We walked into the restaurant hungry, which was our first mistake.
The waitress seated us, took our order and then disappeared behind the swinging kitchen door.
We weren't wearing watches, which was our second mistake, because we don't know how long we waited. It felt like an eternity. We aged at that table. We emptied our water glasses, our conversation grew quiet and all our attention focused on that closed kitchen door. Any minute, we thought, our waitress would appear, an apologetic smile on her face, but her arms loaded with food.
When she did appear, empty handed, we waited for her to stop by our table and offer a reason. Instead, she walked right by.
We flagged her down and asked for some bread to help our hunger while we waited. That was our next mistake.
By the time our meals came, it was not what we had ordered, but the earth had completed an orbit of the sun since we arrived and we were hungry.
We finished and asked for our check. When it arrived, not only was there no apology for the bad service, or an offer of a discount, but we were charged for the bread we ordered to help with the wait.
We paid the bill and left that restaurant promising never to return.
Years ago, a couple of business owners went before the Payson Town Council and complained that residents do not support local business. When Wal-Mart asked for a rezoning for its Beeline Supercenter, people balked at the impact it would have on local business.
The local business owners might have been right and Wal-Mart may have had a detrimental effect on small retail stores, but we believe there is more to the story. And that story begins with experiences like the one we had at that local restaurant.
Consider Ace Hardware. The Home Depot moved in down the road and Wal-Mart relocated directly across the street from the store, yet Ace Hardware has continued to thrive. It has been voted Best Hardware Store 10 years running in the Payson Roundup's Best of Payson readers' poll, and if you've ever shopped there, you know why.
Walk through the doors of that store and you are immediately greeted. Ask where to find the light bulbs, and a staff member will walk you to the spot. That kind of service remains in the memory of any customer who experiences it and keeps a local business alive.
Often, residents are made to feel guilty for shopping online or making a trip to the Valley instead of keeping money in the local economy.
But while we believe it is important to shop locally, we also believe it is a two-way street. The responsibility should be on the business owner or manager to provide the products and service that will keep residents from looking elsewhere.
As the Payson Gateway Project works to beautify the northern entrance to town, we also need to consider what happens once we are inside the gates.
While the work of groups like the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation can do a lot for the financial health of this town, spending that extra minute on customer service may be the best thing we can do for our economy.