Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When Your Patience Crumbles

If a friend of yours brought their child to your house and made a mess, what would you do? If she were a close friend, you could ask her to clean it up or at least mention it. If she were not a close friend, you might choose to grit your teeth and clean it up yourself, then not invite her and her child back.

What if you ran a business--say, a coffee shop--and a customer let her children make a mess and left without cleaning it up? I'll go out on a limb and guess that a large tip might smooth things over quite well, but what if there was no tip? Just a mess on the floor and some extra work for you?

You may have heard about Rainy MacDuff, the cafe' owner who was frustrated by a mess left by a customer with small children and resorted to posting a picture of the mess on her shop's Facebook page (I'm guessing the mom didn't leave a large tip). Now the cafe' owner is facing criticism and even threats of violence.

Now, I'm the mommy who got down on her hands and knees to pick up grains of rice flung onto the floor of a restaurant by my kiddo when she was 18 months old. The one who hands her kiddo a wad of napkins and makes her clean up spilled ice cream from the ice cream parlor table. Someone who doesn't tolerate littering. So, yeah, I would try to avoid a mess in the first place, try to clean it up myself if the kiddo weren't able, make the kiddo do it if possible, or at least offer an apology and a nice tip if circumstances didn't lend themselves to any of the above options.

Was MacDuff unreasonable and snotty when she posted pictures of the mess (which, really, was not as bad as I expected)? How about frustrated? She probably didn't want to say anything to the customer in front of anyone--to allow them to save face as well as to not lose business. Posting a pic on FB was likely her way of sending a message without calling someone out directly. (The link mentions the name of the shop, and I checked them out on FB. There are tons of comments, but the initial photo has been removed.)

This is clearly a polarizing issue: people are either in favor of parents taking care of their children and their messes and teaching their children about responsibility, or criticizing MacDuff for being a control freak and having unreasonable expectations.

My take on it? Yes. Yes--that's my answer. Both sides have valid points. Yes, kids are messy. Yes, a mom who is wrangling two small children without backup is overwhelmed and doesn't need to be shamed into shutting herself in her house and never venturing out. Yes, the owner needs to be considerate of her customers and not drive them away. But...yes, business owners have the right to expect people to keep an eye on their kids. Yes, they have the right to try to keep their immense workload under control. And yes, they have the right to think of other customers, the ones who haven't walked through the door yet, who might be turned off by a mess and decide to go elsewhere.

Mom, did you apologize for the mess and ask for a broom to sweep it up? I bet Ms. MacDuff would have appreciated it, but would have declined your offer. Ms. MacDuff, could you have tried a little finesse and taken a broom over to the table and asked the kids if they knew how to sweep? Do you think Mom would have then offered to do it herself?

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