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Is The Person Answering Your Phone Hurting You?

Every month on this page it's my duty to express my opinion about something important in the industry. But I'm way too opinionated to be limited to once a month, which explains why this magazine recently started an internet blog ( The blog, which is a diary of sorts, allows me to vent about stuff that just bugs the crap out of me. And I don't have to wax poetic; just a few paragraphs does the job and, more often than not, readers jump on board with their opinions.

My latest entry, for example, involves a lunch out with friends. We had hoped to have lunch on the outdoor deck of a ship that has been permanently docked and converted into a restaurant. Every summer tall ships sail into Cleveland harbor for a festival, and the restaurant provides a nice perch from which to drink in the surroundings. It was a good idea on paper.

The problem with this restaurant, and far too many others, was the person answering the phone. Our plan (there was 10 of us) was to have a late lunch around 1 p.m. and linger on this beautiful, sunny Friday. But we were told that the restaurant does not take reservations until 1:30 p.m, and that it has a policy of not pushing tables together.

Besides the inflexibility of this restaurant, the real problem was attitude. The person answering the restaurant phone couldn't care less about getting our business. And that's too bad because we went to another restaurant and sat on its outdoor patio for several hours. Our bill was $700.

I couldn't help wonder about the owner of the first establishment. Is he or she stupid, or just asleep at the wheel? I may never know the answer to that question because I'll be hard pressed to go back to that restaurant. But ask yourself, "Is the person answering your phone representing your best interests?"

Go to my blog and see how others responded to this situation. And, I'd like to hear back from you. How do you make sure that the people who represent you are taking care of your customers the way you would?

Talk about annoying: What's with Chicago? The city recently banned smoking and foie gras, and is considering a ban on restaurants serving lobsters. Now, the latest word is that its most influential councilman has introduced an ordinance that would ban restaurants from using cooking oils with trans fats.

When Ed Burke initially introduced the ordinance, all Chicago restaurants would be prohibited from using oils that contain trans fats. But many of the smaller mom-and-pop restaurants complained that they couldn't afford to switch to the more costly, healthful oils. One Chicago pizza shop owner was quoted in a New York Times article as saying the switch would cost his business $50,000 a year.

As a result, Burke introduced a watered-down version of his proposal, one that would require only restaurant companies with annual gross sales of $20 million or more to switch to non-trans fat oils.

Wait a minute! If using trans fat oils is wrong, then it's wrong for everybody. Personally, I think Mr. Burke should stop trying to micromanage the lives of Chicagoans. But if he can't resist, and he apparently cannot, then he should at least play fair.

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