Have you ever bought a pair of Levi’s jeans and they just didn’t fit right? You get home, you thought they were they same cut you always wear, same size that you were wearing that day, even the same damn colour. For one reason or another, they just didn’t work. They’re too tight on the thigh, your butt doesn’t pop like it did before, or one leg is longer than the other (on the jeans, not on you. If you have one leg longer than the other seek the advice of a medical professional, not your local denim retailer), something is awry. Those jeans went right back from whence they came, much like the devil to hell. Then there was that time at the nice restaurant where the service was perfect, the room was great, the wine was lovely, your date looked cute as fuck, and the apps were good, but your steak was chewy. Did you take the fucking steak back to Levi’s or did you leave the restaurant unhappy, never to go back?
Buffalo is a city that loves its under dogs, its working men and women, its innovators, creators, its do good-ers, and its independents. Everywhere you look there’s a local farmers market, an Indie record store opening, local artist, and a new band. This is truly a city on the precipice of a great new era. We band together arm in arm to support what’s new, what is good for the city, what is local, and what we need here. What I am proposing is taking the onus on the individual to help make each of us better in our own professions. Give the artisan/creator/chef poignant criticisms on how to improve upon their product, rather than stay silent in the shadows.
Please don’t misread. This isn’t a call for every Thom, Dick, and Larry to take to their laptops and yelp every little detail about the breakfast they had at their local diner in an open forum that will never reach the only person that can affect the outcome for the better. Admittedly, I stopped reading user reviewer websites long ago. Yelp, Metromix, Timeout, Open Table, each and every last one. The positive reviews are very nice to read, but also you don’t really grow from a friend who took to the interwebs to stroke your ego. If I’m feeling low I can easily sort out a little ego boost of my own in the privacy of my own home. The negative reviews, well, that’s a whole ‘nother headache that could be a column of its own. In my personal history, in every city, market, restaurant, and retail market I have worked, the negative “critiques” are a laundry list of venomous accounts against an owner/staff member, an essay littered with inaccurate menu items and pricing, or just really horrifyingly bad experiences that genuinely should be cited so that no one ever has to experience the whipping upon the balls and anus that the writer took that day.
However, in most cases, when an issue or problem occurs, the worst-case scenario is when a guest or customer decides to swallow it down without bringing any attention to the staff. If you ordered a salad and it had a hair in it, please, let someone get you a new one. I’ve eaten hair. Not a big deal to me. It makes you uncomfortable, by all means, these things occur even under the most watchful of eyes; so I am already asking someone to prepare a new salad for you, hold the hair please. You like your salmon cooked through and the chef prepares his medium rare. Okay, please allow us to cook that to your liking and bring it back to you with all the ceremony you deserve. But again, you didn’t keep those Levi’s in your closet. You didn’t think for a moment about it. The tags were still on, keys in hand, you were back in Urban Threads getting the appropriate pair for you. If something is wrong its wrong. Black and white.
So in the spirit of a city bursting with creativity and new ideas, products, and even spirits, we need to help each other improve. In an essay about airing out valid complaints, this writer cannot simply bitch and expect the world to change. So to you, dear reader, this is the solution I can preach. Please, whenever you can, bring attention to someone who can resolve a problem for you at the time it is an issue. Be poignant about the problem and your desired solution. Leaving your criticism without emotion and basing it on fact makes this interaction incredibly easy for all involved. “Pardon me sir, I ordered this tall skinny caramel mocha almond winter spiced fro-yo latte to go instead of in a ceramic cup, could you simply give me a to go cup?” Or for the even larger, life alerting issues, “Cutler, I ordered this lovely Flemish sour ale by Community Beer Works of my own volition. However not knowing what a Flemish sour was when I did decree my desire, I now realize that I do not, at this time in my life, like that style of beer. Could you be so kind as to pour me something similar to a traditional lager that I would enjoy?”
Now for the solution that actually helps our community grow and develop when ideas are at their earliest and most vulnerable. I’ve spoken to a friend about developing a user/ owner interface website. The business owner would ask to be involved on the site and elicit interaction with customers about how to improve. The customers can suggest improvements, link websites with solutions, or share unsavory experiences they’ve had, with anonymity if they deem necessary. Bottom line the contact is between the guest and the owner only. The anonymity helps those who don’t want to ruffle feathers, maintain friendships, or even helps a staff member bring to light something that is occurring while the management isn’t around. This doesn’t build your street cred on yelp, doesn’t get you free tacos for saying that you write a blog. This is useful and direct suggestion for improvement to an owner or creator that can actually improve based off of community support. A business signs up, perhaps has a link on their website or a bespoke sign somewhere in their place of business. If you have a valid suggestion you can now help our community improve, rather than swear off a small business and telling all your friends.
Many independent businesses do not have a section for comments on their website, nor a method of contact that may be deemed anonymous. You have an affinity for beautiful cocktails and had a bastardized version of a classic cocktail at “x” bar? You found your braised veal shank to be dry? The bathroom at your favorite café was a mess and lacked any hand towels. You told an employee and the problem still wasn’t solved? Send someone who can make a change the information of your interaction, and sign your name or not. Now my friends, the solution is in your court.
Questions? Comments? Support? Hate mail? Dead rats? Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send the dead rats to that weird uncle of yours that ruined Christmas. I wasn’t there.