For the same reason the drunk sailor mistakes the tranny for a woman. For the same reason people like bad writing: some mistake pompous service for good service just as they mistake pompous writing (aka purple prose) for good writing. Here’s an example of bad service that people think as good service, from social critic Mark Randall (from Not That You Asked):
“Good evening, sir…And how are you this evening?…May I get you something from the bar? …I’d be happy to, sir….And would you care for anything else right now?…I’ll be back with your drink in just a moment.”
Randall describes such service as:
…superfluous little phrases…but as they pile up they begin to irritate with their pretentiousness. One realizes that they do not add to the service or quicken it. They do not even make it more pleasant since one is forced (out of politeness) to parry each one of these pointless and limpid thrusts.
Another social critic, Paul Fussell calls that shit “pretentious greasy-swarmy rhetoric of the servitors.” It’s like bad porn, watching a guy eat pussy as if he’s eating a hot dog. There’s the ridiculous use of “Sir” to suggest to the customer that at that moment, he is a feudal lord and his serfs are at his command, ready to do anything — anything — he wants them to do. Then there are the stupid questions or questions phrased stupidly. And finally, the unnecessary comments. That’s why Randall is pissed:
One wants to say, ‘well of course you’ll be back with my drink in a moment! SHUT UP ABOUT IT!’
Randall, on the purpose of pretentious service:
One sees…that this style is designed, not to promote service, but to call attention to what we are supposed to regard as the edifyingly refined manner of the server. It is the establishment’s self-congratulatory way of reminding you that you are in a fancy place….What we have here is neither good manners nor good service; it is politeness grandstanding, a kind of obsequious bullying.
This “bullying” is similar to what people do when they want others to think that they have a lot of money. They pull the same shit, except instead of meaningless words they use meaningless bling, clothes, and cars to communicate what they may or may not have. Some have money, many are frauds. Many of those who practice “politeness grandstanding” are similar frauds, using unnecessary or stupid words and phrases to create the impression of sophistication and class when in fact they’re simply putting on airs.
What is Good Service?
Good service is similar to good writing. Less is more, elegance in simplicity, and stay focused on the job. Good writing is effective communication — clear, concise, and precise — never self-indulgent by showing off vocabulary or writing dramatic prose (aka purple prose) because it’s always focused on the topic. Good service is about giving what customer wants with precision and alacrity without violating your integrity (don’t act like serf ready to suck dick unless that’s what you want or are paid to do). Good service doesn’t rely on flattery, and it’s not garrulous, intrusive, or unnecessarily formal. It’s observant, helpful, and insightful. Good service is convivial and conviviality is a Redneck virtue. Randall on Redneck conviviality:
…an American friendly style, one that is outgoing and engaging. It is, I believe, an authentic national characteristic. The new “luxury” style though is a hybrid bastard, one that tries to combine American friendliness with European formality.
When you combine Redneck conviviality with middle-class putting on airs, you get embarrassing results. The self-indulgent garrulous and formal exchanges waste time, increasing costs. Randall again:
What one gets is a style that’s too friendly to be formal, and too formal to be friendly. It consists entirely of a dozen or so phrases, premeditated, flatulent, pseudo high-class, none of which improve upon “good morning…”thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”
American middle-class politeness may not be rude, but it may be bad manners and certainly is bad taste. Curmudgeon Paul Fussell on why middle-class Americans talk like this:
The middles cleave to euphemisms not just because they’re an aid in avoiding facts. They like them also because they assist their social yearnings towards pomposity. This is possible because most euphemisms permit the speaker to multiply syllables, and the middle class confuses sheer numerousness with weight and value.
And good manners.
Examples of Bad Writing
There are several Bad Writing contests, one which invites writers to submit their own worst first sentence for a novel. Here’s one that won in 2008:
Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city, their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist breath through manhole covers stamped “Forged by DeLaney Bros.
Overwrought and pretentious. An example of author preening and of self-indulgent writing. Yet some are impressed with this passage simply because of its use of metaphors, however inane and vacant they may be.
There’s a lot of bad writing in academia too, especially in disciplines that have inferiority complex. UC Berkeley Comp Lit professor Judith Butler won an award for bad academic writing in 1998. The winning sentence (don’t try to read all of it, it’ll ruin your day):
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Translation: “Stop looking down on me, Math/Physics/Engineering profs who unfairly make twice as much as I do. Comparative Lit. major is just as difficult and important and my writing is tougher to understand than multivariable calculus, so fuck you.” Yet many think the author is intelligent and erudite simply because the passage is impenetrable.
