Busted–Here’s Your Pager

I have a love-hate thing going with my pagers.

I hate them because they resemble mutant stun guns. Eight out of 10 customers joke about this, and I have heard that joke one too many times to smile at it with real sincerity.

I love them because they resemble mutant stun guns and customers spend a few minutes of their wait joking about this. Joking customers are happy customers–even if just for a few minutes. Happy customers on a wait are a good thing.

I hate them because they get used every day and they are starting to rebel from overuse. Some inappropriately chirp, leading customers to think I have their table ready. Chirp bad, flashing red lights and vibrating good, I repeatedly say as I offer up a new pager. Others broadcast a computer-style voice message that says you are out of range even when you are standing next to my podium. And a few look and sound fine until I page their numbers, and they don’t respond, which makes that customer very unhappy when they are taken off the wait list for not responding. (This always seems to happen to the nice customers, and luckily it’s a rare event. Needless to say, they get the very next table, and often an appetizer on me.)

I love them because when they do work, and we make or beat our wait times, the crazy red lights and vibrating exteriors bring smiles (or at least looks of relief) to hungry customers’ faces.

I hate them because they cause otherwise intelligent people to completely lose track of time, even when they wear a watch. “How much longer?” many demand after I have quoted a 20-minute wait, and only two minutes have passed.

I love them because they provide me with a powerful symbol–okay, pure power–to lord over customers who lie about having reservations.

I hate them because customers who lie about having reservations usually don’t take kindly to being given a pager.

I love them, especially when I use them in tandem with my ability to check the podium computer to examine a customer’s reservation history, for the message they send to a customer who lies about having a reservation:

“I know my assistant called today and made a reservation!” Why is it always the poor assistant? If only they knew.

“I am sorry sir/madam, but we don’t have your reservation in the book today.”

“Yes you do.” I love that one.

“I’ll be happy to check here in the computer to see what happened to your reservation. Just a moment.”

And on the screen, 99 percent of time, the following is displayed for my eyes only: the number of reservations the customer has ever made, the number of cancellations, and–the best–the number of no-shows.

Yesterday, I caught two less-than-honest customers with this system, the worst culprit being a perennial no-show.

“Sir, your last reservation was at the end of July and you were apparently unable to join us. There is nothing in the system for today, however.”



I break the silence: “Right now we’re on a short wait of 15 minutes or so. Pager?”

Grudgingly, “Fine.”

Ha! Busted!

Score one for the power of a pager.






8 responses to “Busted–Here’s Your Pager”

  1. Natalie Avatar

    It still amazes me that people are lying about having reservations. Do they think you’re stupid? Do they think this actually will get them seated faster?
    Has anyone tried to hand you money to get them seated right away?

  2. michael Avatar

    Pager? Is this some big city technique I am unaware of, ro do I simply not dine out often enough? I don’t suppose you could clarify this “pager use”, as I really am completely lost.

  3. Dan Avatar


    ^ Michael, These are the pager systems she is talking about. You get a pager when you check in (actually, you can see the “stun guns” on this page), and when you’re table is ready, it flashes and buzzes. No more “Dan, party of 3…. Dan?… DAAANNNN….” These are very, very common all over the country.

  4. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    Natalie–The liars are a part of life–all life. When they show up at my restaurant, they lie about a reservation. When they are at work, they lie about why they didn’t get a project done or how they can’t come in because they are “sick.” When they are at home, they lie to their friends and family about God knows what. Liars are liars everywhere.

    As for $$, I have only been tipped after the fact–for scrambling to get someone seated or providing a nice setting for a large party on short notice. I am actually a bit uncomfortable taking a tip, and I have refused many. That doesn’t make me a saint or anything; I just feel weird about it while I am working the podium and foyer. Having said that, I am hopeful my regulars will remember me at Christmas….

    The Gal

  5. Restaurant Gal Avatar

    Dan–Wow, you know exactly the kind of pagers we use! Maybe I can order some fresh ones from this site!

    The Gal

  6. michael Avatar

    Thank you Dan! That is not something I have ever seen before.

  7. Hostess Jo Avatar
    Hostess Jo

    what is the standard on tipping a host/hostess?
    I work in a small town place, and rarely get tipped by patrons, but maybe once a week I get a nice couple that flip me a finner or two for running around doing all jobs and my own, but generally, these are people who have worked in the industry at some point in their lives (which everyone should be forced to do.lol)
    I get slightly embarrassed when the money is openly handed to me at the podium. what I do is make a note of who tipped me, where they sat and who waited on them, and make sure their next visit is even better than the last.
    when is taking a gratuity bad form?

    love the blog, keep it up, I feel less lonely at the podium 🙂

    Hostess Jo

  8. The Pensive Penguin Avatar

    Yeah, the liars you’re talking about are also the same people who, after lying about their reservations, turn around and try to say that their food is taking forever to come out of the kitchen “It’s been thirty minutes” they say. Checking the ticket in the kitchen returns proof that they’re lying because they only ordered the food maximum ten minutes ago, but you can’t call the customer a liar to his face, so you’re stuck apologizing (or, like I do, getting the manager to apologize). These people think that most other people are stupid, but not all, because when my manager gets to the table to apologize, the time always goes down to something a little more believable as soon as they see someone wearing a suit instead of some dumbass waiter’s uniform (I’ve never had a uniform that looked good).