Or, How a Bakery (sort of) Broke My Heart.

Silver Moon Bakery, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is a place I have visited too many times over the years. When it first opened, it became my source for birthday cakes, anniversary cakes, party cakes. Their thyme-roasted almonds are a dinner party present of choice; their granola goes in my house-guest offerings. I've sent countless friends there. The excellent shop is expensive, but worth it. I wrote about the bakery in Slow Love, because in those unhappy days when I lost House and Garden, Silver Moon was where I often went for my sugar fix, in the form of chocolate chip cookies. I take yoga class in a studio right above the bakery, so I'm often doing a down dog to the gods of vanilla and poppy seed.

Would that our good karma upstairs had floated downstairs.

The people who run the bakery--not the bakers themselves, who are always laughing, but the folks behind the counter--are infallibly grumpy. Generally I take such behavior as a challenge; I amp up the "hello", the "please", the "thanks so much"--to no avail. The man who seems to be the head--or maybe he is the owner?--a guy about my age (I know, because one day I happened in on a surprise birthday party for him, and sang along) is rarely able to crack a smile, though I have managed to get a greeting in response to mine from time to time. Tone is usually set at the top, isn't it? Lighten up, I want to tell him. It's only sugar. Still, my friends know that I have an unfathomably (perhaps stupidly) high tolerance for grumpy people.

Yesterday the sun was shining, so I headed out for a walk, putting only a credit card in my pocket, for identification, so that I could be unencumbered. One mile turned into two, then three, then four and five....Six or seven miles later, I was hungry indeed, and I happened to be passing Silver Moon. Saturday is "corkscrew roll" day--these cunning little hollow affairs are plastered with seeds and grains. Every Saturday I buy a few for the week. I waited in line, and asked for three, at two bucks apiece. The place is expensive. I got to the cash register, and found, to my chagrin, that I had the wrong credit card. And no cash.

I knew it was a long shot, but it was only six dollars. I tried: "I'm sorry--I left without cash. I know you run out of these rolls quickly. Could I just owe you the money and pay you back when I return?" (Sunday is the day I go there for coffee.)

The Chief Grump looked at me, stunned. "We'll hold the bag. You can come back with the money."

"But I have to get to a wedding downtown. I can't come back today. Can't I just owe you the money until tomorrow?"

"What? I don't know you! If I did, I would do this. But I've never seen you before."

OUCH! "But you do know me. I've said hello to you hundreds of time. Five thousand times! I've been coming here for years! Years!"

"What? Who are you? I've never seen you before in my life!"

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch! Something in me snapped. I turned on my heel (never before have I understood the feel of that phrase). I blinked back tears. I was hurt. Not broken-hearted, of course, but bruised. All the way home, I tried to figure out why this encounter was so dispiriting.

It wasn't the refusal to stand me six dollars. It was the tone of the exchange. He wasn't even polite, much less nice, about it. And it was the realization that in all those years of hello, thanks, goodbye, wonderful place, how are you, and so on--I had been invisible.

It is hard to think you are connected to a place, that you're a good and loyal customer, that you are unfailingly polite, happy to be there--only to find out that actually, you are of no consequence. It is painful to think that a place that you had counted as part of your personal landscape didn't for an instant count on you. Didn't even recognize your smile, after so many years.

When I first moved to New York, in 1977, there was a Jewish bakery on 72nd Street and Broadway, around the corner from my apartment. Many was the evening--and the morning--when I was so tired that all I could manage for breakfast or dinner was a treat from their shelves. I had gone in three or four times before some of the snappy, round, older ladies behind the counter began to recognize me. "Hello, Sweetheart!" one would shout out. "How are you, darling?" "Here, Honey, have a cookie. Take it!"  I had never lived in New York City, and I was amazed at how warm and friendly people were. When I was lonely and weary, I got a charge out of a stranger's terms of endearments. When I left for Texas a few years later, I went in and hugged everyone goodbye. When I returned to the Upper West Side the shop was closed.

I love finding pockets of small-town warmth in a large city that can leave you feeling anonymous. The Upper West Side used to be full of them; now the avenues have been given over to chain stores; they look like horizontal malls. Still, way uptown, there are small businesses left. Many know and value their customers, and they are key to setting the tone that transforms a block into a neighborhood.

