Saturday, August 30, 2008

Roger's Towing

When I arrived at work this morning, one of my cooks pulled me to the side and asked for some help.

Her car was stolen last night and she didn't realize it until she headed to work. She called the police and was informed that her car had been towed. It seems that the lady that stole it was pulled over later with a DUI.

She said that she needed help to get the car out of the towing impound. I asked her who the tow company was and she said Roger's Towing out of Redmond. I then asked her if she had called them up and she said, "Yes, and I think I may have woken them up because they just said to call back at 9 and then hung up.".

I told her that she should not have any problems getting it out since it was stolen and that they should just explain that to the towing company.

Her husband called at 9 and was informed that the charge would be $230. When asked if they could get some help on the bill since the car was stolen, he was told no.

Now I don't know these guys at all at Rogers towing but it seems kind of bad and sad that they cant give people like that a break. It is too bad that it wasn't towed by Consolidated instead. Mike out at Consolidated is a great man who I am sure would understand.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Respect. A word that seems to mean a lot of different things to different people. I was taught respect by a lady not even five feet tall. My Mom. It's funny, sometimes when I am pouring coffee and I insure that I have poured the woman's coffee first, I will come out with my pet saying, "My Mama taught me right.". It is meant as a cute saying but the truth of the matter is that it is right.

That being said, one of the biggest forms of disrespect that I see nowadays is in some peoples use or abuse of language. My biggest problem is with the f-bomb. I can handle it when in a group of guys in certain circumstances but have zero tolerance when it is used in front of children or in mixed company.

Last week, we had to take Jayden into the emergency room at the hospital. While waiting for him to go in a very angry man came by and was talking to a friend on the phone. I was resting with my chin on my chest but when he began his foul mouthed rant, my head shot up. "It's OK, Dad.", one of my daughters said. They both know me well in regards to this matter. There were women and children around. "No, it is not!", I replied. "Please don't do anything.", they asked. "I wont if he stops.", I returned.

Knowing me that well, one of them waved down the security guard. He came over and one of the girls explained the situation to them. "I can hear him.", the guard stated. "I have called for back up on this one.". "I will be your back up.", I stated as I rose from my chair. "That wont be necessary", he stated, "Backup is coming through the door right now.". I looked up to see my young friend, James, who I play poker with on Mondays for Habitat. When James arrived, they informed the man that he was going to have to leave. "Why?", he snapped back. "I am not hurting anyone." I could not hold back. "You need to watch your language, fella!", I replied loudly. His face softened quickly and his head sort of sagged. "I am sorry.", he replied. "I didn't realize that I was using it.". The two guards escorted him out of the building and I assumed my previous resting position.

Minutes later, I heard a voice and looked up to see the man now standing in the middle of the room. "For all of you with young children. I am truly sorry. I was out of hand and I promise that I will be more careful.". He then left. I looked over at the girls and winked. Their smiles showed me that they were proud of me and I felt quite good.

One week later and I am in the same emergency room. This time, I have brought my Dad in. I am sitting in the waiting room around 2AM, when a group of young men come in. One of them has a very nasty gash over his eye. As they spoke, it seemed to me that just about every other word that came from their mouths started with an F. The guy with the gash seemed to have more bleeps than words.

Now, I am sitting next to the same person that had taught me respect years ago and she deserved it right now. "Hey guys, lets watch the language.", I said. Saying nothing, they moved over to the other side of the room. I returned to my conversation with my Mom while we watched the Olympics on TV. As I spoke, I heard the bomb dropped over and over. Each time, it drew me away from my conversation.

Having had enough, I stood. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the security guard stand also. I walked over to the group of guys, looked the cut one in the eye, and said, "I know you are hurting but that is not an excuse for your language. Their are women and children in this room. Please stop.". I wasn't quite sure what the reaction was going to be and to be honest, I was a little scared even with the security guard being aware of the situation. Any one of these guys was big enough to drop me in a heart beat. But this was my Mom that I was sitting next to and I could not see any other feasible reaction to the situation.

But, instead of anger, the boy (or better young man as he was probably in his twenties) softened and he replied, "Sorry, I will try to.". "Thanks.", I returned and walked back over, sat down, and returned to my previous conversations.

Later, after they had left, the security guard walked over to me. I noticed as he got closer that it was the same guy from last week. "This time, you had my back.", I declared. "Actually, as you arose, I was getting ready to come over and ask them to go to another room. The other waiting area had no one in it.", he stated.

We talked for a while before he went out on his rounds. After my Dad was released and as I walked out to get my car, I ran into him and he introduced himself to me. Andrew was his name. And by the way that he carried himself and acted during the times that I saw him, I would say that his Momma taught him right.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hard times and fresh ideas

Quite a few customers have stopped me on the street and asked me how I am doing. I always tell them that I am doing just fine. There are a couple of reasons why I give that answer. First off, they don't really want to hear my problems. It doesn't mean that they don't care, but the problems are mine and we all have problems of some sort. Secondly, I am really not doing all that bad when I listen to others in the area. I am not up but I am only down a small percentage over last year. And if Duncan's chart on restaurants is true, there are many out there that are down dramatically.

