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The Wrong Promise.

Last night we went to a local Claim Jumper restaurant. Larry is a serious chili aficionado and theirs is pretty good. We got there and the hostess said that there would be a 5 minute wait (despite half the restaurant being filled with empty tables) and if we wanted to we could wait in the saloon. We took the buzzer thingy and went in there to see if there was a place in there to sit.

There was. The place wasn’t overly full; about half the tables had customers. The only major sporting event going on was a Kings game. We’re waiting and waiting and waiting and the waitress comes over and sees our buzzer. “Oh are you waiting for a table?” “No, we decided to sit in here.” “Oh, are you sure? Because I’m really, really busy in here. I can’t promise to be fast.”

We look at each other in shock. What kind of waitress tells you that if you sit in her area you’re not going to get good service? She was encouraging us to leave her area and give our tip money to someone else! She was, literally, promising us “not fast” service. 

And you know what? She lived up to her promise. The service was very slow. She forgot one of our items. She was personable enough, but it was clear by her behavior that she was overwhelmed by the number of customers she had on this Tuesday evening. She set the standard of slow service when she arrived and then executed that standard perfectly.

This morning I started thinking about the whole experience. The framework that we see a situation from really does determine the decisions we make. If you assume that you already have too many customers and that you’re going to give them bad service as a result… guess what? You will make decisions and take actions based on that assumption. It can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Watch out for the promises you are making to yourself and others. If you’re going to establish an expectation, make the promise of excellence. When you start out with that framework, your decisions will be immensely better.

PS: At least the chili was excellent!

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