Hospitality in Columbia, SC
Hospitality in Columbia plays in integral role in its economy and society. Recently, the revitalization of Main Street has brought about many new businesses, as well as renovations, and Main Street’s motto “Shop Proud, Shop Columbia”. Our field trip through the South Carolina State House grounds and the Main Street district, opened my eyes to many things I was once unaware of, despite living less than a mile away.
On Main Street, we walked by two major hotels – the Sheraton and the Marriott. Also on our mini journey, we passed by many restaurants, a salon, and some boutiques. These included, but were not limited to: Bourbon (1214 Main St.), First Citizens Café (1210 Main St.), The Oak Table (1221 Main St.), Atlanta Bread Company (1307 Main St.), Drip (1441 Main St.), Zoe’s Kitchen (1320 Main St. #150), Granger Owings (1333 Main St.), Salon Solé (1332 Main St.), Cantina 76 (1301 Main St.), Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse (1508 Main St.), Swanson’s Deli (1332 Main St.), and the Equitable Arcade Bldg. (1332 Main St./ 1216 Washington St.).
· This link provides information on the Main Street district, as well as surrounding areas: http://www.columbiacvb.com/things-to-do/shopping/.
· The following link provides more information on the revitalization of the Main Street/ Vista area (from 2007): http://www.citycentercolumbia.sc/pdfs/DowntownStrategy_3-31_08final-addendum.pdf.
The Main Street area has different types of businesses than in Five Points/ Devine Street and The Vista. Each of these areas also caters to a different type of crowd. Five Points/ Devine Street provides to the younger college crowd, while Main Street and The Vista caters more towards young professionals and business professionals (especially on Main Street with the banks). This particular area for years has been undergoing a revitalization process. The businesses on Main Street are all different in their own way, they all offer the same things – goods and services – that in turn offer hospitality and are a place of assemblage. Much of these restaurants and hotels appeal to professionals because it is within close walking distance to their place of employment.
While being hospitable, one is not only providing goods and services, but they must use their time efficiently, and work in a manner in which they were “trained”. Without doing this, the business will inevitably fail. A good example is where Bourbon is currently located. Previously before being Bourbon, it was another restaurant, which clearly did not live up to the end of its bargain. Those involved with this business failed at providing the proper service required to remain in business. If time is not used efficiently and proper service is not provided, it will lead to an unhappy consumer. Word of mouth alone can cause any business to fail; especially today, if one uses Yelp reviews to check on a business and the business they provide. Here, one can rate any business and rave or gripe about the services provided.
Another factor one must take into consideration is the quality of goods and services being provided. At establishments such as the Oak Table and Bourbon, one would expect a better quality of service and food, due to the cost. Establishments such as Zoë’s Kitchen and Atlanta Bread Company offer fast and on the go service, which mean cheaper prices. Zoë’s Kitchen is also only open during peak lunch hours, but business remains steady due to the demand. One can get healthy, quality food, for a reasonable price, in a nicer environment. Another factor is the time of day an establishment is being visited. Many of these restaurants have “lunch hours” and (sometimes) close until dinner. Businesses open during lunch hours provide cheaper food and fast, yet efficient service. The reasoning behind this is because consumers are on the go and don’t have as much time to sit and enjoy a full meal, since they have other obligations to return to at work, etc.
Establishments provide “hospitality” by predicting what the consumer may need in an time efficient, cost effective, and friendly manner, while working under the supervision of their boss and consumer. According to vemer Andrezejewski, “the gaze of efficiency in the workplace this was meant to control physical movement…” and “managers or supervisors occupied strategically placed spaces that gave them comprehensive views of their employees while also serving as visual reminders to workers of their omnipresence” (46). With the omnipresence of constant supervision, people work more efficiently. They know they cannot be on their phones, chatting with their friends, or doing something irrelevant to their job, due to the repercussions they will inevitably receive. At a restaurant, this is typically shown through lack of tip and reprimand, while at retail/ hotel establishments this is shown only through reprimand since it is uncustomary to tip these types of employees.
Pleasing the consumer and making them feel confident in the goods they purchased is the best way in providing good hospitality. If a consumer is unhappy, that means proper hospitality was not given. Providing hospitality in restaurants, boutiques, and hotels, for the most part are the same, but do have certain attributes, which are distinctive. Having worked in all three types of establishments before, I realized consumers want different things, in different establishments. Restaurants, hotel, and retail establishments all trained me in particular ways to treat consumers, as well as the proper way to diffuse certain situations, which inevitably will occur.
In restaurants, we are expected to watch the customer and predict their needs to ensure proper service. If their drink is half empty, we fill it up, if it looks like they are almost done, we prepare to bring out their next course, or start to prepare their check. The customers are aware they are being watched by their servers and cameras, but act no differently, since it is a place of enjoyment. They know they are not being scrutinized. The cameras are there more for their protection and to monitor the flow of traffic. Customers are “tracked” in restaurants when their orders are input into the point-of-sale computer system based on what table they are sitting on. The way they pay is also monitored.
At hotels, there are many cameras located inside and outside. These cameras are being monitored to not scrutinize the movements of others, but to assure the safety of guests. The method in which guests pay and when they enter their rooms are monitored via their keycard. In order to provide hospitality at a hotel, one must remain friendly check-in to checkout, and attend to the guests needs, whether it is extra towels, toiletries, calling a cab, etc.
