Sun, Sea and Subpar Customer Service

I’m writing this sitting in my office, wearing a hoodie. I’m staring out of the window at a dull grey sky. The wind is buffeting the walls of the cabin and I may have to turn my little blow heater on. It’s August and I’m not warm.  


When you read this it’s my hope that the weather has shifted back to what you’d expect in September. For now, I’m chilly. 


I’m chillier than I would be because we’ve recently returned from 10 days in Italy. Sorrento to be precise, on the Amalfi Coast where the temperature on some days peaked at 37 degrees.

Ash Holiday 3

It was beautiful. Gorgeous coastlines and stunning scenery.  Water that came in every shade of blue you can imagine. If you’ve not been, I definitely recommend it. 


We had an incredible time and managed to do the usual things expected of you when you visit that part of Italy. 


Herculaneum was stunning.  Pompeii was fascinating yet sobering at the same time. It’s difficult to imagine the scale of the disaster until you see it up close. 

 Ash holday 2

Capri was a lovely place to spend a day. We climbed 1600 feet to visit the villa of Emperor Tiberius who moved his seat of office to the island for 11 years. The views of the neighbouring islands and the Amalfi coastline were well worth the effort of the climb, even if I had to wring my clothes out afterwards. 


The highlight of the trip was a visit to a small town called Positano, on the coast. Like many of the towns along this stretch of coastline it’s built in a meandering fashion against a cliff face. The town climbs from the shore line to the top of the cliff.  


Our reason for the visit to Positano was this. Two days before we left I was at a local networking event in my town. I was chatting to someone I’ve known for a few months, Alison. I mentioned that we were going to Sorrento on holiday and she told me that she’d visited a few years ago and loved it.  


Alison then proceeded to insist that we “have to go to this gorgeous restaurant off the coast of Positano.” 


I asked her what she meant by “off the coast”. She explained that the restaurant was several miles along the shoreline and could only be reached by boat from Positano dock.  As part of your booking, the restaurant sends a boat to pick you up and drop you off. You can spend the whole day on this isolated cove, swim, sunbathe and generally relax before and after having lunch. 


Sounds perfect. 


When I got home, Alison had sent me a link to the restaurant (called Da Adolfo) via email. The pictures and description looked brilliant and backed up by Alison’s recommendation, we resolved to visit. 


So, we’re in our hotel and as you do, we asked the hotel staff if they’d mind ringing Da Adolfo to book us a table. It had been pretty clear on their website that you weren’t getting in without a reservation.  


They rang. And rang, and rang. 


And rang. 


For two days – no answer. 


We figured that we’d take a punt anyway, go to Positano as it looked beautiful and see if we could turn up and get a table. 


We get on the bus along the coast which drops us off at the top of the town, and amble our way downwards towards the port. 


The port consists of a tiny little dock made from what looks like balsa wood.  I can see a little boat with the Da Adolfo red fish sign at the dock so we know that we’re at least in the right place. 


On the boat is a ridiculously good looking and super fit Italian guy. 


We ask him if this is the right boat for the restaurant and the conversation that follows goes a little like this: 


SFIG: “Yes. Do you have reservation” 


Kay: “No, but can we get a table when we get to the restaurant?” (I’d have blagged it and said yes). 


SFIG: “No reservation, no boat” 


Kay: “What do you mean?” 


SFIG: “You can’t get on the boat without a reservation”. 


Kay: (turning on the charm) “We really want to come to your restaurant. We’ve been trying to book for two days and no one answered” 


SFIG: “I just drive the boat, the boss answers the phone”. 


Kay: “He doesn’t answer the phone”. 


SFIG: “I just drive the boat, maybe you call now?” 


We call, no answer. 


(Should have blagged it. What’s the worst that would have happened? I can’t swim by the way). 


Super fit Italian guy gives a dismissive shrug of his shoulders, helps the other passengers onto the boat and drives off. His immaculate hair, shining in the sunshine, and his arrogance propelling the boat. 


We’re disappointed. I’m starting to think that Alison was a bit confused. Maybe she got the name wrong. If you can’t get through to book a table, it can’t be that good. The place must be empty…. 


At this point we’re approached by a lady who says that she overheard our conversation with SFIG. She says that she’s had the same challenge booking a table at Da Adolfo. 


But, she went on… Did we know that on the same cove as Da Adolfo. There’s another restaurant which also sends a boat for its customers.  She’s waiting for it, as it will be there in about fifteen minutes? Did we want the number? 




I have a quick look on Google while Kay makes the call, and TreVille turns out to be a rather swanky looking beach club. 


Kay gets through almost immediately and we secure a table for 2.30. 10 minutes later a (much nicer looking) boat turns up and whizzes us off to our secluded cove and restaurant. 


It’s a tough life, sitting on loungers by the bar next to the ocean in 30 degrees of sunshine being served drinks. TreVille was lovely, and we could swim in the sea, relax, and do all the things that Da Adolfo promised us. The difference is that TreVille answered the phone. 


We had an incredible experience, topped off with a fabulous lunch. 


What amazed me, and the point of this article, is that Da Adolfo was heaving.  


I mean, it was full to the brim. 




In TreVille, we could wander around, pretty much pick where we wanted to sit.  Next door at Da Adolfo would have made a family of sardines feel claustrophobic.  


How does a business that doesn’t answer its phone and refuses email bookings get so busy?  


Maybe there’s a secret number only available to those ‘in the know’.  


Perhaps there’s a “we don’t talk about fight club” rule in force? 


Whatever it is. Their formula works. SFIG clearly had a right to throw his dismissive arrogance around. He could afford to enforce his “you’re not on the guest list, so you’re not getting on my boat” attitude. 


They didn’t need our business. Possibly, they never will. 


It got me thinking about what it would take to be so oversubscribed? 


So busy that you could be that dismissive about potential customers.  


That, when they’re almost begging to do business with you, you can afford to say no, knowing you’ve a full house anyway? 


Food for thought eh…..?

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