The other night my family and I went to dinner with some good friends. We had just wrapped up a nice day at the local amusement park and decided to grab a bite to eat before our friends made the two-hour drive back to their house. We were finishing up our meal, taking the last few bites, when our server decided to bring our checks and place them on the table. But as it turned out, a couple of folks in our party decided they wanted dessert. The server ended up having to retrieve the dropped off checks and add those items to the bill.
The experience reminded me of how different things were on our vacation earlier this summer. The restaurants we visited in Europe never brought us our check unless we specifically asked for it…and I mean never…even if we had been done with our meal for a while, the plates had been cleared away, and our glasses were bone dry. For the first few meals, we assumed all this would be a good indication that we were ready for our bill because that’s what we were used to at home.
In the United States (if they don’t jump the gun like our server did the other night) then they will either automatically bring the bill or ask us if we would care for anything else. When your answer is “no” the assumption is to bring the check. No more words of instruction are necessary.
This was not the case in Europe, the wait staff never ever assumed that the check was the next step and they never did the asking. We had to be the “askers” every single time.
I’m not saying that one restaurant experience was better than the other. In one sense, it was refreshing that they weren’t so concerned in Europe about turning over the table quickly in order to make room for another guest. My husband and I got the impression (okay, we assumed) that maybe in Europe they consider asking us if we want our check to be a rude gesture. In another sense, the whole asking process took some getting used to. My husband and I were not used to doing all the asking. We were used to a wait staff that does more assuming.
These differences made me think about other assumptions we make on a daily basis. Some times when we anticipate a person’s need, it works completely in our favor. The process goes smoothly…we’ve “guessed” correctly, and everyone is happy. Other times, we anticipate the needs around us and, turns out, we have done so incorrectly. Instead of it being a seamless process, we end up having to go back to fix or apologize for our mistake.
I am reminded again today that asking questions and searching for clarification really is the most effective way to reach the most accurate conclusion or to make progress. This is true in a restaurant. This is true in life. Communicating our wants and our needs is essential.
Has assuming ever back fired on you?
When has asking questions saved you time and grief?