And Then She Says…Are We Bagging Today?

...ever been asked a question from a woman that you were not sure how to answer?

Was it her style, flair, mannerism or just her own way of interacting with others that made her unique, or caught you off guard? But what happens when her “style” is not appropriate for the situation?  What do we say?

question from a woman

In my case it was a waitress. I have dealt with all kinds.

Some are formal and professional, some are relaxed and carefree, and some are “by-the-book”, not showing much emotion. But most are friendly and really try to make your dining experience enjoyable. To be a little more personal, many of today’s servers will also use their local slang and familiar terms when speaking to you. This is where some problems arise. Here’s my story…

It was a brisk afternoon, sunny with a few puffs of clouds, as my group of six walked into the diner looking for a quick lunch. The diner, which sat on the eastern flank of a busy road, was unexpectedly full and I thought there would be a wait for a table but thankfully I was wrong. We were quickly escorted to a large booth in the corner and greeted by our waitress.

She was pleasant and knowledgeable of all the side dishes offered for the meals we ordered. Our beverage orders were taken and delivered, bread and butter placed in the table’s center and extra paper napkins as well.

Then the first strange comment was made…

“I’m gonna have you be my helper and pass these plates to the end”, said the waitress.

The customer, me, is “gonna be the helper”? That was not what I expected.

Of course I would be glad to assist the waitress in passing the B&B plates around the table but would have appreciated being asked in a different tone. OK, no big deal, we moved on.

The conversation kept to a steady pace as our waitress left the table after indoctrinating her newest recruit, me, into her fold. I have always been critical of the service provided by most servers but also realize that we weren’t eating in a multiple-star restaurant, just a local diner with quick food and pleasant surroundings; nothing more. I shouldn’t expect much.

Before we knew it, our meals came, prepared as ordered and piping hot. Another good sign. But these were the largest portions I’ve seen in a long time. I’d hate to see their food cost, they must be losing their shirt on our table. Anyway, our waitress asked if there was anything else we needed then left to attend to the other tables in her section.

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We picked up our utensils and attacked our plates; the food was not too bad.

Since our portions were so large, none of us were able to finish, though we sure tried. With our forks given a rest and placed plate-side again we continued our conversations. Just then, our waitress came over to our table and with a big smile and hand on her hip said,

“Are we bagging today”?

What are we bagging today? I’ve never heard that expression before. We all sat there in silence while we tried to process her comment.

Oh, I guess she wanted to know if we wanted to “bag” the remaining food from our plates to take home. But this was a little too cutesy for me.

“I’m glad to see you enjoyed your meal; would you like to take the rest home with you?” “I know we offer large portions here, I’d be happy to wrap-up the rest for you to take home”. These are appropriate statements for a server to make. I’d even be OK with “Do you want a doggie-bag” but “Are we bagging today”? That one has to go.

Today’s quick serve and family restaurants are more concerned with moving their customers in and out as fast as possible.

The “2 for $20” type of offerings don’t leave much for profit, if any at all, so the focus is on quantity not quality. The food quality offered is usually sufficient for most but how about some quality customer service training to teach appropriate ways to speak with the customers you are herding through the doors?

We don’t expect much, we don’t need a linguist or someone fluent in five languages. We don’t need a playwright, a motivational speaker or a server that can sell us the Brooklyn Bridge either.

We, as customers, just want to be treated in the same professional manner as anyone else, regardless if we are taking a doggie-bag home or not.

I hope Fido likes his snack…

What ‘cutesy phrase’ have you heard from a waitress/waiter or other customer service person?

➤Leave a comment below and add to the discussion, thanks.

Copyright © 2016 Steve DiGioia

6 thoughts on “And Then She Says…Are We Bagging Today?

  1. Mel, I have eaten in diners before and I do realize that they do have a more casual atmosphere…but if one is an out-of-town guest and not a familiar “regular”, one might not be acquainted with the patois of the local eating establishments.
    If a diner is looking to promote itself as an eatery that wants to cater to more than than the usual local citizenry, why not aspire to a homey feeling with a more suitable terminology that everyone can feel comfortable with?

  2. I think you should keep in mind that you were in a diner. Most patrons are usually locals and there is an air of familiarity in that atmosphere. Perhaps you should stick to a finer dining establishment if you are not comfortable with this style of service or relax your expectations to match the location that you choose to dine in. As diners go, there was nothing inappropriate about her comments.

    • Hi Mel, thanks for your comment.

      I understand that, as Lisa also rightly points out, the terminology in a diner may be expected to be slightly different than in a more “finer” establishment. But does that meal it is acceptable?

      Where should the line be drawn? Should we as customers be expected to “be a helper” in the Post Office and sort through the boxes looking for the one addressed to me? Or assist the shoe store clerk and help take the box in my size off the top shelf, just because the clerk wants help? Or what about as the supermarket, don’t they unpack the boxes of cereal and place on the shelves instead of me?

      As a customer, we should be “serviced” and not, no matter how how informal the setting is, be expected to become a helper in order to provide the very service we are paying for.

      Formalities must be upheld if we are ever to get back to the customer service days gone by.

      Even though we may see this issue differently Mel, I sincerely appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

  3. Steve, that sounds like something I would ask my husband in jest- if he was “brown-bagging” his lunch the next workday! He usually does, but then there are a few times where his office has a special event or meeting and a home packed lunch isn’t necessary.
    I do agree with you- that was just a bit too casual and needs to go!

    • It is a reflection of our dumbed-down society and the “Twitter”-ization of our conversations. The food/beverage and hospitality industries are the last bastion of high society and once we forget our language, what’s next? Thanks Lisa.

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