Big Daddy's Kitchen

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  The Deli Counter

Businesses are so competitive today that they have to look at ways other than price to entice customers. One way is customer service. Of course given the one-upmanship tendencies of retail merchants, this can be taken to ridiculous extremes. A glowing example of this is the deli counter at your local upscale supermarket. You're number 36 and number 15 is being waited on. Logic & common sense dictate that you use your down time to figure out what you want. Uh-uh. We live in an age of self-aggrandizement, posturing and just plain showing off. The most basic tenet of the new age, "Me First" philosophy is that "it's my God-given right to slow down service to a crawl with moronic questions and self-serving demands". As a consummate Deli maven, let me expound on some of the problems and offer some solutions in the Papillon I call "The Deli counter".

1. We are not impressed by your inquiries. It's only ham for chrissake. Don't waste our time with questions regarding it's flavor, salt content, fat to meat ratio and density. Don't ask for endless samples just so you can determine if the product has the correct chew and mouth-feel for little Gwyneth's sandwich. Don't waste countless hours with questions about the meat's origin (regarding imported or domestic). Look at the situation from a broader prospective: Ham comes from a pig. All pigs are related and equal (at least according to George Orwell) rendering the question of origin completely moot.

2. You're number is 35 and the counter's serving 30. Don't assume that you can do the rest of your grocery shopping for your family of 12 in six minutes, Mrs. Von Trappe. Wait it out. Unless the person in #1 is in front of you, you should be out of there pretty quickly. If you fail to get back in time and they're waiting on number 77, don't scream out "I HAVE 35!!!" and demand to be waited on before number 78. Number 78 just might be the "deli killer at-large" that was featured on "America's Most Wanted".

3. Deli workers should limit a customers questions to 2: a) what do you want? (b) how much do you want? Anything else should be met with swift, Hitler-esque punishment. Take their ticket and make them go to the back of the line. For repeat offenders, have them wear dunce caps and stand behind senior citizens at the lottery window.

4.The selector. This is the yuppie vermin who wants 3 grilled chicken breasts and demands that she select them from a hotel pan of 600. So the game of pointing/picking begins. She points. The clerk picks. She starts in with "no not that one. that one". "The one on the right"... "THE RIGHT".. "No, not that one....The one next to it...nope...the one below it....that one". Keep in mind here that she's pointing at the glass case at a distance of 5 feet from the meat in question. So we are forced to watch a game of connect the dots just because this nitwit is in search of the holy trinity of chicken breasts. I stopped doing crap like this at the age of twelve when I got kicked out of a pet store for trying to pick out one gold fish from a tank of two thousand. Look it's only chicken. Diamond merchants put less effort in selecting 3 carat stones than you do for a stringy, overcooked piece of protein.

5. Thickness. Oh man. What a game of twenty questions this is. There's always one in the crowd that wants the thickness of her head cheese to be cut with a precision that makes a nuclear clock look like a sun dial. As we've all learned in higher mathematics, we can approach zero but never meet it. This type of customer really takes this fundamental theory of calculus to heart, insisting on laser guided measuring devices in a temperature controlled clean-room. 67 customers have been waited on and she's still determining the optimal thickness for Irving's baloney sandwich. Sometimes, if the customer is not well versed in measuring and inspection guidelines a cruder approach is used - one that doesn't involve ISO 9000 and Y2K criteria. The lunchmeat must be so thin that you can read a paper through it. Of course this opens op another can of worms. What kind of newspaper? NY Times? National Star? Variety? Women's Wear Daily? What about Font type and size? You really know that the butt-kissing performed by supermarket owners is at an extreme when a customer wants (and gets) a pound of tavern ham cut so thin you could read size six font box scores in ancient Aramaic.

6. Thickness part two. There are people who are not satisfied with laser guided precision. These abstract thinkers want their cold cuts so thin that they want them cut on the other side of the slice. That or they want it so thin that the slicer turns your Genoa salami into melted cream cheese. Why bother? Just sell them the wrapper and have them lick their lunch off of it.

6A: Remember: It's only coleslaw. Knock it off with the pretentious inquiries on whether or not the cabbage was organic and if the dressing was mildly reprimanded instead of whipped. Save the in-depth questions for more complex purchases - like a space shuttle.

7. One solution: Put the deli clerks on commission. I can guarantee that the idiots that tie up service and cause unending aggravation will be condemned to the freezer aisle in less than a minute. Service will be so fast that it would make Einstein's head spin and say," boy, This Relativity thing needs some more work".

8. Owners, wake up. You may have satisfied that well-to-do soccer mom with the range rover but you've ticked off the thirty two customers that had to wait while she tried to determine the specific gravity of olive loaf.

Patrick Ingravallo  copyright 1999 Goombah Press
Dec 16, 1999

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