I’ve unexpectedly had the opportunity lately to spend a lot more time in the French Quarter, since I’ve been helping a friend during JazzFest. This gave me the chance earlier this week to pop into the Louisiana Music Factory to see Beausoleil and Zachary Richard, as well as wander around aimlessly. I think that’s the best way to see the oldest part of our city – without a schedule or plan. Tours are fine to get a sense of how things are laid out, but I also think a completely unstructured day is a lot more fun.
In talking with a lot of service-industry folks over the past week, the general feeling is this year’s crop of JazzFest visitor seems generally more self-entitled than in the past. Most of the bartenders and servers I’ve talked to feel there is a larger percentage of visitors that feels they deserve special treatment just because they’re dropping big bucks to be here. They’re pushier, more impatient and expect a higher level of personal attention because they’ve opted to grace us with their appearance.
Let me stop at this point to reiterate that I realize it’s called the “service industry” for a reason. We are here to serve and our level of compensation is rightly based on the quality of service we provide. New Orleans has built and maintains its reputation as a world-class destination because of its high level of attention, friendliness and general good humor when it comes to the guests at our hotels, restaurants, bars and convention facilities. Those of us who do this for a living also know there are others who would love the opportunity to do what we do, so this pushes us to raise the bar a little every day.
Additionally, those who put up the money to be in New Orleans deserve our sincere thanks and our best effort. They could opt to simply stay home or to be someplace else, but they chose us. When we service types go on the road, we expect the same level of service maybe more than Joe Conventioneer or Jane JazzFest because we know how the business works.
I believe the customer is always right. Until he’s a jerk.
Over the past week or so, I have seen a couple try to nail down a table for ten by simply sitting there and drinking iced tea for 30 minutes while a lengthening line of ready customers stacks up outside. I am sorry you were here first, but there are ten others willing to sit and order right now. Don’t get testy if we have to break up your group because everyone didn’t show up at the same time. Conversely, a group of ten showing up 15 minutes before closing is not going to get guaranteed full menu availability at the end of a busy day. If you make a reservation, be on time and don’t get upset if it’s cancelled after ten minutes.
JazzFesting can be dirty business, particularly after our recent heavy rain. When the music stops for the day, folks leave the Fairgrounds tired, hungry and, often, a bit tipsy. They often go straight to dinner and, on arrival, are even more so. This is so often when the two-year-old in each of us can manifest itself in an ugly way. Overtired, hungry toddlers are a handful, and even worse when the one acting this way is 45 and weighs 240 pounds.
Each of us who goes to work this time of year packs some additional patience because things can get extremely busy. We seriously appreciate it when our customers do the same. We want to hear where you’re from and what you’re doing while you’re here and laugh at your stories.
Most folks get this and this is why we love doing what we do every day. But, sadly, there are always a few who don’t.
This is why the sign above the door says, “Be nice or leave.” We mean it.
Craig Giesecke has been a broadcaster and journalist for over 30 years, including nearly two decades at the AP and UPI covering news, sports, politics, food and travel. He has been the owner of J’anita’s for five years, serving well-reviewed upscale bar food and other dishes. Comments are encouraged and welcomed.