Silver Moon isn't going to miss my business. The place is packed; lines curl out the door on weekend mornings. It is better for my waistline not to set foot in the door again. I'll miss the sugar and spice, but there never was any nice. Judging by some of the reviews online, I'm not the only person who has had this problem. I want a bit of leavening with my daily bread. 


Bruce Barone said...

If you stop by our house today there are a few fresh slices left of my no-knead fig bread which we would happily share with you!

P.S. Read your essay in The Family Dinner yesterday; what a marvelous cookbook--too bad my kids are not kids anymore, although I did cook a great dinner for them yesterday; my daughter was home with her fiance and my son drove out from Boston where he is in college, Northeastern.

OK. I'll tell you what I made. The Fig Bread. Fennel and Orange Salad. Chick Pea and Artichoke Stew. Last two from Moosewood. YUM!!!

Debra said...

Ooof! I felt your pain in that moment. What a horrible feeling to inflict on someone, that they do not exist for you.

I just wrote a piece on my blog a few weeks ago about a local gift shop that allowed me to walk out the door with $70! of merchandise when the credit card machine broke, and all I had to do was promise to mail in a check. I couldn't believe it. I will be a loyal customer from here on, because it mattered more to the owner that I leave happy, not disappointed. It was so heartening in this day of cynicism. (When I returned the next business day with a check and told her I blogged about it, she teared up with joy. That's when life is at its best.)

I hope you happen across another bakery, just as delicious and sweet, that also feeds your spirit.

TDC said...

It never ceases to amaze me that people who have no skill in dealing with the public choose that as a career. But no matter how wonderful the goods, I would not patronize such a business that would deliver such a negative experience. I understand your situation, but I wish you had quit being a customer before this final indignity. Thanks for sharing this, however, as a lesson to us all.

VL said...

Oofta! Like you, I make it a point to make a connection with people behind counters, holding trays, driving cabs, etc.: I feel that people in the service professions are themselves often treated as accessories to others' lives at best. When my genuine warmth and kindness is, on thankfully rare occasion, met with cold calculation, I am flummoxed. And deeply annoyed.

I would urge you to consider one more visit to the bakery, however, not with credit card in hand but a printout of this blog entry and a copy of your book (something with your picture in it). Find that same person, and give him the blog post; look him in the eye and tell him ... whatever you think is authentic at that moment (the surprise may actually allow this man to see you as a person for the first time). And then tell us what happens!

For the record, my most recent bad-merchant-behavior episode was with Meurice Garment Care, and it was resolved with a frank talking to, though it involved incompetence and deception and thus rather soured me on their business...

lostpastremembered said...

I always remember that Ruth Reichl Le Cirque ambush. SHe went into it as a regular person and was treated...like a peasant. When she went in as herself...the heavens opened and light and service flowed like magic. Decent people should all be treated decently.

Why must people be so small minded? The remarkably bad feelings such treatment created can hardly be worth the lousy $6 you asked them to front. The fact that you were invisible (and you are a rather striking looking person) is really dispiriting --- what does this guy see... your Birkin, your Cartier?

I was recently reflecting on the old Jefferson Market in NYC and the family attitude they had about their customers (they once fronted me the cost of an entire fancy dinner when I forgot my money).

Most upscale markets now have a revolving door of poorly paid workers who couldn't care less who you are... nor can they cut you a break since they would have your purchase docked from their meager pay.

I know there are still old fashioned caring places but they are so few... sad, isn't it? Best to support them as best we can and not frequent places with good rolls but a bad spirit.

VL said...

I just had another thought: there is a chance, albeit relatively small, that this individual who didn't recognize you actually cannot recognize you because of prosopagnosia. You might remember Oliver Sacks writing about this condition in the New Yorker some months ago -- he has it himself, in fact, and can walk by a friend he's known for 20 years and not recognize him out of context.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

On the day my father died, my husband and I went to our favourite Mexican restaurant for dinner. Not because we were especially hungry for chicken soup, although it is exceptional, but because they know us. No matter the crowd, and it is always crowded, we are greeted warmly, by name, and never given a menu. We needed that familiar comfort that particular night.

