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The “May I speak to the manager?” haircut

May 29, 2016
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

I need a haircut, and I need to find a regular stylist here in Estherville. Now that I no longer live near Spencer nor work in Spirit Lake, it's time to migrate, and before my impossibly fine, chaotically wavy, strawberry blonde tresses take on a life of their own, I should pare them down to something more manageable; the only style that has really accomplished that for me since the Dorothy Hamill wedge went out of favor (when I was about ten years old) is the basic bob. I'm all right with that, and since my hair scrunches up on its own and has no chance to get heavy, I have no fear of it being too severe, or of it developing that evergreen tree effect in its shape.

This past week, I spoke at a conference in Des Moines , unruly hair and all, and I stayed with my brother (who's bald on top and has an unruly ZZ Top beard, which is one of the top 10 Instagram destinations in our state)., He now owns three restaurants there. He lives in a townhouse in the East Village (you can see the Capitol from his porch and walk there in five minutes or fewer) with his enormous cat-roommates, Bathory, an orange tabby, and Paco, a standoffish, brown Persian type.

We ate at his noodle house, Krunkwich. He ran to take care of a sudden ceiling leak at Tacopocalypse, leaving me thoughtfully twisting my noodles. A party of eight came into the restaurant, obviously workmates. We had taken the middle table of three, and they obviously needed to put two tables together for their party of eight.

As a dutiful restaurant owner's sister, I grabbed a rag and wiped down our table, and helped the servers move our dishes to the end table so they could move the middle one to the table on the other side and make eight.

Sam returned, we finished our drinks, and I went outside.

While I waited for Sam, and it seemed like kind of a long time, he was stopped by one of the customers.

"Er, you seem to be out of water," he said, referring to the self-service fountain for filtered water refills.

"No," Sam said. "Unfortunately the water pressure in the East Village is terrible coming through these 150 year old pipes. It just comes out slowly."

The customer was very upset and wanted Sam to bring him a bottle of water from the fridge, free. Which Sam did. Then he wanted Sam to give the entire table free bottled water due to the inconvenience. But he didn't, and no one else at the table was complaining.

Also, the man pointed out, the lemonade is tart.

Is the water too wet for you, too, sir?

We went our separate ways as I had to get back to doing some work, and Sam arrived back at his place far later than I expected. He had another customer issue; a customer had been overcharged on the credit card for a $2.00 tip, which she didn't add. It was a staff member mistake; they had added the $2.00 from the previous ticket to hers while reconciling the credit card machine.

She wanted a $50 gift certificate for her $2.00 inconvenience (which was refunded to her) and threatened to leave a poor review on Facebook if she didn't get it.

Sam didn't give into the extortion. Would you ask a retailer to give you a reward worth 25 times what their mistake set you back? Would you insist on it? Would you threaten to tell billions of people on social media that they were a bad business because they thought that was unreasonable?

"The customer is always right," seems to have emerged in a time when people were more forthright and were not raised with as much entitlement. This is not so much about my brother or his restaurants, but about something bigger.

This is not a generational thing, either. I kind of remember the man from the water incident, and he was no youngster. I don't know who the woman extortionist was.

"We did kind of invent this," I pointed out. "We were the first generation to have Internet access through most of our adulthood, and with the Internet in popular use came Internet trolling (picking on someone), Internet flame wars (wars of words going back and forth over days, weeks, even years), and tools to complain about a business in real time."

"Oh no. You're right," he replied.

I'd invite you, next time a store or restaurant is wrong and you, the customer, are right, of course, to consider what is fair for you and the business. How long do you think even a bustling, successful business would last if they gave outrageous rewards to everyone who complained?

Do you think fairness should rule or should the customer wronged (but not injured, killed, etc.) be given a huge reward.



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