Strong opinions, weakly held

The advantages of low turnover

The US Postal Service is much maligned for poor customer service, inefficiency, and being a bloated government bureaucracy. They’re big, they touch everyone’s lives, and the sometimes screw up, so they’re an easy target for ridicule. I have to say that there’s one thing I generally like about the postal service though, and that’s low turnover. You don’t have to go to the post office too many times before you start recognizing the people working behind the counter, because they’re always the same. Sure some of the people working behind the counter are slow, cranky, or both, but once you get to know them, you’re rarely surprised. Sure, it would be nice if everyone were friendly and efficient, but that’s not realistic. I’d just as soon know what I’m getting.

I think that’s also an advantage of eating at family run restaurants. There’s a Vietnamese restaurant around here where I like to eat because the food is good, but the service is slow, I may never get a drink refill, and I always have to walk up to the register without my check and tell them my table number in order to pay and leave. That must sound miserable, but my wife and I are used to it. If we’re not in the mood for bad service, we eat somewhere else. i still find that infinitely preferable to hitting the local chain restaurant and dealing with whichever trainee is getting broken in for the week.

Everybody places a premium on good service, but I think that predictable service is somewhat underrated.


  1. Ummm…. Since every Vietnamese place I’ve eaten at (except one that was French-Vietnamese) uses the come to the counter, give your table number, and pay scheme, I have to assume it is considered polite not to rush the customer out the door by prompting with a check. Oddly, one pho place I liked in Los Altos, the gringos were started out with checks, and as you repeatedly came in for lunch, you graduated to the home folks plan. You were expected (allowed?) to come to the cash register, meet the owner/manager, chat about the meal, life, etc. and pay. Don’t know for sure, just a guess. mawado

  2. In my experience, the US Postal Service is only maligned in the USA. Its cost-to-reliability ratio is outstandingly low compared to most countries.

    Similarly, Americans gripe about taxes, but we have it comparatively soft. (As far as paying taxes go, that is. In terms of getting a social safety net, health insurance, a good education, and so on, we have it comparatively tough!)

  3. I was surprised to learn it is common for waiters to wait for a customer requesting a check rather than rush them…not confined to “ethnic” restaurants.

  4. Paying the bill at the front counter of a restaurant is the norm in Hong Kong and Southern China for budget-friendly and middle-range restaurants. This process demonstrates an owner-employee relationship whereupon the owner does not delegate “contact with money” to the employee (waiter) most likely because of mistrust. Regardless of the reasons, this protocol may in fact be more efficient as there is only one cashier and more hygienic at the same time.

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