Hot Tea and Tabasco

I have been watching the demise of newspapers across the country with both sympathy and empathy. Some 30 years ago, Gannett, in its infinite wisdom, folded the Huntington (WV) Advertiser—the evening newspaper I was working for. The axe fell shortly after the paper had won nearly a dozen state and national awards for journalistic excellence. No matter.

A couple of weeks ago, the people who had been running that paper had a 30-year reunion. Time had passed and hard feelings had subsided. In the intervening years, folks had gone on about other things both great and small. It was fun to see all the old gang again and to find out that, while age can reshape people physically, it seldom reshapes their personalities Everyone was pretty much how I remembered them and the banter was pretty much unchanged—except for more references to thinning hair and expanding waistlines than I recall from the old days.

I left Huntington shortly after the paper’s demise and seldom return except for Marshall University football games, even though I now live just 40 miles down the road. But, as is the case with most of my travels, on this trip I did run across a couple of things that pertain to the business our readers are in.

One involves quality control. The reunion buffet dinner was closer to Swanson than gourmet, but it was passable until Karen unearthed a totally uncooked potato in her mashed redskin potatoes. I can understand how something could remain un-mashed, but not uncooked.

Another speaks to employee training and product familiarity. At a pre-reunion lunch with my brother, sister-in-law, and a long time friend, Karen wanted to order a cup of hot tea. The conversation with the server went like this.

“I see you have Tazo tea”

“What? I don’t think so.”

“It’s here on the menu, but if not I’ll just have any kind. Earl Grey if you have it.”

“What’s that?”

“Earl Grey tea. Hot tea.”

“I don’t think we can do hot tea.”

“Can you boil water?”

“Uhhh…”

One would hope that everyone working in your company has a better handle on what products and services you have to offer.

In the end, Karen got her hot tea. Everybody else ordered Bloody Marys, but there was no Tabasco Sauce to be had. (“Honest. I asked everybody,” said the server.) I guess that’s a management problem, but I confess to contributory negligence. We usually pack a bottle of Tabasco when traveling. It comes in handy in the Heartland.

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