Monday, June 4, 2012

Rude Dude

We have all heard horror stories of rude French waiters. When people found out my wife and I were planning a trip to Europe they all seemed to have a war story of rude that they, or someone they knew, had to endure. Armed with a blanket of protection made out of hearsay and fear, we proceeded. Guess what? Not a single rude encounter across 3 European cities including Paris.

As a student of human interaction, (a people watcher), I have discovered three things I think have led to the rude waiter syndrome.

I'm Rude

1.       Different customs were the first thing I noticed. In Paris, if a seat is open, you can sit there. You don’t need to ask or check, just sit. If you ask, the waiter may seem dismissive as they point towards the open seats, that isn’t rude, just annoyance because you didn’t understand the custom.
2.       Taking care of repeat customers. The hotel we stayed at was in a semi-residential neighborhood. There were a lot of regular customers in the restaurants who lived in the area. Did they get preferential service over the tourists? Of course, and rightly so. They are a recurring source of income for the business. Again, not rude, just smart business.
3.       Being left in peace. The number of times an American waitress at an Applebee’s will ask you if you need anything over the course of a 30 minute meal, 37. The number of times a waiter in Paris will ask if you need anything over a 2.5 hour meal, 3. If you need something, just get their attention and it will be taken care of, don’t expect them to chew your food for you.

As a student of sales, I connected the dots and wondered how many of us lose sales because we are not understanding our customers, or they are not understanding us. Do we think they are rude, do they think we are? Is that rudeness really just misunderstanding or priorities?

I'm Rude too...

How do we solve this? Set expectations. If you are selling, tell the client how your process normally goes. We have a meeting, a demo, I present a contract if it looks like there is a fit, we have another meeting to get the signed contract. If you state this to the client, they will not be looking for pricing right away, they may ask for it, but they won’t be expecting it. If buying, do the same. Set expectations. This is how we buy. We want a proposal, then a demo, then you can meet the stakeholders, then we will expect a hands on trial, then we buy. If the salesman doesn’t want to sell that way, he can pass, if he does want to sell, he will know not to call the CEO on day 3.

Oh, the food and beer, were awesome…


  1. I never have issues with French waiters. As noted above, things are different everywhere. If you want Ann Arbor, go to Ann Arbor. When you are in Paris, smarten up and understand that it is you who is the foreigner.

  2. So do you advocate sellers should understand their customers and cater to the customer? Because in ANY restaurant that presumably wants repeat sales from tourists, it is the waiter (seller) that should cater to the buyer - even accomodate the buyer's ignorance or naivete - not the other way around.

    1. Of course you should understand and cater to your clients, but don't think all of them are the same or equal.So if you have two different clients, 1 buys $100 worth of stuff every 6 months and has a tough sales process and the other buys $100 worth every month and is an easy sale, who are you going to show the love?