The Sheraton Downtown Columbia, on Main Street is a 140 room hotel with 14 suites. While working at this hotel a few years ago, I noticed that the clientele was different from those that would go to a Holiday Inn. This hotel had a contract with the state, and many politicians would stay here when they had business at the State House, other guests included Drake and his "entourage", Cirque du Soleil, visitors of the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, etc. Guests such as Drake and his "entourage" and the politicians were expected to receive a different kind of service from other guests. While the other guests were expected to receive exceptional service, we were expected to cater towards these guests more, due to their status. While this may sound unfair, it is something that is sadly true, but expected. We were expected to go above and beyond, which included driving these people to certain destinations and setting up whatever reservations or appointments they may have desired.
Retail establishments typically use cameras to keep an eye on the customer(s). According to Slobogin there are three ways in which cameras can be useful, and these are “(1) they might help spot incipient crime that can be prevented, or at least solved through immediate action; (2) they might create a record of crime that can be used in identifying and convicting perpetrators at some later time; and (3) they might deter crime” (86). In most cases, customers in higher end retail establishments are highly aware that cameras, staff, and sometimes security guards are watching them. Therefore, they are less likely to commit a crime. Those that watch cameras in retail establishments are trained to watch for certain actions that may be an indicator of suspicious activity. Providing hospitality at retail establishments also means attending to the customers needs, but in a different manner. We get clothing they may desire, order it online if it is out of stock, help them pick clothing out, etc. In the end, we want the customer to leave happy, whether or not something was purchased. The type of hospitality provided at certain retail establishments also depend on the quality of goods. One expects a different quality of service at a Target versus Chanel. This is due to the fact that one has different expectations at different establishments. At my current job, we are to make the consumer feel as they are having a personalized shopping experience. This is much different from previous establishments I worked at, where we had generic greetings, and typically were "robotic" in the way we worked.
(posted on the wall at my job)
The act of hospitality is disciplinary in character, in that we are all trained to be friendly to others and attend to their needs. We are part of what Ewald calls a “disciplinary society” (140). In this type of society, “discipline tends not to divide or compartmentalize society but works instead to create a homogeneous social space” and “disciple ‘produces’ individuals” (141). We are each disciplined in certain ways to be act in a courteous manner to those around us. This is especially true when we are the ones providing hospitality. We act to the best of our ability to ensure that the proper goods and services are received, so that the customer comes back and remains happy. If one is treated poorly, they will be unlikely to return to that establishment and tell others about their bad experience. Because of this there is circularity to hospitality. Consumers will continue to return to establishments where there was good hospitality.
Since all businesses are required to provide hospitality, it is just a question of the means in which they go about to providing it. In the end it all boils down to one thing – how one was trained/ disciplined into providing the proper customer service in order to ensure a happy consumer to keep the establishment afloat. We can further correlate hospitality with our Deleuze discussion in class. We discussed discipline (worth in product) versus control (amount of work) and how that all tied into money and how it is managed and the value of time. The consumers are citizens and each element is relative to each other and flexible, and is adjusted to fit certain goals. We also need to ensure that these businesses are using their time efficiently when it comes to providing goods/ services and hospitality.
When transitioning back to the State House (Gervais St.), after walking through Main Street, awareness of visibility greatly increased. We were aware of increased police presence and cameras. As humans, we are more likely to act more rigid when we are aware we are being watched. Going through the Main Street area, our demeanors changed. We seemed more “loose” in our behavior, although we knew cameras were watching us. Everyone went about his or her daily business like it was nothing. People continued to talk on their phones as they ate or walked, and eat lunch while chatting with coworkers, etc. Walking by certain businesses such as Salon Solé, I was able to observe two employees watching videos on their iPads through the large windows. It was evident that they were so used to the mirrors, they were unaware that people were watching them doing something unproductive. This is evidence that people are more likely to be themselves when they are in non-governmental locations. With all that being said, we are constantly under the “major effect of the Panopticon” (201). No matter where we are, or what we are doing in todays society we are constantly being watched whether it be via surveillance cameras or by persons. The only time we are not under the complete scrutiny of others is when we are in the privacy of our own homes. Even then, we are being tracked by our cellphones, our Internet activity is being tracked via our ISP address, and what we watch is being monitored through our cable boxes.
The circularity of hospitality is self-evident. We are trained a certain way to provide goods and services by working efficiently in a friendly manner. By doing so businesses stay afloat and continue to meet the demands of consumers. There is the saying “happy wife, happy life”, that can certainly be applied to businesses and their consumers. If we do not provide proper hospitality by meeting consumer demands, businesses will not stay afloat, and goals will not be met. The constant awareness of visibility is one of the best ways to ensure proper behavior at all times.
Ewald, Francois. “Norms, Discipline, and the Law.” Representations 30, Special Issue: Law and the Order of Culture (Spring 1990): 138-161
Foucault, Michael. “Panopticism.” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison. 1977. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1979. 200-228
Slobogin, Christopher. “Public Privacy: Surveillance of Public Places and the Right to Anonymity.” Privacy at Risk: The New Government Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2007. 79-117.
Vemer Andrzejewski, Anna. “Efficiency.” Building Power: Architecture and Surveillance in Victorian America. Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 2008. 43-90.