly thumbbed apps, open and closed, on my smartphone.
She was 10 minutes late; and she did, in fact, have a favorite table.
“We pay above the industry average, because we expect our people to go above and beyond.” she said, digging into her $25 salad while awaiting the $45 filet cooked medium well.
A cardinal rule of the “business lunch” is that when the person who’s most senior is done, you’re done. So I had adopted the practice of just copying their order and hoping I ate faster than they did. I calculated that this lunch was going to be somewhere on the order of $200 after tip.
Our conversation had started awkwardly when she said “So how are you enjoying life here at SalesSniper?” and instantly lunch began to feel a lot like a performance review. I quickly deflected, and steered the conversation toward overall company culture; a topic I was much more passionate about.
Everyone at SalesSniper LTD worked their ass off for our customers, but only sales people were recognized for above average effort. This practice really gnawed at me. “I bet if the receptionist had a quota she’d crush it”, I thought as she continued to drone on about how we paid our people.
So I weighed how to get this point across.
As I looked down at my plate, I realized that I had finished my filet and she – owing to the fact that she was doing most of the talking – hadn’t.
I don’t know why this idea popped into my head, but at the exact moment of this epiphany the server – as if by magic – appeared and said “how are we doing here?”
Despite being a fancy restaurant, she wore a nametag. It said “Stephanie” and I wondered if she prefered Stephanie, or if most of her friends called her Steph.
Before I could stop myself I said, “Actually Steph, Do you think I could get another ounce or two of steak?”
In that moment, it seemed like the entire restaurant had stopped talking and was focused on my table. This was, of course, not the case but damn, it felt that way.
I couldn’t tell if she was glaring at me, or intently amused by this unusual request, but my boss was definitely paying attention.
Stephanie said “Well sir, we have a 6oz portion…” and before she could finish I cut her off and said “Oh, no I don’t want to order another steak. That seems silly since we’re already paying $45 for this one. I was just wondering if, since we did pay more than the average for this steak, if I could have 2oz more?”
Steph smiled a practiced smile and said “I’m sorry sir, we can’t accommodate that request” and before she could turn to leave I broke the tension with a line my Dad had uttered thousands of times. “Hey, doesn’t hurt to ask, right?” and with a polite smile she left the bill on the table and was gone.
I wanted to say it.
I so desperately wanted to say “I guess you do have to pay if you want extra, even when you’re paying extra to begin with.”
But the message had been received.
She was many things, but stupid was not one of them.
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