Friday, March 12, 2010

Cut the Up-Selling, Waitress!

I hate being marketed to. My patience is often tried in restaurants. I am more or less reconciled to waiters and waitresses making a pass at "up-selling" the high-profit items of appetizers, drinks and desserts. But sometimes they cross the line. It's one thing for them to chirpily ask if they can bring me an appetizer, it's easy enough to say "no" to that. The next level is to make the request more specific, and more suggestive, like "how about if I bring you an order of our brand new sizzling spicy fruitcake?" The tactic there is to simplfiy the request, to remove the "cognitive load" so that all you the patron need to say is "yes". I always say "no".

At a recent group dinner, with 5 couples, the level of sell really crossed the line. The waitress, clearly experienced, tried to take advantage of the ambiguity present in the group setting. In a social group, there is generally no clear leader, and everybody is trying to be polite. She took advantage of that dynamic to try to insert herself as the decision-maker: "Would you all like some appetizers?" When no immediate answer was forthcoming--because nobody wanted appetizers, but nobody was going to speak for the entire group--she followed up with "How about I bring you a couple of our sampler platters?". Happily, this group was having none of it.

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