My concerns are the same ones that I believe almost every small business is dealing with right now. Escalating costs and how to deal with them and still try to keep your own prices down as best as you can. As I have stated in previous posts, I am always looking for new ideas. If there is one thing that I do pride myself in, it is trying to stay outside the box. In that same light, I don't have any problems taking other ideas that are given to me or discovered in other restaurants and attempting to put my own signature on them. An example of that would be if you go into the chamber, you will see a bank of restaurant small menus and brochures available to the public. I actually was the person that got that started. I walked into the chamber one day and saw that they had some brochures for a few of the local motels. I asked the then chamber president if I might be able to put one of my own up. She went to the board and later called me to inform me that the board had given me permission as long as I put them in a professional looking display. Back then, that was rather hard to find but I eventually got one and now look at it. Before long, many of the local restaurants were putting there small menus out and the chamber had to eventually go to a larger display of their own. So then, I looked to see how I could better get directly to that same market quicker. I took my small menus and racks and started going down to the motels in my area and asking them if I could place them on their counters. Every month, I would take them out with free meals for the motel managers along with more menus. Before long, the counters were cluttered with other restaurants menus and some promising entrepreneur came up with the idea of providing the motels with professional displays and then charging to have your brochure in them. Since the cost was too high for most restaurants, the restaurant menus disappeared. I must admit that there have been many other new ideas that I have been behind on such as the Internet but this blog was started as yet another idea in marketing which quickly turned into a place to vent both good and bad and thus became a sort of therapy at times.

That being said, I am still looking for things that we can do to make the business better and more desirable. I watch invoices like a hawk, looking for those sudden increases that can so easily knock you down quickly. For instance, recently, the ham that we purchased went up over 40% in price overnight. Jim immediately began looking for an alternative while I worked with the supplier to see if we could get the increase reversed. I failed but Jim found another ham that was not only a better product but the price was only 20% higher than before.

Jim also has worked hard to increase the quality and thus the value of our product. He has over the last year began to roast our own turkey, roast beef, and pot roast. That has brought us a better quality, better tasting, and fresher product to our customer. In a time when others are looking to cut prep costs (which by the way eliminates much needed jobs), we will attempt to continue to do things the old fashion way as best as we can.

But then none of this can happen with out the most important element. Our customers and over the years, we have been blessed with some of the best. It is truly a pleasure of the job to make friends with so many of them. Just today, Jim and I were talking and both of us agreed that our relationships with some of our customers were some of the best parts of our jobs. Some of them have even been given pet names such as Dry Ron, Big Richard, and of course, the "Cool Kids". Big Richard volunteers to help us in every special event that we hold and many of the others volunteer during our special Thanksgiving for Seniors. I am truly blessed to have the crew that I have and the supporting customers that keep us alive.

Thank you Bend!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Service at Safeway that Sucked

Now let me preface this by saying that I have almost always had good service at Safeway. I know quite a few people who work at various stores and they have some great employees. For the most part, they are always friendly and go out of their way to make sure that you are satisfied and happy.

Yesterday in Madras, however, was not the case.

Judy, Jay, and I had stopped into Safeway on our way home from an outing and decided to get some lunch while we were there. We stepped over to the deli and I noticed that they had a Subway like sandwich bar there. Only one person was being served so I figured that it wouldn't take very long and I stepped up to the bar to order one of the specialty sandwiches that they had listed on a very colorful banner above.

The lady behind the counter looked kind of familiar. Since she had no name tag, I will have to go by the color of her hair, red. Red looks up at me and turns to a woman that has just came out of the back room and yells at her for help. Bessie walks over and asks me if she can help me and I order and point at my desired lunch item. Now, I can not remember the name of the sandwich but do recall that it was a Roast Beef with Mayo, Honey Mustard, and Blue Cheese. It sounded yummy. Bessie slices open my bread and begins to ask Red where another employee is at. I get the distinct feeling that Bessie may not work there and is a back up for the section but I am not sure. Anyway, while Red is telling Bessie that the other person has gone home since she started at six in the morning, Bessie is spreading thick globs of Mayo on both slices of bread. She continues to talk with Red while following the mayo with circular swarms of Honey Mustard. Now, I am thinking that might be a little much but I figure that she knows better so I dutifully remain silent. She spreads out two thin layers of Roast Beef and two pieces of lettuce. She tops the sandwich with two handfuls of Blue Cheese crumbles. Now, I am impressed here as I know the cost of Blue Cheese and for the five dollars that I am paying for this sandwich, I am getting a real deal. As she wraps my sandwich, I look up at the board to insure that all of the ingredients posted were used. Satisfied, I let her take Judy's order. Jay asks me if he can have some Chinese instead and since it is of the same area, I tell him sure.

