Pandemic Recap (Happy Birthday) October

Pandemic Recap (Happy Birthday) October

This is the month when case numbers really started to get out of hand. The cafe was running business as usual (kind of?) but by the halfway point, we had already passed the worst we had seen in the initial wave. There was a general sense of increasing worry that we saw in both our staff and our customers and it was putting people a bit more on edge. At the same time, we were running into more and more people who didn’t want to wear a mask. Most people just needed a reminder as they walked around the cafe but there were a couple extreme cases worth noting.

-The random dude who, in under 10 seconds of entering the store, loudly asked my employee if they were a ‘f%#@ing sheep’ when asked to put on a mask. They just wanted to use our bathroom.

-The couple who come in covering their mouths with a sleeve and want to browse games for half an hour

-The pair of guys who snuck in without masks, then were very upset when asked to wear them after they got up from their table

This last one actually got rather extreme after the fact. They were so put out, they gave the cafe a 2 star on Google. After talking to my staff and comparing notes, it was fairly obvious that the whole time they were simply looking for a fight so I did what you really really really aren’t supposed to do as a business and I fought back! I emailed them directly with my review response including saying a thing or two I probably shouldn’t have and then posted the review to google with those parts removed. I was feeling extra feisty so I also posted it on my personal page to give people an idea of the masking pushback the store was getting and how I felt about it. The problem was, I copy-pasted the wrong response….

I have never in the history of being on social media, had a post blow up faster than that angry little guy (store posts or personal!). It felt great to see all the comments support what I said but at the time I thought it was a little over the top. A couple of people then referenced the ‘bad’ parts of what I said and I realized my mistake! I quickly edited the post to remove it but it had spread pretty far by that point.

Now you may be wondering why I am bothering to write about something so trivial as a Facebook post but as a business owner, I really dwell on things like this. Table Top Cafe has not gotten very many negative reviews and this one has been the most memorable in highlighting how ‘vulnerable’ small businesses are to unwarranted negative comments and impressions. If you get bad service or a product isn’t as advertised, you should absolutely take the time to write out a thoughtful review and I guarantee you the business owner will take it to heart. If, however, you take issue with the little guy following the law, maybe you should just yell at the people who made that law necessary. See the review and my safe response at the bottom of this post!

October is always an interesting but slower month than average. School is in full swing and the weather can often keep people away but at the end of the month, Halloween and the cafe’s birthday pop up to keep things spicy. With COVID case counts higher than ever we were worried we wouldn’t be able to have our usual birthday sale boost and I was doing everything I could to stock up for Christmas. This kept the finances quite stretched as I was very unsure of how much we could sell over the holidays but also needed to order as much as possible due to supply chain issues. How many copies of Wingspan can I sell through just one store? If I can only order 10% of different puzzles, how many of each picture can I actually sell? If I get too much stuff, where will I put it? Is Harry Potter still cool? Will people buy any party games in a Pandemic? Do people want fancy dice even if they can’t play in person? How many cat games can people handle? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

The cafe's birthday ended up being a simple sale with at least 50% of it happening online. A lot of Christmas inventory showed up the day before, which was a nice touch, but I was very much missing having huge crowds of people rotate through the store for the 7th birthday. It was a small taste of what was to come for the next two months….

The review in question:

The guy on staff who admitted us at 4:45pm on October 21, 2020 offered excellent service and gave great game recommendations. Unfortunately, the one lady I spoke to at 9pm when we left provided very poor service. I don't have much time or patience for people who vilify customers for walking 20 feet from the table to the door (with no people in between) without a mask, especially when there is a thick plexiglass barrier between the customer area and the service counter. People remove their masks when seated, so pretending that a positive public health impact results from wearing a mask for the vacant walk from the table to the door is pure lunacy. I understand businesses are required to tell customers that masks are required, but I would like to believe common sense and human decency (demonstrated by the staffer who admitted us at 4:45pm) still have a place in society. We enjoyed Table Top Cafe (largely thanks to the good recommendations and service from the staff member who admitted us) and like supporting small local businesses, but I expect it will be a while before we come back.

My response

We are currently in a pandemic. This means that special precautions have to be taken to keep people safe both mentally and physically. The easiest and best precaution is to simply stay home and not go into local businesses. If, however, you don't want to do that then there is the simple rule of wearing a mask.

It is clear from your review and in talking with my staff that you had little intention of wearing a mask at any point and were more looking to take issue with our mask policy.

To nitpick, you were seated at table 4 and had to walk right by table 5 which had customers playing games. You then spoke to my staff about games during checkout without a mask. Last I checked, those are all people who deserve to be in as safe an environment as possible. People wear masks more to protect others than to protect themselves. It is also a sign of respect, common sense, and human decency.

When my staff ask you to put on a mask, that is not bad service, that is following the rules. I am sorry you have such an issue with this but you are more than welcome to not come into my store. Times are tough and I need all the business I can get, but not at the cost of the protection of my staff, my customers, my business and myself. I hope this review helps weed out future good customers from the bad.

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