If I could, I would bake you a batch of those corkscrew rolls and send them up to your door.

roseline glazer said...

Think of his poor wife, if he has one, his children.
Do you think for one moment that he is any different with them? We are a lot of things, all of us, but one
thing that's universal, is our consistency.
His family feels the same way you do, and I, who no longer live in NYC, will never patronize this awful
man, will never desire what was once so tasty and satisfying for you.
Roseline Glazer

Me said...

... customer service i.e. being nice and giving folks a warm experience used to be the norm in small shops.
Have decided that having a friendly hello - not a rote one like many of the larger stores you enter - and helping you when it looks needed is worth "shopping around".

Lines of Beauty said...

What a drip! Just don't take it personally if you can. Life is too short. It's not about you, it's about him. But still- isn't there a part of you that wants to print this post out and stick it in the mail- Attn.The Grumpy Guy, C/O Silver Moon Bakery???

Anonymous said...

I would send them your blog if nothing else. He will certainly remember you then. Too late he would be off my list as well. Eventually his Karma will come back to him and he will be in trouble.

Judith Ross said...

Gosh, when you go to their website, they say, "Please join us on Facebook!"

Guess they'd prefer to keep their "friends" virtual. The site also includes an email address. Hope you sent them the link to this post.

I feel so sad to read this though.It sounds as though many of my fellow commenters have their own formidable baking skills.

It was also sad to see this after enjoying a fabulous breakfast of yeasted waffles. All the more wonderful because they were made by my oldest son and eaten while sitting around our table with the other four members of Brooklyn band Asambl Mastika (crashing in our little house in Massachusetts).

Just remember, Dominique, the bakery is replaceable too. I am sure someone in your area will have a good suggestion.

Dona M said...

When someone acts like that I always
wonder if they are medicated as I've noticed how that can make people grumpy. No excuses for him, but you could send him loving energy and refuse to be brought down by his negativity. Love is the answer.

William said...

You are definitely not alone with that place. You say grumpy, I say assholes. I go back because I like the way it looks and I like the food and it's easy to get to on the bike from the upper east side and I only go on weekdays, never on weekends. You'll go back once you cool off a bit - stop trying to change them by being extra nice - they are assholes, period - just enjoy your chocolate chip cookies.

Leah said...

I love your post, and I hope you can stick by your promise to never go there again. You may only be one person, but there's no excuse for such a poor attitude. I agree with the previous comments...send 'em a link to your post.

helen tilston said...

Dominique so sad
I just sent this email to Silver Moon

Was so disappointed to read how poorly your Manager treated beautiful Dominique from

Food, coffeee and particularly baked good taste better when delivered with a smile and kindness.

it is never too late to change one's attitude

Helen Tilston

karensandburg said...

ugh, what a horrible experience. so sorry you had this happen to you, so sad that it was a place of sanctuary and you have lost it now. bad (and abusive) energy, as you say, and best to stay out of there...

i remember i use to get my coffee from a small place with a similarly nasty barrista. i'd walk in, say hi to the regulars and order from marisa who never said thank you or gave me eye contact and was reliably surly with heavily tatooed arms to match. i went from being polite to saying my order without "please" or "thank you" and definitely no eye contact. this went on for a while until one strange day she made a silly comment to me in an english accent and i responded likewise and off we went into a very friendly relationship! ended up, we had a few things in common -- particularly our love of british film and when she finally quit, i really missed her. when i said as much to one of the regulars, she looked at me and said, "are you kidding? everyone HATED her!"

karensandburg said...

i have followed helen tilson's lead and sent Silver Moon an email as well.

Karen said...

As I'm reading your post, I'm so grateful for the midtown deli I stop at every morning for my coffee and bagel on the way to my office. The folks there know how I like my bagel (and my coffee), notice if I'm running late, and call my order out by my name when it's ready. It takes so little for us to be nice to one another, but means so much.

elizabeth said...

