Friday, August 24, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.
Foodies, restaurant critics, and even food novices (often called 'diners') are aware that when it comes to service, Miami is somewhat lacking.
Rude and negligent servers make you wait eons for a napkin or glass of wine, and respond with a barely concealed sneer when you dare to mention your frustration.
I thought that this nuisance was contained to five-star restaurants, but after an extremely unpleasant incident at a Florida supermarket, I decided to investigate.
It would seem to me that the most coveted position at Publix is that of food demonstrator - you know, the viejitas who stand behind a little kiosk, prepare a Publix recipe, and then hand out samples. The job description probably reads 'cook food and talk to people.'
So why is it that some of these employees hate their job, and just maybe, you?
I called Publix HQ and was directed to speak with Kim Reynolds in Media and Community Relations. I wanted to get some insight into the thought process that goes into selecting which Publix employees are chosen for these positions. You would think that gregarious, extroverted, friendly people would take up these highly interactive positions. After all, they call for a bit of showmanship. This is what she said:
"Apron's Simple Meals is an extension of our customer service and certainly a position in which we seek to employ enthusiastic associates committed to providing premier customer service."
Reynolds also informed me that Publix would like to follow up on the situation which each individual store. Here's a list of what I've encountered:
Gisella who works at the Publix in Homestead just east of the Turnpike, told me that she would rather take out the trash than hand out samples.
Here's another gem: When customers ask Cristina at the Publix on SW 147th Avenue and Coral Way about the ingredients she is using in the recipe, she just points and says, "It's right there." During my investigation, I witnessed a customer asking when the food would be ready. She answered, "A long time." When the customer persisted - obviously asking for an actual unit of time - she replied, "A very long time." She also told an 18-year-old man that he had to be 21 years old to get a sample. I confirmed with the manager that it was not true.
I think my all-time favorite curmudgeon has to be Susan at the Publix on Miller Drive and 94th Avenue. As she hands out samples, she continuously repeats, almost as if on autopilot, "You are supposed to buy these items. That is what this program is for. The items are all right here. You are supposed to buy them." Then, when I started to question her "sales pitch" she informed me that she reads the Bible and watches only Christian television.
Perhaps Publix doesn't put much thought into who is selected to perform these food demos. Consider this: Shopping at Publix is supposed to be "a pleasure."