Below is a story from an e-newsletter my wife and I receive from a restaurant where we enjoy eating breakfast. It’s a completely unpretentious place with consistently delicious food and a delightful serving staff, located right across from the ocean here in San Diego. The article is about the manager’s exasperation over an incident that recently occurred at the restaurant. As you’re about to read, she describes how she and her staff handled an utter absence of everyday integrity on the part of a couple of restaurant patrons.
I wrote to Michelle Levitt, the manager of Shades Oceanfront Bistro in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California, to ask her permission to reprint here in my IntegrityWatch Blog the version of her story that you’ll read below, along with my Integrity Analysis beneath it. Michelle was delighted to provide this permission even though she didn’t know what I would write in my commentary.
Despite being an integrity expert I must confess that it has never stopped amazing me that people display the kinds of integrity deficits Michelle discribes below…
Who Does That?
The most shocking thing I’ve seen in a long time happened over the weekend at Shades. It was cold and blustery on Sunday, and there was a very big surfing tournament going on, so there were quite a few people about. Because of the weather, not very many customers were willing to sit on the patio, so the wait for a table was running about 20 minutes give or take, a little longer than normal, but certainly not ridiculously long.
We were doing our usual ‘turn and burn’ trying to seat people as quickly as we could when darling hostess Brooke ran to the back saying a group of customers was getting really loud and angry because they were tired of waiting. Wait for it, it gets worse. We were trying to get two tables to move together for a 6 top, and the second table was still occupied by three lovely young women finishing their meal. I had Brooke seat some of the complaining party at the empty table so at least the kids could color while they were waiting. I turned my back and Brooke came running up to me again, tears in her eyes…
"Oh my God, they’re yelling at the customers? What do I do?"
"Oh, surely you’re exaggerating Brooke, I’ll go talk to them", says level-headed me.
She wasn’t exaggerating. In the middle of the dining room grown women (we’re talking 70 and 50 year olds here, not kids) were hurling expletives at a stunned table of customers who were innocently wrapping up their meals. I said "That’s it! I’m going to have to ask you to leave." The women immediately apologized, backed down and quieted down, while her mother (MOTHER!) went to the bar.
The staff is still talking about it, and I can’t get it out of my head.
In what universe is it acceptable for grown people to curse at others in this sort of situation? WHO DOES THAT? Can you picture yourself doing such a thing? If you can, please resign from the Regulars Club immediately, and don’t come back; you’re not welcome.
David’s Integrity Analysis
I don’t think I need to say much about how outrageously the restaurant patrons behaved. What these particular people exhibited was, in my opinion, a powerfully ugly example of what I call Entitlement Disorder: "You owe it to me to give me what I want when I want it, regardless of whether I’ve earned it and no matter how much this might impose on you."
Lack of civility (in this case, in the form of patrons yelling at patrons who had done nothing to them other than enjoy the end of their meal) is an example of an "everyday integrity" deficit. Too many of us seem to be convinced that when others don’t believe as we do, or do what we would prefer them to do, this gives us free license to be uncivil toward them, to impugn their motives, to assassinate their character, or to verbally abuse them in any other way we see fit.
There have been far too many examples of public figures engaging in vile incivility and character assassination of other public figures. Like it or not, public figures are societal role models. Whether they want to be or not. Public figures, and especially people in leadership roles, are society’s equivalent of parents. That’s simply how systems work, like it or not. In other words, a vast number of citizens tend to believe that what leaders do must be okay for them to do too, even when they know in their hearts that what those leaders are doing is not okay.
I applaud Michelle for responding to these guests’ outrageous behaviors by setting firm-yet-civil boundaries rather than reacting outrageously in response to their outrageousness. I further applaud her for the boundaries she set with her "Regulars Club" members at the end of her newsletter message. Michelle clearly realized that as the restaurant manager one of her more important but less obvious responsibilities is to both embody and articulate for her staff and patrons the values and atmosphere that it is Shades mission to provide to its patrons. Those who want the experience Shades offers belong there. Those who don’t deserve to patronize or work at other places that do offer what they want. It’s as simple as that.
In honor of Shades Oceanfront Bistro manager Michelle Levitt’s actions with people who deserve one of my Integrity Disgrace Awards, and her subsequent newsletter message to "Regulars Club" members, it is my pleasure on behalf of Integrity Revolution to give Michelle an Integrity Inspiration Award.