I am bewildered.

In the next little while, we will be travelling 1384 kilometres to Sydney, and while we are there, amongst other things, we will have some tea.

We will be having that tea with a dear friend who is traveling 14474 kilometres to get there.

So, having travelled a combined distance of >17,000 kilometres, we obviously want to make sure we select a venue where we get an excellent cuppa.

So, I did the obvious thing, and checked with a blogger I know in the area.

His suggestions – he had two – consisted of one place I hadn’t heard of, and one I have been connected to on Twitter for years. So, I messaged the latter:

“Long time no chat, but we might well be coming your way shortly. flying to SYD to catch up with another tea blogger. From the US”

And I got a nice positive reply. So I followed up with:

“Can I book a table for 3, <date> at 2 pm?”

I must admit, I was stunned by the reply:

“Hi Robert. We’re not geared up for taking bookings at this stage but you shouldn’t have too long a wait (if at all) when you visit.”

Hmm. Now, some people might have thought “OK, fair enough”.

I didn’t. In fact, I was furious. I mean, I’ve told you guys that three tea people are traveling over 17000kms combined, would like to pop in for an afternoon tea during our short few days together, and you think we should just turn up and see if you can squeeze us in?

I keep going back and forth. Am I being too unreasonable? Do I need to get over myself? Is expecting a busy tea shop to go to all the trouble of writing ‘reserved’ and sticking it on a table  asking too much?

I guess for the answer to that, we need to look at the reaction from the other Tea Shop that was recommended. I messaged them on facebook, introduced myself and made the same request. Here’s the reply:

“Hi Robert, yes we have availability on <date> at 2.30pm and can book you in. We don’t serve any light lunches at the shop. We only serve cakes and tea and hope that is still ok? We look forward to meeting you and your guests. Hope you are having a lovely week. Thanks amber”

I think that’s a stark contrast. I then added:

“Cake is the only light lunch worth having. I think we will now be up to 5 as we have invited another tea blogger and his lovely wife.”

And the reply:

“Ok sounds great. I will put you down for five. See you all then”

On reflection, I found the first response can only be explained if we were dealing with a “hospitality” operator who believes they are there to serve their own needs, not their customers’. It’s nonsense of Alice In Wonderland proportions.

So, I think no further comment, except to say that we are visiting “T Totaler”, and we’re sure we’re going to the right place.



5 thoughts on “Nonplussed

  1. Hi Robert

    I am sorry you felt offended we couldn’t reserve a table for you. I’d like the right of reply if I may.

    To first address the issue of reservations. As you may or may not know, Sydney is rife with “no-shows”. We get requests for reservations all the time but our policy is we don’t take them to protect ourselves from loss of income holding tables (from paying customers) for people who make reservations but never eventuate. It’s not loss of income from our pockets, it’s loss of income needed to pay staff wages, pay suppliers, buy retail stock to line the shelves….the list goes on.

    Now, I am not for one second suggesting that you and your esteemed colleagues would be “no-shows” but I do feel strongly about fairness and I am not comfortable putting reservation signs on tables for some people and not others (who may very well turn up in the space and wonder why their reservation was rejected while clearly another one wasn’t!).

    On the assumption that we are “hospitality operators”, let me give you a little insight into our backgrounds. Myself and my partner Amara started this business a little over 6 years ago based on our passion for tea. We have slogged hard, worked multiple jobs at once (myself as a Singing Teacher and Amara still works a full time job as a Fire Fighter while managing logistics and the wholesale side of the business), we’ve nursed a dying parent and brought a child into the world (who we care for full-time rather than choosing the daycare option) all while getting The Rabbit Hold Organic Tea Bar open. Everything is on the line for us…our house, our savings that we have worked tirelessly for, the future security of our family and our lifestyle as we forgo any payment for the 7 days a week we each work as we choose instead to reinvest it into the business. Why? Because we love tea and we think it should be done better.

    I’m not for one second expecting that you would know all of this background, nor am I expecting a “medal” (god knows there are plenty of women working just as hard if not harder than us!) but really, it’s a kick in the guts to have you make that assumption and publicly shame our business when this is all going on behind the scenes.

    I am happy to meet you for a cuppa on your visit should you wish to discuss this further. Otherwise, I wish you well on your tea journey.

    Kind regards

  2. I’m of several minds on this subject. (Sorry, Robert, not 100% agreement form me on this.)

    The immature amateur sommelier-of-pissing-people-off part of me is saying, “F**K yeah! With extra f**ks, for good measure.”

    The more rational part of me is tisking a little, and saying, “Pick your battles.” Followed by, “Choose the other tearoom. Show your opinion with your wallet.”

    The third part of me is thinking that the tearoom shouldn’t have been so steadfast in their opinion of the word “booking” and just said “Yes.” That’s just basic customer service. (The other side of “Pick your battles”.)

    But there’s one thing I am adamant on, and that’s the way you chose to express your ire. My dear boy . . . er, man . . . your nonplussed opinion was more well-crafted and well-mannered than most Yelp! reviews. And, THAT, I completely stand by.

  3. Oh that’s a shame. Amber is lovely and I am told T Totaler provide a lovely cake and tea.

  4. I think providing you more data would have been a better first response (we don’t do reservations as we have a problem with no shows, but are usually not busy at that time!) might have been less abrupt.

    Also many small businesses make exceptions for exceptional events (how often does one have a US tea blogger popping in?) Would make it easy to explain.

    Or perhaps to work around the root cause, as is done here in america, take a deposit by credit card – if they don’t show it’s forfeit – if they do it goes against the balance.

    Anyway I found it polite you avoided calling them out by name, and as cold hearted as I am although I find the justifications (most) heart wrenching, they really are not more than long irrelevant (to customers) explanations why when traveling a great distance a group can not choose them if they have a tight schedule. It’s a business choice, which any business may choose to make, but it is their choice and will result in loss of business of those who need s strict schedule.

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