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?”
Score one for the power of a pager.