Strolling Along

Originally Posted July 19, 2012

Over the weekend my attention was drawn to an article about a Melbourne Cafe and the offense they caused some of their patrons by installing a ‘No Pram’ policy on weekends – read the article itself here.

The argument essentially goes that the Cafe owner has asked for no prams in the restaurant on the weekend due to the fact its a peak period and that, at capacity, perhaps there is little or no room to facilitate the use of prams without incurring potential risk to either the baby in the pram, the people around it, or god forbid the staff as well.

Caffe Panette (the name of the restaurant), whether you agree or disagree with the policy, has brought it to the forefront of hospitality issues and as you can probably expect, it’s time for me to contribute my thoughts on the matter whether you want them or not.

There are a few things that need to be said about prams. I understand that they are necessary, I understand the purpose that they serve and I don’t think parenting is easy. I want to make that clear, I am not against the function that prams serve, nor do I begrudge parents their rights to obtain one. I am not calling anyone a lazy parent for having a pram.

Now that that’s out of the way, some of these prams are a joke, a complete and utter joke. When I was a kid (and I’ve spoken to my Mum as research for this blog) my pram was of a conventional size and height. She was given one when I was first born that she found way too ‘big and impractical’ (her exact words). I’m pretty sure you’ll find that the words ‘big and impractical’ apply to many, many of the prams that exist in todays market. Some of them are built like off-road 4WD’s for crying out loud. I once again do not begrudge a parents right to purchase them, but to do so and then expect the world to get the hell out of your way because you’re pushing around an urban assault vehicle with your infant inside is ridiculous. There has to be a line. Unfortunately though, if there’s one social collective you don’t want to fuck with in the public eye, it’s parents with babies. I once again mean no disrespect to parenting but does the whole world have to bend to your whims all of a sudden, just because you conceived and pushed a tiny little person out of you? In Africa, where infant mortality is high, I’m sure prams don’t even matter.

What annoys me the most about this whole situation is that these parents are now claiming ‘discrimination’ by the restaurant and asking for boycotts by other parents. It is NOT discriminatory to operate in a way that maximises safety for everyone. If it was a 7-day a week, 24 hour flat NO PRAM policy then I guess you could complain but it only applies to weekends, the peak period in any restaurants weekly life, and this qualification makes it even more sensible. There are multiple things that could happen – your pram could be bumped, which is honestly no big deal, it happens in confined spaces – yet I have seen parents absolutely death stare the fuck out of someone merely for slightly nudging a pram as they seek thoroughfare. You could have someone standing right next to your pram, like less than a meter, which I have seen illicit the same response. When it comes down to it though there are two primary scenarios that the restaurant owner is trying to avoid – and these are what they are:

  1. Server comes along with a hot meal on a heavy plate. Space is minimal, and while they’re exercising care, they also have deadlines to meet so everything is running promptly. They’re bringing some meals through your section and all of a sudden, through one circumstance or another, or the mere unavailability of room due to your massive pram, they nudge/trip/slip and all of a sudden a couple of kilos of ceramics and some steaming hot food is coming down right on your baby.
  2. Server is bringing drinks to a table. Hot drinks, cold drinks, alcoholic or not, it doesn’t really matter. Once again due to the prompt running of a restaurant they are moving quickly in confined spaces only to once again trip or bump into the massive pram you’ve brought with you – instead of ceramics this time we have glass, sharp sharp glass and the potential for alcohol, sticky soft drink or some nice boiling tea on your infant.

You can be guaranteed that in 95-100% of these instances, the cafe, owner and staff would be to blame and would have to fix the problem, no matter what the cost and damage to the patron. At this point, as a venue owner, you have to ask yourself is it worth it? I work in a relatively big restaurant and at times I see people come in with these tanks on a busy Friday or Saturday and wonder where their logic is. There are of course, other reasons to introduce such a policy that you might not have considered.

  1. The turnover on these tables is more often than not incredibly slow, so losing money is a factor during peak periods.
  2. Not only that, but seeing a table spaced out with a massive pram and knowing that the only place you can sit is within a 5m radius of it is a turn off for potential customers. The amount of customers I have coming in asking to be sat away from the prams and the children is phenomenal – and we’re a family restaurant.
  3. For the staff, who have to carry the food/drinks and deal with the table, things are a lot less nerve racking when you’re not leaning over a baby trying to do your job.