In a recent post you asked yoga teachers to help you detach from distractions such as music during class. As a yogini, you might want to practice "lovingkindness meditation" directing loving kindness to Mr. Grumpster. Why let this struggle get in the way the yummy goodness of bakery? "Love is not a feeling, it's an ability." (From Dan in Real Life starring Steve Carell.) Elizabeth W

Elizabeth said...

WOW................NO more!Dont give the ass a second chance!What is wrong with people today?I say that over and over to myself..I just like you always try to get a hello or smile.Not so easy as we can see from your story.Have fun finding that NEW SPOT for SUNDAY coffee!

Leah in NC said...

Grouchy curmudgeons? Oh well. It stings. But, remember, you have a zillion admirers who love your wisdom and you could probably go 'round the country eating corkscrew rolls at each of their homes! Thank you for all the wonderful posts you write, for all your wonderful photos, and for your wisdom...

Violet Cadburry said...

Or maybe he did recognize you but is such an ass he could care less about regular customers, sounds like the Soup Nazi on Steinfeld - remember him? I would take my business elsewhere too. I recently returned some books to Barnes & Noble, the local store I have faithfully supported for 10 years. The books were a gift but I already had them. The prune faced saleswoman was so rude, loudly exclaiming while waiving my gift receipt in the air to the 10 people in line behind me "our return policy is 15 days,this is waaaayyyyy over 15 days, in fact, this is a whole two weeks beyond the 15 days, George look at this receipt!" People were looking at me and the manager came over to examine the receipt, he agreed "yes, this is past the return date, our policy is two weeks" while Prune Face thumbed through the books clearly looking for signs of wear. I got pissed and finally said in loud Steve Martin style "Well, excuuuuuussse meeee for being so IGNORANT! Next time I receive a gift, I will make sure to ask how many days I have to return it." Now people were really looking. She was shocked and stammered she didn't mean it that way and the manager said he would take the books back. What drama over such a simple thing.

Watercolor said...

I just changed banks because of this. Had been going to the same one for years and years. The tellers all knew me at the branch I went to. Then there was a shake up and all new staff and a new branch manager. New staff didn't bother to recognize anyone. Had a few issues with simple items - all the bank's fault but never any real help about it.

Then the kicker... They close at 4:30 on weekdays. I drove up at 4:25, so said the clock on their wall, and as I reached out for the door to enter, the guy inside looked into my eyes, put the key in the locked, locked it, said "we're closed" and pulled down the shade on the door. Didn't even ASK what I needed to do - a simple deposit. Just left me standing on the sidewalk, dumbfounded and furious.

The next day I switched to another bank many people I knew have been raving about for years. They have been awesome.

Find a new bakery. People like that do not deserve your business. Ever.

Anonymous said...

Dominique: I loved this story, and have been exactly in your shoes. I don't think you're invisible, (which implies something's wrong with you), but he is blind to your particular brand of radiance. Thank you for helping me see this more clearly. Know you are very very visible to me.

Ronnie said...

These little vignettes of daily life are so telling. Elizabeth asks, "What is wrong with people?" Here's my two cents: I truly believe that our society will continue to be on the losing end of the stick if we don't nurture our communities - places and people.

Sorry you had a false sense of connection to the bakery. So many people just get disenfranchised and jaded because of these types of encounters.

I live in a small town that has worked intensely to keep the chain stores out and our mom and pop stores thriving. We have a bustling village that didn't just happen. Our community has a vision that is careful and mindful about creating a sense of place. It is yet another thing that we have to be vigilant about if we want to live sustainably. We also need to teach these principles to our kids.

I agree with Watercolor - find another place.

SweetRetreat said...

A sting like that can last for some time. Our little worlds are so important and provide such comfort. When suddenly we discover otherwise, it is a terrible shock.

I would not return to the shop, although the corkscrew rolls may indeed take you back. This particular fellow however sounds particularly nasty.

Silver Moon Bakery has lost a special customer - probably many more now.

Anne said...

Too bad the bakery owner doesn't read this and rid himself of Grumpy. I'm sure you're not the first regular customer he's enveloped in his gray cloud! If he only knew how much interesting comversation he is missing, not getting to know you. If I had a store that you frequented regularly, I would be so delighted!

Claudia said...

