Writing in Huffington Post earlier this month, journalist Jennifer Schwab praised our scenic beauty, but slated the service offered during the 24 hour visit she paid to Cape Town three months ago.
Ms Schwab likened Cape Town to Del Mar and La Jolla in California, yet without the myriad of shops and franchise restaurants. Her focus was on our city’s sustainability, and she wrote about her visit to Cape Point, Stellenbosch, and Camps Bay that ‘Cape Town might just be my new ideal green design city‘. With Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles, flanked by the ocean, ‘it is clear that Cape Town received more than its fair share of God-given raw materials’. She praised the City of Cape Town’s development policy, and in it calling for public participation, ‘thanks to smart zoning that puts aesthetics above tax revenue’. She praises the low height of the Atlantic Seaboard buildings, and that the houses aren’t built all the way up the slopes of the mountains. Our highways are described as encouraging ‘Bond-like driving‘!
After heaping praise on Cape Town, the closing paragraph is a let down, but is not far from the truth:“The downside of Cape Town? One is the apparent lackluster feeling that service people have for their jobs. From the employees of the airport to receptionists and porters, there was an apparent disconnect – even when you tipped them generously. The government and airport employees in particular looked kind of like Stepford wives while doing their jobs: an empty glazed stare with little enthusiasm for the task at hand and equal lack of interest in pleasing the customer. Service at private establishments was somewhat better, but not a high point of the Cape Town experience’. Of course the Apartheid word had to creep into the article, and the journalist blames our divided past for the poor service standard in our city!
But all is not lost when Ms Schwab concludes that ‘it appears one can live a quite splendid life in Cape Town, and a very sustainable one at that. If you ever have the chance, visit this southern outpost of urban vision, terrific food and wine and incredible natural gifts of scenic beauty!
A number of our guest house guests have fed back for the first time how they have noticed how slow staff are in our city, be it in restaurants, shops, and tourism attractions, asking how business owners and managers cope with this speed, and commenting that they would never remain employed in Europe with such a slow speed. Last night I experienced unacceptable service at Gibsons in the V&A Waterfront, with an arrogant manager, and no service check as to my satisfaction with the meal, no offer of a dessert menu, and no paper in the credit card machine when I paid. For their smart uniforms and reasonable value, the service let-down is so great that it will be hard to go back again. Poor English pronunciation, poor ability to bring a menu when a customer has sat down, out of stocks on menu items, clearing the table when the bill is requested, getting the order wrong, stretching in front of the customer when adding or removing cutlery, and not checking up on one’s satisfaction with the dish are common restaurant service failures in Cape Town, giving our city a poor service reputation.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitetr: @WhaleCottage