Smugglers' Inn started as a theme restaurant in Blaine, Minnesota and has become, if not a legitimate advertising agency, then a viable agency alternative with two dedicated ad employees, Carol Henderson, art director and Jarl Olsen, copywriter. Read the whole saga in these posts or click the pirate to follow the entertaining tweets of our dishwasher, Pongo. Who may or may not be an orangutan.!/PongoTryHard

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The lesson of the purse.

World's least waterproof item?

“Those who do not see the power of social media are dinosaurs with their heads in the sand…and  you can’t breathe sand!”   
--Forward, “The Ten Commandments of Social Media Marketing”, E.Rand and V.S. Majudru, 2013.

Well, it isn’t as if we at Smugglers’ Inn are keepers of the Queen’s English, but sentences like the one above, which one encounters throughout “The Ten Commandments of Social Media Marketing” might have tipped us off that we should have popped for one of the other 20 similar titles Amazon had on the subject.  It was probably the biblical reference that hooked us; Smugglers’ Inn runs on a prayer.  Once we had the actual book (or the Kindle Fire with the book app) in our hands, we learned that communicating to the public through numbered lists was one of the Ten Commandments of Social Media Marketing.  As was the number 10 itself, which knocked off another commandment, but not the tenth commandment, as one may think.   No, the tenth commandment was, “Thou shalt fascinate!” “Remember the power of ten and keep it holy,” was commandment three.  Just as I was making sense of commandment four, “Thou shalt gather the data”, our seating hostess, Cat, stuck her head in my office and knocked to get my attention.

“Hey, boss!  Got a flaming emergency.”

“You don’t seem to be on fire,” I said, putting down the Kindle.

“Funny.  Somebody tried to flush a purse down the toilet and there’s water everywhere.”

It never fails; just as you’re about to tap into the hidden market forces that will make you rich beyond comprehension, someone presents you with a plumbing problem.

“Did you try pulling the purse out of the toilet?” I asked Cat. Quite reasonably, I thought.

This was greeted with a snort.  “Like you pay me enough to stick my hand in a toilet.”

Cat had formerly been as faultlessly courteous with me as she is with our customers.   It's only in the last week or so that she’d taken to calling me “boss” and being disrespectful as a show of  solidarity with Pongo, our dishwasher, whom I’d turned down for a raise.  Still, she was right: as a seating hostess, Cat made zilch tips and got the fewest hours of anyone on the schedule.  I’m not sure what the going rate for paying young ladies to stick their hands in toilets is, but it surely exceeds $7.20 an hour.  The going rate for plumbers, I know.  Which is why, when Cat turned on her heels and left, I rolled up my sleeves, stood up and took a deep breath.

“Jorge!” I shouted.

Jorge was the third of his name to have worked at Smugglers’ Inn as a cook/dishwasher.  He inherited his job from his nephew, Jorge number two, who had run into what you might call a spot of bother with the authorities.  We sincerely hoped Jorge 2 would be rejoining us soon, as Jorge 3 skeeved everybody out.

“What’s up, boss?”  Jorge had been hovering right outside my door.  Good—he already knew what was coming.

“Jorge, I need you to go into the women’s bathroom and pull out a purse that somebody tried to flush down a toilet.”

“Can I keep what’s in it?”

“Only if it’s gum.  Oh, and grab a mop, will you?  There’s a lot of water.”

Number Six of the Ten Commandment of Social Media Marketing is “Thou shalt be diligent.”  In the context of the book, “diligence” refers to monitoring how your efforts are paying off as expressed in terms of visits, Facebook likes and any of a dozen numbers associated with online performance.  Diligence is also a good motto when you’re running a restaurant with a diverse workforce that includes a man with no solid references and a tattoo of a spider on his temple.  I’d give Jorge 3 a couple of minutes alone, then I’d pop in and pretend to be looking for the shut-off valve for water going into the ladies rest room.
The valves controlling the water to and from our men’s and women’s restrooms are, point-of-fact, located in our cloakroom.  Talk to the architect.

After going to the cloakroom and moving a quiver of black umbrellas that were obscuring them (why do only black umbrellas get abandoned?), I located the two shut-off valves.  I turned them both off rather than look up which was which.  We had officially been open for dinner for 40 minutes, but there was no one in the dining room and I wasn’t overly worried about inconveniencing the party of teachers taking advantage of happy hour.  None of them was drinking beer.  Besides, they’re just teachers.
I waited in the cloakroom for a couple of minutes, during which time I tried to name all of the Ten Commandments of Social Media Marketing.  I could only recall the ones already mentioned, plus “Remember the list and keep it holy”, commandment eight.  Or was it nine?   I went next door to check on my man’s progress.
Jorge was already mopping up.  Laid out on the sink was a beige leather clutch purse and its soggy contents, which consisted of a Minnesota drivers license showing that she was just a year over drinking age, a pack of tissues, lip gloss, lipstick, Dentyne Ice, Hyundai car keys and can of mace the size of a cigarette lighter.   For those really tiny assailants.
“Any money?” I asked Jorge.  If the purse had been stolen, the thief would have removed cash and credit cards and if not, they’d be in Jorge’s pocket.  Still, I thought I had to at least ask.

