iced tea and stirring spoon

Overcorrection = Customer Service Fail

Recently, my sister reminded me of a family story that I hadn’t thought about in years. It happened back when we were in college, working in restaurants over holidays and summer breaks. At the time, she was waiting tables in our hometown in South Carolina.

iced tea and stirring spoonNow, for those of you unfamiliar with the South, you need to know this tidbit. In South Carolina, when you order tea, it is assumed that you want your drink served over ice and—unless otherwise stated—sweet enough to pass as a dessert. It’s the rare Southerner who would choose hot tea to go with a meal. Even then, it would be requested with a touch of embarrassment or a word of explanation. “I’m coming down with a cold, you see, or I’d have the regular.” At which point, the waiter would say something like, “Oh! Bless your heart! I’ll getcha some iced tea for after you finish that stuff. No charge. You can take it to go.” In the South, iced tea is serious business, and it’s just not something you want to go messing around with . . . .

As my sister recalls, it all started because one night during the supper rush, a fella complained to the management because he had to request a spoon for his glass of sweet tea. According to him, the tea wasn’t quite sweet enough and he wanted to add more sugar. Not having a spoon readily available (and apparently unable to make do with either his knife, fork, or straw), he made quite a stinker of himself, frustrated that he was made to wait even momentarily for the required utensil. His nastiness threw the staff off kilter and made for a rotten night for everyone.

By the time the servers arrived the next day, the restaurant owner had devised a solution to this customer service conundrum. Incidentally, this was the first time in memory someone had requested more sugar for the sweet tea. Never mind that though; on to the solution.

“From now on,” the owner told the wait staff, “We will put teaspoons in each glass of tea. That will solve the problem.”

The staff just looked at her, apparently waiting for her to see the obvious flaw in the plan. She didn’t; someone spoke up.

“Well . . . umm . . . we put the spoons in the glasses of unsweetened tea so we can identify them. How will we tell them apart if we put spoons in all the glasses?”

The owner thought for a minute, came up with the answer, and said, “Okay, in the sweet tea, put one spoon. In the unsweetened tea, put two.”

“Two spoons?”

“Yes! Two spoons.”

Well, you can imagine how this played out. The first really busy night, they ran out of teaspoons early on and the plan was scrapped. Which was fine really, because the problem wasn’t the system in the first place; the problem was a grumpy man who had probably just had one inconvenience too many that day.

We always get a big laugh out of this story, but in reality, I’ve overcorrected plenty of times in my own life. Have you? Tell me about it in the comments below. I’ll be having a glass of sweet iced tea while I wait to hear from you!

About the Author Aileen Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.

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4 comments
Anonymous says November 17, 2014

Well, I don't think you could call it "overcorrecting" but today when I was in PHYSICAL THERAPY for recovery from my knee surgery, the PT was bending my knee to the point of AGONYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! when I complained, he just said he sorta thought he was hurting me by the way I was gripping the pad on which I was laying and by the face I was making!..
Didn't even phase him, he just bent it a little bit further and yes, it did hurt, but that's the way it has to be I GUESS!
love you, Aileen, Mother

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Anonymous says November 17, 2014

I actually had a Physical Therapist who would bring me an "Easy" button when I complained!! Enjoyed your story but it brought to mind the summer I was a waitress and forgot about the "balance" thing with a tray and spilled 5 glasses of sweet tea in a patron's lap! Thank goodness she was a sweet southern lady!! Resa

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Got New Year’s Resolutions? | Aileen Goes On says December 31, 2016

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