Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Tipping Point: Service Industry...
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Tipping Point: Service Industry Revisited

Rick Coates - September 17th, 2012  

Recently, I was asked what I thought about service in Northern Michigan and I responded, “it depends on the day.”

One day I experience exceptional service, the next day I have a less than satisfactory experience.

I wrote an article five years ago giving Northern Michigan a C-minus grade for its service industry. The grade was based on personal experience as well as input from others I know who dine out on a regular basis.

The article became fodder for discussion around Northern Michigan, from restaurant break rooms to coffee shops to local talk radio programs. Two talk radio shows even brought me on their programs where callers either felt I was way off base with my grade or right on. Interestingly, both radio shows did online surveys and their listeners agreed with my assessment of a C-minus grade for service in Northern Michigan.


In that article I pointed out some things that the region might want to do to improve its level of service. One would be to create a “Service Industry Standard,” as some communities have done elsewhere. This “Service Standard” would be incorporated into all businesses that service the public (including governmental agencies). Typically, it is the chamber of commerce, local college, a visitors bureau or a collaboration of businesses and organizations that oversees such a standard.

I even went so far as to inquire with community leaders at that time about the possibility of a Service Industry Standard being created for the region. It was apparently discussed, but no action has been taken to date to create such a service standard.

In the five years that have passed since my article appeared I see our service in the region remaining just below average. Sure, some establishments and individuals are excelling, but many are failing or simply providing mediocre service.

Northern Michigan is receiving national, and even international recognition for our restaurants, wineries, breweries, distilleries, accommodations, art galleries and golf courses. We just can’t afford to be average when it comes to our service standard.


Okay, before you start firing off a letter to the editor that I don’t know what the hell I am talking about because I have not worked in the “business,” you would be wrong at the least on the latter assumption. For the past 35 years I have worked in a variety of positions in the hospitality industry, from golf caddy, dishwasher, bartender, server, chef, restaurant manager, general manager and a few tours of duty as a food and beverage director. I know how hard this business can be and have come up short a few times myself when serving others.

Outside the obvious, here are some reasons why our Northern Michigan region needs to create a service standard:

A few years back, I heard from a community leader who was showcasing the region to a business owner looking to relocate his corporate headquarters. A Northern Michigan community was one of three cities in the country this company was considering. The move would have meant 300-plus well-paid professionals relocating here and all of the spinoff business as a result of that move. Unfortunately, a bad service experience resulted in this company not choosing the region.


I dine out on average 10 of my 21 meals a week. Recently, a server bumped my feet with a vacuum while I was still eating. Another place was spraying chemicals that had a strong aroma at the table next to me. I have heard this a few times, “the kitchen wants to close early we need to get your order in now.” Another favorite is, “I have been cut loose and will be leaving in a few minutes and need you to cash out with me and then so-and-so will take over.”

All of us have had similar types of service faux pas. Servicing customers is tough work, especially in Northern Michigan where the hospitality industry is somewhat seasonal. I hear all the time from business owners that this seasonality issue plays a major role in offering consistent service, with one manager stating, “by the time we get them trained the season is over.”

Look, we have a lot of great people working in this business of hospitality in Northern Michigan. I personally have had exceptional service that is equal to anywhere in the world and wonder why it can’t always be that way.


SMILE: It is amazing how unfriendly some of the service is here at times. I have been to places and know others who have said the same thing: that they “don’t feel welcome,” or they felt like they were an “inconvenience” to the waitstaff.

I was entertaining the food and wine writer from the Chicago Tribune a few years back and he asked, “doesn’t anyone around here smile?” Our server never once smiled and seemed frazzled most of the night. As this writer was heading back to Chicago, he left me with this: “Northern Michigan has great wineries and the food at the restaurants is exceptional, I however, can’t recommend the service.”

LOCAL, LOCAL: During the past year only one establishment that I have visited encouraged me to try a local product. Just a couple of weeks ago I was dining with a friend from out of town. He ordered a vodka martini and while the restaurant had two vodkas made in Michigan, the bartender never suggested either one. I have had this happen with wine and beer, as well. The traveling public wants to try local. We have award-winning products to promote; please recommend them as often as possible.

BE HONEST: Look, we all have bad days and if your establishment is having one, just be honest. Sometimes you are just busier than you expected, or a couple of staff didn’t show up. Whatever the reason, just communicate that to your guest: “We are busier than expected and it is taking longer than usual for us to get meals out this evening, so I apologize in advance.” This lets the guests know what to expect. If they are in a hurry, they have the option to leave and go elsewhere, or stay and take their time and relax.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE CREATE A NORTHERN MICHIGAN SERVICE STANDARD: The bottom line is no one sets out to give “bad service.” Typically, most “bad service” situations are a result of a lack of training. Most hospitality businesses that have impeccable service standards have intensive training programs and that training is reinforced on a daily basis.

It is time for Northern Michigan to create a region-wide “Service Standard.” We are no longer able to afford inconsistent service. As locals we deserve it and our economy depends on it. As a server, retail clerk, front desk staffer or establishment, if your service is of the highest standards that is great; but what happens if a visitor goes somewhere that is not up to the standards you have established? They may never return to experience your establishment.

We are able to get grants for all sorts of things; why not one for improving service in our region? Will Rotary, the casinos, the chambers, the colleges, or some other granting organization step up and make this happen? Maybe all of the above could consider working together.

The time is now and this Service Standard must be uniform and adopted throughout Northern Michigan. Let’s not wait another five years, please.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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