by Mehana Jazmin Chang
“Now that you are an employee at Hawai’i Gelato I expect you to show some hospitality toward our customers. Always make the customer or customers who come in your first priority. Make them feel comfortable, smile at them, ask them questions, and tell a joke or two. Make them believe that you are there for them.” Roxy constantly reminded the employees at her little gelato shop that this was our number one rule over all. As an employee at Hawai’i Gelato we deal with five different types of customers: the pleasant and friendly customers, the jerks, the really last minute customers, the customers who act like the place is a pigsty, and the window shopper customer.
It is easy to be genuinely kindhearted and pleasant toward the customers who are generous back to us. We have many customers who walk in with a smile from ear to ear, ready to enjoy some mouthwatering homemade gelato in our blistering tropical heat. Customers who smile at you and enthusiastically give an “ALOOOOHAAAA!” make it a great day for me. My day is made even better when I receive tips. It can be any kind of tip, small tip, and a generous size tip or even a large tip. I have always realized that the nicer you are to customers, the more they tip, because they believe they have been shown what we call “Aloha spirit”. One time, I was assisting a party of about nine. I was helping them by suggesting flavors I personally loved, like the “Hawaiian Sea Salt Carmel” or the “Banana Nut Chocolate” for them to sample. They all loved them, and some of them even asked, “How did you know this was the flavor I was craving?” After I rang up their orders at the cash register, the father pulled out of his brown leather wallet a 50 dollar bill and placed it in our tip bucket, then looked at me and said, “Thank you so much for putting up with my crazy family, we really appreciate it.” As they all left he gave me a smile and wished me a good night. Our average tip is 30 to 40 dollars a shift plus credit card tips, which we hardly get any of. But that night our tip amount was about 73 dollars.
Not only do tippers make great customers, but so do customers who have proper manners and know how to clean up after themselves. Customers like this make things whole lot easier to handle. One parent had dropped a little spot of pistachio gelato on the table and she unsealed her pink Coach purse, pulled out a tissue and started wiping away the table she was sitting at. She even got the table to next to hers, even though I had already wiped a few minutes before. Even customers who leave great reviews about you on the shop’s website makes me feel good. I have gotten reviews saying, “That one employee named Mehana is such a sweet and nice girl. She immediately gave us samples of her top three favorite gelato flavors. I am so glad to have chosen to come here for my after dinner desert!”
On the other hand, the jerk customers make it extremely difficult to show great Hawaiian hospitality toward them. Customers who come in and ignore friendly greetings we all know are the ones who are about to give us a hard time. It was a hot sunny Friday afternoon, around noon, when the tourists started rolling in after their breakfast. For some reason that day everyone decided they wanted some Hawai’i Gelato, so our shop hardly had any breathing space. I didn’t even have to move from my post to take people’s orders because customers were just shouting out things they wanted. As I was scooping banana nut chocolate into the dish a lady came up to me saying in the most vicious tone, “I know what I want now!” (Now keep in mind I have not been able to move from where I have been, so I was not able to go around and ask if anyone needed help choosing flavors) So, I smiled and looked at her and politely said, “I will be right with you as soon as I am done scooping this man’s gelato.” She then let out a prolonged hiss, rolled her eyes, and stormed out. She waited until I was finished with the man’s gelato to come back in and yell at me saying, “You are the worst employee in Hawai’i. You obviously do not know the meaning of Aloha!” I honestly was dumbfounded when she spat those words at me. It bothered me so much that I ended up crying in the back room. When I was able to come back, customers who have been coming in repeatedly throughout that week came to me and said, “I am so sorry that that hag was like that towards you, we stood here for a good five minutes arguing with her on how sweet and kind you are.”
Then there are the really last minute customers, the ones who decided they would like to squeeze some time into their tight schedule to get a “quick” delicious treat for the road. One time, a group of twelve came in five hours before closing time asking what time we would be closed for the day. I told them “we close at 10:00 p.m.” they said “great we are heading to dinner and we will be back after dinner for some desert” so as 7 o’clock came, I didn’t see the big crowd come in so I thought, “Ahhh. Maybe they found some place else to get desert.” We were located on Front Street, which is where all the great shops and restaurants are, so I paid no attention to it. 9:59 p.m. came and here comes the herd of twelve acting like they did not know that we were about to close down. So, because it technically wasn’t closing time yet I had to still serve them, which really grinded my gears because we had already started moping the floors, wiping the gelato coolers up and sanitizing the scoopers, and if we do not get a good start on cleaning we sometimes do not leave the shop until 12 o’clock because of all the mess.
The kinds of customers I have a hard time tolerating are the ones who act like the place is a pigsty. Some customers come in already dirty and just track dirt all over the floors. Once a customer had dog crap stuck to the bottom of his shoe and waltzed right in without a care in the world about what he had stomped in, yeah guess who had to clean it up? Also, customers just spill their purchases on the floor, tables, chairs, and on the counters and glass. Let me tell you, cleaning up spilled gelato and spilled rainbow shaved ice is not as easy as it seems. Parents let their kids throw their rubbish on the floor, as if it was a trashcan. And when looking for flavors, the kids smash their faces on to the glass and either start licking slobbering all over the glass, as if they can taste the different types of flavors through the glass and two start making goofy face and hand imprints on the glass. Again, guess who the lucky person who gets to clean it up?
Another kind of customer I find as annoying as the ones who come in last minute or the customers who do not know the definition of public cleanliness are the window shoppers. These are the customers who walk in, look at the flavors, and quickly rush out of the shop. They also will walk in asking for directions to the bathroom, another restaurant, and even another ice cream shop. Sometimes they even try to purchase items from the store we share areas with, at our cash register. Almost every shift I worked, I was asked, “Excuse me do you know where I can find the restrooms?” or “ Excuse me, do you by chance know where Cold Stone Creamery is?”
I always have to keep a good head on my shoulders and have to learn how to tolerate those who are intolerable and those who are genuinely kind. As an employee at Hawai’i Gelato we deal with numerous different customers, and it takes a lot of heart and willpower to handle them.