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Café Dépôt and Montreal service in general.

March 15, 2012

I went to Café Dépôt.

You can’t blame me. I’d been translating sales pitches for three days straight and I could hardly open my mouth without “Opportunity” “Relational” or “Personalised” coming out.
I needed coffee, and I needed to get back to work right quick.

Now the coffee at Café Dépôt isn’t great. OK, I wouldn’t even call it “good”. It’s coffee. Like Tim Horton’s Coffee, more or less. (Which, as my coworker once exclaimed on his first taste: “Tim Horton’s Coffee is horrible! I’m not even kidding. It’s like… stuff for miners and such”.

What I really object to, though, is the terrible service and complete lack of people skills exhibited by staff. I ordered a coffee and since I was peckish I decided to try out a salad. I had never ordered food there. The cashier takes my order, and asks the female coworker to prepare a salad. Greek salad, if you must know. Visibly ticked off she barked back: “I’m busy. Can’t you see I’m doing something?”

I’m right here, folks!

Apparently cleaning the espresso machine’s coffee stains off the nozzle was crucial and time-critical work that prevented her from making a salad anytime soon. Maybe I should have waited, but cranky as I am I said forget the salad. The cashier apologized but I was way too annoyed to buy anything else. If he hadn’t been pouring the coffee while trying to entice his coworker to do her job, I wouldn’t have bought that either. It wasn’t his fault, of course, but I was so turned off by the experience that I had to wonder how they kept in business with Starbucks a couple of blocks away where my favourite barista Catherine will gladly pour me a cup of actually decent coffee with a smile and a flourish. Or even Tim Horton nearby with cheap coffee and a chance to win stuff under every rim? What is their business strategy, anyway?

As I was heading back to the office with my searing hot cup of below average coffee I couldn’t help by wonder why, as a general rule, service is so bad in Montreal restaurants, cafés and bars.

I’m comparing them with my experiences in the US, where, no matter the quality of food at any Applebee’s or even out of the way diners is far and away better than some of the classiest joints in Montreal.

It just makes no sense at all. Here, in a small town in upstate New York, where the entire town can only boast 3 restaurants, the service is excellent, but in a city like Montreal with thousands of places to eat and fierce competition for diners on each and every stretch of road, why the hell am I treated so poorly?

Is it too much to ask for a little politeness in exchange for my patronage? Why do Montrealers have such a low standard that places like this can turn a profit? Anyone?


Maybe it’s apathy…

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    Paul Mar 22, 2012

    It’s not just in cafés and restaurants – I have noticed lax service in lots of other stores too, such as clothing stores, cell-phone stores, supermarkets… In each case, employees seem more interested in gossiping with their co-workers, sending a text message, or just plain ignoring customers while they do their minimum.
    Could it be that absentee employers are not training their staff well enough? Or even not selecting their staff well enough? Maybe short-sighted employers are just looking at the lower wages they can pay to younger employees, not noticing or caring about the lower standard of service?

      Neil Mar 30, 2012

      It’s true, and with respect to Montreal, i have heard that a lot. I remember trying to get hold of my ex-realtor and ex-notary, thinking that they could help me with something (since i gave them a lot of my money a while back). Of course, it’s a problem, it’s too much effort, huff, meh, it’s soo…. and so on. No doubt these are the same souls who dish out the impatience when they are in traffic or lineups themselves. Tortured souls.

      Calgary seems better but service can still be variable. The problem over here is there are too many jobs and not enough minions to fill them. People literally change jobs twice a month with impunity.

      Huh, i could go on about this all day. Service in the USA is definitely a grade better.


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