Bad service uses similar gimmicks, intimidation tactics really. When the person serving you sounds like a muppet or talks like a pompous academic, don’t show approval. Approval is why there’s so much bad service. And encouraging people to be frauds is bad for them and society. That’s how batshit crazy starts and there’s a lot of batshit crazy in middle-class America, the most medicated demographic in the world.
Randall on why Americans enjoy bad service:
The American corporation, no doubt with the aid of market research, has taken something that ought to have been…pleasurable and simple and made it self-serving, burdensome, and complicated. No wonder we’re not very polite even when even the experts can’t get it right, when politeness becomes this insipid and interminable fugue of gratuitous endearments and self-flattering concern.
Put simply, bad service is narcissism disguised as good service.
Which do you prefer, rude service or bad service? They’re not the same.
Examples Good Service and Good Customers
(At random sit-down restaurant, first time customer arrives)
Server: Good evening. Something to drink?
Customer: Jack Daniels straight.
Server: One Jack Daniels straight.
Server: Anything else?
Customer: Maybe, I’ll look over the menu.
Note: This is how normal people communicate. The conciseness means fewer communication errors.
(At Alive Juice Bar, regular customer enters)
Server: Hey Susan!
Customer: Hey! Summer Berries.
Server: One Summer Berries.
Server: Summer Berries, ready! Haven’t seen you in awhile, how have you been?
Customer: yada yada yada yada and how have you been?
Note: Good service begins with acknowledgment, followed by giving what customer wants. Personal talk is last because that’s not primary reason customer is at store. Unless customer is trying to hook up with server.
Examples of Bad Service and Bad Customers
(At random sit-down restaurant)
Server: Hello and good evening, sir. My name is Rodney and I’ll be your server this evening. How are you this evening, sir?
Customer: I’m doing rather well, thank you. And how are you this lovely evening?
Server: I’m doing great, thanks for asking. Can I start you with something to drink?
Customer: Yes, I’d like a Jack Daniels, straight, please and if you don’t mind.
Server: Oh no, I don’t mind at all. I’ll be right back with that for you.
Customer: Thank you very much.
Server: Oh you’re welcome
Note: Polite small talk is poor sign that someone is a decent person. According to one study, serial killers excel at polite small talk. That’s why they’re able to get away with killing so many people.
(Alive Juice Bar)
Server: Hi, how are you?
Customer: I’m great, thank you! How are you?
Server: I’m doing well. Wow, you look great in that skirt. Where did you get it, if you don’t mind me asking?
Customer: Awww, thanks! I got it at Biji’s.
Server: Thanks! What can I get for you this evening?
Customer: Can I please have a Summer Berries when you get a chance?
Server: Excellent choice maam, I’ll get that started for you.
Note: Flattery is douchebag and obsequious way to get a bigger tip, like a guy trying to fuck a woman. Save it for after the transaction is completed so it doesn’t come off as flattery. That is, manipulation. Server should instead focus on doing a good job.
Examples of What Happens When You Refuse to Play Along
(At random sit-down restaurant)
Server (voice an octave higher than usual, bubbly and sweet) : Hello sir, welcome to Claim Jumper. My name is Ruby and I’ll be your server this evening. How are you this evening?
Customer: Jack Daniels, straight.
Server: (confused pause). Excellent choice, sir, I’ll get that out for you, just give me a sec.
Server: Here you go, your Jack Daniels. Have you had a chance to read over the menu?
Customer: Fish and chips.
Server: Fish and chips, excellent choice, sir. Would you like anything else with that?
Customer: I’d like a side-order of suck my dick.
Server: Excuse me?
Customer: I said I’d like a side-order of suck my dick. Because you sound like you want to suck my dick while I eat my fish and chips.
Server: (pauses and looks shocked) uh, pardon me, I’ll be back.
Manager: Hello and good evening sir. How are you this evening?
Customer: Hungry and horny.
Manager: Now, if I may ask, what did you order?
Customer: Fish and chips and a side order of suck my dick.
Manager: (pauses and looks shocked) Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave and never come back, if you don’t mind.
Note the number of vacant phrases — eg. “if you don’t mind,” “if I may ask” used by customer service. And why does the customer need to know the server’s name if he’s not planning on meeting her again? If he does want to meet her again, he’ll ask for her name.
(At Alive Juice Bar)
Customer (on her way to past juice bar to dance studio): Hi, how are you?
Server: Do you care?
Customer (stops): Yes, as a matter of fact, I do!
Server: Then why were you walking away from me instead of sitting down to talk to me?
Customer (pauses): Ooook. I’ll be right back to talk to you. I just have to drop this off in the dance studio.