“Over there,” Jorge said, motioning with his head. “I didn’t count it.”

The infant changing table had been pulled down.  Laid out on it was $56 in wet bills--one ten, the rest fives and ones.  Waitress money.  Had Jorge left it out of professional courtesy?
“Jorge, you’re the man.  You saved me calling a plumber. Thanks.”

“Nothin’ to it, boss.”

“Don’t worry about this,” I told Jorge, indicating the floor. “I’ll get one of the busboys to mop up.”

I located the purse’s owner in the lounge.  She was leaning over the bar, chatting up our bartender, Adolpho.  I’d guessed semi-right.  The woman wasn’t a waitress; she was a bartender.  Somehow, she’d gotten started talking shop with Adolpho.   Service workers almost always talk shop when they come together, although it ain’t for nothing that Adolpho’s nickname is “El Fabio.”  When I informed the young lady about her purse, she glanced over to a table occupied by two empty margarita glasses and blurted out the “C” word.  Apparently, she’d gotten so wrapped up swapping stories of surviving bar rushes and 86-ing drunks that she’d forgotten she hadn’t come in alone.  Or that she was supposed to be getting drinks for her girlfriend and herself.  God knows how long her wing gal sat fuming before she’d lost it.  Still, trying to flush someone else’s purse down the crapper is déclassé, even for Blaine.

I set a plastic with the purse and contents on the stool next to her and left, not waiting for a thank-you from the woman, who was still swearing.  She would likely get some sympathy from Adolpho, whose other nickname was “Ado the slut”.
I was confident that this episode had fulfilled the drama quotient for the evening, but as so often happens lately, I was wrong.  When I returned to my office to look up the Ten Commandments of Social Media Marketing that I couldn’t name, Jorge was sitting in my guest chair.  Great.  I pasted on a smile.
“Jorge! What’s on your mind, big guy?”

“Ah, boss,” he said, “I hate to do this to you, but I’m gonna have quit.  Tonight’s gotta be my last night.” 

“Well, that f***ing sucks,” I said.  I was sincere; Jorge III may have been of the poorest employees on the payroll, with a history of showing late and/or high, but he will show up and he will wash dishes.

“I know, I know.  I would like to give you, like, two week’s notice and all, but my cousin got done with his thing.”  What Jorge II’s “thing” was had never been explained.  Still, I knew what this meant.

“And he wants his old job back?”

Jorge III nodded.  “He’s got a family to take care of, you know?”

I didn’t, but if he was sending money back home to a wife and kid in Mexico, it would explain why he worked so insanely hard.  Jorge II didn’t look old enough to be a daddy, but Hispanic families start early.  I’ll have to ask to see pictures of his kid when he comes back.  Yay!  Good Jorge is coming back.  Evil Jorge? GONE-O.

“I suppose,” I said, “you want me to cash you out?  We’re just into a new pay period; I’m guessing you don’t want to wait 15 days for your last check.”

“Man, that would be real good; I’m kinda short right now.”

I got $137.50 from petty cash, the pre-tax amount Jorge had earned in his last two days with and scribbled out a receipt for the funds.  As I watched Jorge go through the motions of reading the receipt before signing it, I tried and failed make out a single identifiable image or word from the layers of blue-black ink that practically obliterated the top of his hand and forearm.  How had I had ever let this stone killer come to work at Smugglers’ Inn in the first place?

“Well, I better get to it,” Jorge III said, ”Chef wants me to de-vein about twenty pounds of shrimp.”

“Yeah, better get to it.”

“Um, boss?”

Jesus, what now? I saw Jorge swallow, like he was getting ready to say something that was really difficult for him.  He was going to ask me for a loan, I could see it coming.  That’s it: cancel the send-off drinks I was going to authorize tonight.  We’ll celebrate after he’s gone.

“I just wanna say, “thanks”.  For giving me a shot, you know? I really like my job."

“Jorge, we hate to see you go; you’re a good worker.  I wish there was someway we could keep you on, but if your cousin’s coming back…”

Jorge waved me silent.  “I know that I don’t exactly make a good a first impression.  I’m not stupid.  Well, I’m not that stupid.  I appreciate that you gave me a chance—that everybody gave me a chance.  You got some nice people here.”

“The best,” I agreed.  Then Jorge shook my hand.  He was smiling, but I think he was actually choked up.  “The shrimp,” he managed to say and started walking off.

“Hey, Jorge, wait a sec.  You ever do any landscaping? Northtown is gonna stop maintaining this little patch of turf that we’re on.  I thought we could make some little hills and plant trees around the dumpster.  Make it presentable, you know?”

And that’s how Smugglers’ Inn got a gardener and Jorge III got to keep his 40 hours a week.  For a month or two, anyway.  I still can’t say why I did it, but I’ve no regrets. Smugglers’ will need to convert an advertising prospect or two, but that shouldn’t be impossible; we’re social media experts now.