"U" is for Underpromise, Overdeliver
In the meantime, as we move through these last few alphabits, we're taking more opportunities to reflect on the experience of writing this blog. And, while we've come to understand Madison more (and we love it here, obvs) we sometimes feel the need to offer, um, constructive criticism. It might come across as mere ranting, but what we say, we say with love.
For this wrap-up, we got to thinking about promises and flakiness.
There was a time pre-A to Z when Nichole dragged JM to Peacemeal solely because she'd had some amazing lemonade there. She liked the food and though she knew he'd never eat a TVP burger willingly, maybe a salad and that great lemonade would be OK? He consented, we went, they were out of lemonade. In our tiny little world of the time, this was a disaster, and the kind of thing that eventually inspired us to use a list.
See, Madison's culture of idealism doesn't seem to give a disincentive for being flaky. (It's true that Peacemeal closed, but that's an extreme example - what a fantastic world we'd live in if a volunteer-run vegan place on State Street could stay in business.) We love free-spirited dreaming and even all-out weirdness. We've eaten at many a place that had weird hours, weird relationships with the customers, weird ideas about fusion cuisine, weird ways of ordering, etc.
This has nothing to do with tolerance and acceptance. Madison is so free you can almost be whatever you want. Which is why it's so frustrating (to us, maybe we're the weird ones) when self-definitions aren't lived up to. We're not talking about changing your mind or dealing with emergencies. But it's a good idea to keep things simple enough that they're within the reach of success. And it's imperative to always be honest and to stick to your word.
If you say you're going to do something, do it. If not, just don't say it.
Left: Hawaiian time, unpredictable but honest. Right: Madison time, just plain unreliable.
If you can't be open six days a week, don't run yourself ragged trying to be. If your delivery driver is also your only waiter, don't put "We Deliver" in your Yellow Pages ad. If you don't post a wi-fi policy, don't snark about customers for using your wi-fi "too much" (and customers, don't camp out at cafes for the wi-fi. Go to the library). If you put up a bus stop, stop the bus there. If you don't have the details set, don't send the press release. If you don't have enough money to tip well, don't order another beer. If you make a reservation, show up. If you didn't take that picture of a burger, don't use it on your web site. If you pay dues to restaurant lobbyists, know their whole platform and don't pretend to be apolitical. If you're not open all night, turn off the damn OPEN sign.
It's OK to be frustrated by these things. No restaurant (or other entity) has the right to expect continued attention when it continually disappoints. It is OK to expect promises to be lived up to and it is OK, after multiple disappointments, to shift your limited resources to entities that do not flake out, no matter how good the food is.
So, what to do? The schmuckiest thing to do when flakage happens is to complain about, but not to, the flaker-outer. The most golem-esque thing to do is buy what you're sold without a thought. The menschiest thing to do is to give second and third and seventh chances and talk to the flaker-outer before you quit trying (the table below shows we'd give at least 98% of the places we've been to a second chance, if we ever finish the alphabet). But we'd wager Yelp and Twitter (heck, the whole internet) would get a lot less traffic if everyone followed that model.
And hey, you kids! Stay off our lawn.
Thus endeth the rant. Now watch us flake out before we get to ZuZu Cafe.