Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Customer service is a fascinating concept.

It suggests we haven't left olden times. Customers expect to be served. Retailers expect to serve. There are, though, some brands in which the relationship between employees and customers isn't quite so neatly divided.

I was moved, you see, by a recent tale from Birmingham, Alabama.

It was after midnight, a time when those who are awake are sometimes tipsy and often hungry. It's natural for them to search for food that will quickly enter their digestive systems and instantly offer their stomachs a fulfilled feeling. One such Birmingham establishment is the Waffle House.

That particular November night, the Waffle House had a little problem -- too many customers. Well, too many customers in relation to the number of employees. Which was one. The man -- whose name is Ben -- was cooking, serving and washing up. Entirely alone.

As AL.com reported, Ethan Crispo was one of those customers. Soon, he was sure he'd be going home hungry. Was McDonald's closed? Indeed in most fast-food places, I suspect, the customers would have grumbled, moaned, shouted at the lone employee and then gone elsewhere.

It seems this Waffle House is a little different. As Crispo explained: 

From the blue, a man from the bar stands up. Asks Ben for an apron, and begins to work behind the counter. It was a transition so smooth I initially assumed it was a staff member returning to their shift. It wasn't. It was a kind stranger. A man who answered the call. Bussed tables, did dishes, stacked plates.

Perhaps this stranger was merely a man with no place to go and a decent heart. Perhaps he was one of those happy anomalies. The evidence suggests that this particular Waffle House has more than one anomaly.

Crispo describes a woman who walked in: 

She's in heels and a tight dress, she'd been to an event. And she's walking around behind the counter, and I could tell she certainly didn't come from food service ... It was almost comical, here's this pretty woman in heels and a dress ... just trying to help, and the next thing you know she's stacking cups and running orders and bussing tables.

For its part, Waffle House explained there had been a mix-up in shifts, leaving Ben all alone. What's more moving, however, is that no one seems to have talked about corporate rules, health and safety or, perish the idea, theft. Instead, a Waffle House employee and his customers came together for the good of all.

It's a quaint notion, of course. Customers serving customers for everyone's benefit. People serving people for everyone's benefit. Sometimes, though, there's simply an unspoken relationship between people and a brand they appreciate.

Ad agencies like to talk about love brands, those that somehow inspire more customer loyalty than perhaps they deserve. In this case, customers decided they weren't going to leave a single Waffle House employee to founder.

They must really like late-night waffles.

Published on: Dec 7, 2019
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