Thursday, March 17, 2016

What kind of customer are you?

We have some of the most wonderful customers in the world - especially our old Glenview customers who drive down to Hinsdale for their fish - that's total dedication!
     The difficult thing for anyone who has to deal with the public on a regular basis is letting go of the bad ones. You can have 100 great customers, and one total crab, and the crab memories hang on forever.
     Recent example - we had a sale on ono (wahoo) that was very popular, and by Saturday afternoon we were almost totally sold out. A customer who wanted ono but hadn't called ahead, was very upset that 1) there was so little left, and 2) that the 4 remaining pieces weren't "uniform." She wanted four portions that all looked exactly the same. She ended up buying something else, but complained loudly about her disappointment.
     One wonders if she's ever noticed what a whole fish looks like. To get only pieces that look the same, we'd have to throw away over half the fish. It's not what the fillets look like in any case, it's what the fish tastes like, and ono is delicious. Something the size of a cow you can get more uniformity. A fish, not so easy.
     We buy fresh fish, and we want to sell out, so that we can order new fresh fish the next day. Stores that buy tons of fish and keep it in the back cooler to fill the fresh case aren't really selling fresh fish when they get to the bottom of the pile. We always tell our customers that if they want something special, they should call and place an order and we'll put what they need aside for them.
     Having spent more time in the stores the past few years, I understand both the desire to make the customer happy, and in some cases, the inability to please some people no matter what you do.
     I remember once in Marshal Fields (obviously a while ago) a woman was demanding her money back on some towels that she had obviously washed in bleach and ruined. The sales clerk (and everyone else) knew this woman had ruined her own towels, but the clerk took them back and refunded the woman's money. The customer was spectacularly rude, and the clerk amazingly patient. As the next person in line, I made it a point of being super nice to her.
     For a big company like Marshal Fields, two returned towels were not a big deal. For a small company like ours, when someone leaves their fish in the car in a heated garage over night, or in the summer in a very hot car, and then brings it back because it's "bad," that's a different situation. We've had this happen more than once.  Sometimes, when you wreck something, you need to take personal responsibility. Then next time, remember to take the fish out of the car. And we're always happy to give you a bag of ice.
     Dealing with the public every day is a tough job - we'd love to be perfect, but no one is that good - we certainly aim to please everyone who comes to us, and are very upset with ourselves if we somehow fail. If a complaint is legitimate we do everything we can to rectify the situation. And sometimes we have to grit our teeth and make the customer happy, even when they're totally off base. Everyone has a bad day now and again, and we never know what might be going on in someone's life that's making them miserable. We just wish that there was a way to cleanse ourselves of the misery of dealing with the grouches.
     Ask yourself, what kind of customer are you?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fishing for Spring

The El Nino oceanic current system seems to have brought us fairly mild winter and an early spring -- nice for us, maybe not so nice for the fish, especially on the west coast. Or at least not the ones that like cold water. According to Ryan Rykaczewski, Nereus Program alumni and assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, and an expert on El Nino: 
"In the tropical Pacific, the trade winds typically blow along the equator from the east to the west, from Central America towards Asia. These winds stimulate the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich waters along the west coasts of North and South America and along the equator in the eastern Pacific. In contrast, the waters of the western Pacific are typically warm. However, during El Niños, for reasons that are not well understood, the trade winds weaken or sometimes even reverse direction. That weakening of trade winds inhibits the upwelling of cold water, and waves of abnormally warm water slosh towards the coasts of North and South America. During the biggest El Niño, in 1997 and 98, the surface waters were about 2.5 degrees warmer than average in the eastern Pacific. Over such a large area, that’s a lot of abnormal heat."
The warm water loving fish, like tuna, swordfish, ono (wahoo) and mahi mahi, come closer to shore on the US west coast, making them easier to catch, while the cold water fish (think wild salmon and halibut) find it less thrilling - their food supply is damaged by the warm water, and they can be affected by algal blooms caused by the warming waters. The food fish love to eat, largely Peruvian anchovies, die off in El Nino conditions, affecting the viability of not only fish, but all kinds of sea mammals and birds as well. 
     So while we're enjoying a lovely warm spring, the salmon and halibut will be swimming further north, looking for colder waters. This could mean lower supplies and higher prices on the cold-loving fish, perhaps a break on the warm water guys. 
     As basically the last wild food that we eat, some of us (you know who you are...) need to get over the idea that all farmed fish is bad - if we want the resource to last, we need to have other viable sources for our seafood. In fact, the only organic fish available is raised - because we don't know what the wild fish have been eating, there's no way to say its organic. We trust our sources for our raised fish - we love wild fish too, but we want some of it left for our grandchildren!