Red has finished up making her sandwich and is now at the register ringing it up. Seeing no one else, I step over to the register area to order Jay's Chinese. Red finishes up her customer but instead of looking at me, gives her attention to the telephone. Now, I didn't hear it ring but I am sure that she must have been directed towards it somehow.

Meanwhile, the deli area is beginning to get crowded. A line is forming behind me and Judy and others are in the Hot Food area. Red looks up at them (but not at me, I might add) and yells back for Bob (or at least that is what it sounded like). Bob is a short and very quiet Chinese man who I believed to be the cook with another equally silent Mexican fellow. Silent Bob and his equally silent partner begin serving the people in the hot food area. I begin to wonder why I didn't just go over there since that is where the Chinese is at but the line there is very long and I am the first here right in front of Red so I should be able to get my food fairly fast. Wrong!

Red says something to the person on the phone about putting them on hold or something. Then, without a glance she just walks away and goes into the back room. Now, this greatly disturbs Bessie who is now left out to a line at the sandwich counter. She is having great problems making Judy's sandwich and looking at the backroom at the same time. After each spread, she stops and stares at the door of the backroom in anger. Judy looks over at me with pleading eyes wondering what is wrong and will here desired sandwich get made and better yet will the detail that needs to be put into it be right. Meanwhile Silent Bob and partner are quietly serving the now dwindling line in the hot foods. The people behind me give up and go towards the register area and Jay says something to me about me blocking the area. I look down at him and tell him that it doesn't matter as no one is running the register anyway.

Frustrated, Bessie yells back at the back room area. I cannot hear Red's name but I know who she is calling for. I look over at the door and can see Red talking to someone on the phone and assume that it was the same person that she was talking to in front of me. A short lady with a Safeway uniform walks by and tells Bessie that she needs some help. Bessie tells her that she knows and that her help has up and left. Meanwhile, I notice that Silent Bob and partner have finished their line and have gone back into the kitchen. I kick my self for not going over to that line but since Bessie is finishing up Judy, figure that my best bet is to get her also to finish off our order.

Red finally saunters out of the back room just as Bessie steps over to the register. Somewhat distracted but relieved by Red's appearance, Bessie agrees to get Jay's choice and then rings up our order and we walk out to the car in very animated conversation about our very recent experience. We laughed about the situation and wondered out loud if we should have just gone to Subway. We got strapped in and I fired up the car and prepared to leave. "Papa, they didn't give me any soy sauce.", came the report from the back seat. "Do you really need it?", I asked. "Yes", Jay returned, "I do.". "This might take awhile.", I informed him. "I really like it with my rice." Jay stated. So, I took him back inside.

Now, I always try and let Jay handle his own affairs since it is the best way for him to learn so I directed him to get into the line at the register at the deli where Red was now ringing up a few customers. Jay does so and is the third in line so I stepped to the side but close enough to hear him and back him up if he has problems. The two in front of him are served and Jay steps up to the counter. A fairly big man is standing off to the side and his sandwich which Bessie has just made is handed over to Red. Seeing that Red has his sandwich, the man pushes Jay out of the line right in front of Red and Red begins to ring him up. Now, I am right on this one and before Jay can even look at me with his pleading eyes, his Grandpa is standing right next to him with his arm around his shoulder prepared for whatever battle is in front of him. Big guy gets his sandwich rang up and turns to leave but only finds a shorter smaller bespectacled angry grandfather blocking his path. He takes the smarter route and shuffles off the other direction while Jay and I step up to the counter and Red. Without a glance, Red just walks away oblivious to our presence or so it seemed. Bessie, however, sees us and comes over. "Could you get this young man some soy sauce for his meal?", I asked in a loud enough voice to insure that Red heard it also. When Bessie returned and in that same loud voice, I said, "Thank you, Bessie, that was kind of you." "Your welcome.", she returned somewhat confused.

As I left, I looked around to see if I saw anyone who looked even like a supervisor but not seeing that person, I decided it best to just go. I am not sure what I would have said but I know that if any of our employees would have acted anything like Red, I would have wanted to know.

We headed back towards Bend and begin eating as we drove. My sandwich had a distinct flavor of Mayo, Honey Mustard, and Blue Cheese with just a hint of Roast Beef. After a few bites, my stomach begin to turn. A drink of soda seemed to settle it but after a couple more bites, it started to turn again. I gave my sandwich to Judy to put back in the bag. Judy asked me why I was not eating and I told her. "I don't think we want to put a Mayo Honey Mustard Blue Cheese sandwich on our menu.", I told her. She laughed and said that after seeing Bessie make mine, she had asked her to go light on the mayo on hers. Smart Move!