Dancing Monkey Syndrome

I eat out a lot.  As in at least once a week.  And I’ve noticed a phenomenon I like to call “Dancing Monkey Syndrome.”  My husband warned me that this particular term might be offensive, so please believe me when I say that I mean no offense by using the term

Dancing Monkey Syndrome (DMS) occurs when you force your employees to dance or do other embarrassing things when their job in any other establishment would not require doing such tasks.

I first saw DMS at Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Union City.  First I saw that all of the employees (but not managers) were forced to wear shirts that said “I love my job.”  I come from the school of thought that says that if people truly loved their jobs, they would not have to wear something that proclaims it to the world.  I also notice a high turnover rate at this particular establishment.  Love their jobs?  I think not.

Then I also noticed that about once an hour, Texas Roadhouse servers, bussers and hostesses, had to line dance for the amusement of their customers.  I have to admit that some of the customers seemed happy/entertained by their Dancing Monkeys, but me?  Not so much.  I watched the employees’ faces and body language.  Some definitely said “I love to dance”.  Others said something along the lines of “Kill me now.”  Still others looked frazzled as they were trying to remember the dance steps AND what table 12 needed AND that the food for table 6 was coming up soon, etc.  Incidentally, I have to wonder if forcing your employees to dance instead of take care of customers is one of the reasons for the high turnover rate.

At first, I thought DMS was limited to Texas Roadhouse.  Then DH and I went to Vegas a couple of weekends ago.  We’d planned on going to Johnny Rockets at Fashion Show Mall and grabbing a milkshake.  When we walked towards the restaurant, we saw the employees dancing.  Yup, DMS strikes again.  I really wanted a shake, so we walked up to the podium to wait for a seat.  The host stopped dancing to ask us to wait until the dancing stopped.  We said OK, and then walked away.

So here’s the thing.  DMS has been around for awhile – remember having all the servers sing you happy birthday at your favorite family restaurant?  But at what point does it become ridiculous?  When does it get in the way of giving decent service?  And when does it become embarrassing for the staff?  I think there’s a difference between singing happy birthday every few hours and dancing once an hour.  Although I understand that some employees may see enforced dancing as a quick break/recharge session, the majority of them see it as onerous and embarrassing.  And, as a customer, I think I’d much rather have my food and drink brought quickly rather than be forced to watch people transform themselves into dancing monkeys.


1 Comment

  1. I am with you! If I am in a restaurant, I am there because I want to eat. And not just eat, but I want someone to cater to me – bring my drinks, and meal, and whatever else I ask for in a timely fashion (and also do all the clean-up). But I expect it to be unobtrusive. I am there to enjoy some food and the company of whomever I am there with…if I wanted to watch people dancing or making fools of themselves, I would go to a show or watch TV.

    I would have done the same thing and walked away if someone asked me to wait to be seated until they were done dancing. If the dancing is _so_ important to the management that they are willing to sacrifice service and show that they don’t want my money, I am happy to oblige them.

    Lately I’ve been running into similar things at hotels. Namely the Courtyard by Marriott – they have revamped a lot of their hotels and require the person checking me in to tell me all about the new features (and apparently they can’t take, “I’m not interested.” or “I stay here all the time, I already know all about it.” for an answer.) I feel bad for those employees, but it has also stopped me from staying at their hotels if I can avoid them. I also jump all over the chance to complete surveys now whenever anyone offers one…and I give, blunt, honest, and I hope, constructive feedback.

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