Disagree/agree with those reasons if you will, they’re facts based on many, many years of hospitality experience. You can say that this whole issue is about the second three and not the first two but that just makes you an idiot with a ‘me against the world’ attitude – and that won’t get you anywhere. What annoys me the most about all of this is the selfishness of some of these parents. Instead of finding out the policy and discussing with the owner or writing a letter instead someone has merely been told by a staff-member about the policy, stormed out in a huff and gone and called the media. This is the world we live in now. In hospitality they say that someone’s good experience will be shared 2-5 times, but someone will share their bad experience 10-20 times. We are essentially held to ransom at times for the sole purpose of trying to keep the customer happy and yet when we try and install a rule or policy to make things slightly easier, safer or more manageable to ourselves we still have to explain it ridiculously. These pram parents that ran to the media are probably the same people that roll their eyes at you when you tell them (god forbid) that there might be a wait for a table.

The article itself shows the nature of these parents when they say that someone IN A WHEELCHAIR has a ‘big contraption they’re confined to as well, does the discrimination carry over?’. I need to take the f*#king idiot that said this to task. THIS IS NOT DISCRIMINATION. This is a safe workplace practice designed for the safety of you AND the business you fucking idiot. Someone in a wheelchair is in a (often) permanent life condition, nothing will change about their situation and they must carry on with their lives. Not only that, but with a person in a wheelchair restaurants often remove a chair from a table for the person to sit at. This does not happen with a pram and it always ends up at the end of the table blocking some kind of path. A wheelchair is a contraption that is as big as it needs to be to suit the needs of the person confined to it. A pram is a contraption that is as big as YOU WANT IT to be. It has less to do with the needs of your infant and more to do with YOUR selfish needs and how much you can fit in it. It takes you 10 minutes to get the fucking thing out of the car and set up. It causes YOU no convenience and yet you think it’s convenient for us?

It’s obvious that certain people don’t understand, that certain mothers think they should be able to carry on their normal lives and have the rest of the world bend over backwards for them because they’ve got a baby. I’m not saying you’re not worthy of respect and consideration, for sure. But the sad thing is we’ve gotten to a stage now where everyone feels ‘entitled’ without having to earn anything. If the place can accomodate you, then great! If they can’t, or they have a policy installed for primarily OH&S reasons that you must abide to – then just do it! If that place doesn’t want your business, take your massive pram and your feelings of entitlement elsewhere. I read a comment on that article that had a woman basically calling Hospitality workers ‘stupid’ for not being able to see prams. It’s not that simple you fucking idiot. When you’re in a restaurant thats filled to capacity you do your job but in terms of direction most of you is on autopilot. You know the quickest ways to get where you need to go and then, what do you know, you’re suddenly blocked in by prams. It makes service inefficient and on high-volume days with staff running around like madmen there is potential for something to go wrong, for someone to not see something despite its gigantic size. I can guarantee you the woman who made this comment is probably the same kind of bitch that would complain about having to wait an extra 5 minutes for something when the restaurant is packed, such is the feeling of entitlement with these people.

After all that it must be said that there are parents out there who I applaud for their common sense and their ability to see reason in actions like these. These people are wonderful and I know a few of them. My ire is directed at the other people, the kind of people who think ‘I can’t sit in a packed restaurant and take up space with my pram, how unjust, I must report to the media immediately’, the people who feel like, by pushing around a freaking massive pram (and more often than not driving a 4WD in suburbia too), it entitles them to respect. I’ve never been to Caffe Panette, I’ve never seen the size of the floor and the layout so I can’t make my own individual assessment, but chances are neither have 80% of the mothers making fired up comments about it. I suppose I’m talking more about the issue. You can probably tell that much of my personal preference is against having too many of these massive prams, but that doesn’t mean I would install the policy in my restaurant. We’re big enough to handle it – but a Cafe?

Regardless of if the Cafe is right to do it, it’s their business and should be their call. Running to the media, and reading the subsequent comments, merely shows us all just how entitled this new breed of parents think they are. It’s not all, of course, but enough – and I hope that if one of you reads this you see it more as an explanation than an attack. But most of you won’t – and that’s fine with me. It’s common sense, and it’s safety. How about you, as the customer, exercise some for once.

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