Yep, find a new bakery. There are dozens of bakeries in the city who would LOVE you business... Nasty people don't deserve loyal customers. Period.

pamela hunt said...

Oh, this just breaks my heart. It's not just the six bucks but all of the cruelty in the world. We are all connected but when people forget this, it's the ultimate sucker punch.

I am wishing you a week of Tahitian vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar - not to eat but to live.


Jayne said...

I wonder what unspeakable things have happened to those people to make them so miserable? Very sad to be in a business that gives sustenance and happiness to others and yet be so untrusting and cranky.
I drive one town away with my dry cleaning just because I love to hear "HELLO DAHLING! How are you sweetheart?!" when I walk through the door. You always catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, as my grandmother alwys said!

Doshee said...

I know exactly what you mean. I am a native new yorker, born 63 years ago, and raised here. I have also lived in Paris, London and SF, other big cities, but New York has always remained my favorite. Now I am a refugee in the suburbs having joined someone I love and I "visit" my home. Doesn't matter. What you describe is so true. I used to love that little Jewish bakery. Only through you do I know it is closed. That's how long it's been. Long time. Your work is wonderful. Keep writing.

Cristina said...

...I deeply sympathize with your feeling of humiliation mixed with anger at being treated in that mean way. As you say, it's not even for that awkward moment, as for the whole meaning (that place had for you) that was shattered away in those few unpleasant minutes at the cash register. I try my best to avoid shops where the grumpiness rules over, no matter for the quality they may offer.

Anonymous said...

A sad but all-too-common experience, these days. I've had similar, and find that the best reaction is, as you say, to just not patronize those establishments who do not provide service with a smile. Life is too short. Karma is the ultimate and inevitable payback.

david terry said...

Good Lord......talk about an exchange which could (would, actually) have been entirely different if the man had bothered himself so little as to say even "I'm sorry, but I really can't.....(whatever...)".

He could have still denied your request.....but just the slightest indication of some sympathy with the customer's predicament (embarrassment, etcetera) would have changed EVERYTHING.

Back in my gradskool days, I was a waiter at a brand-new restaurant which, within a year, had been voted one of Esquire's "Top Fifty Restaurants in America". Other awards quickly followed and still occur regularly. The chef/owner certainly had grounds (if not the inclination) to settle back on snooty-boots laurels.......but he never did.

We were ALWAYS & fiercely (before the restaurant opened each night) told to treat EVERY customer as though he/she were a "regular"....to ALWAYS greet them with an articulated welcome....to ALWAYS remember that it's THEIR table once they've entered, and it was THEIR food....

In short, treat them as you would (one hoped) treat guests in your own home. Quite obviously, the food could and would stand on its own......the Big Difference was how folks were made to feel about both themselves and their being there.

There are, of course, plenty of folks who come into a well-known restaurant or, for that matter, bakery....gunning for the joint. They're by far the minority, though.....fortunately, most human beings aren't quite so pathological as to go around spending money to feel bad and pick-fights.

For the most part, however, folks do harbor a very personal attachment to what they regard as "their" restaurant, cafe, bakery, etc. That includes folks who may have been to the place only twice....but perhaps they don't eat out anywhere that often. In any case, they FEEL like they're "regulars"/habituees.

I recall the time a waitress was fired (there had been some other "problems", but this was the breaking-point) because, as the owner/chef explained to her that there'd been a complaint, she said "I've never even SEEN these people before last night....it's not like they're going to come here all the time...."

The Chef-owner said "you're probably right.....and neither will their friends or anyone they know.And I don't know how many people they know....do you? Trust me.... Good news travels slow, but BAD NEWS about a restaurant travels FAST......and you just f*****ked my restaurant over. You're fired. Now."

The restaurant was named in memory of his grandmother (who, like me, was from East Tennessee), and he always said that customers were to be treated as his grandmother would treat anyone who visited her in her home.

Simple as that.....and it really is quite simple to follow-through.

All ineffectual musings aside, however, Ms Browning?....PERSONALLY, I think you should put on your tackiest urban-cowgirl outfit from Your Texass days, blow-up your hair, stick a big wad of chewing-gum into your mouth, and march into that damned bakery with a boombox perched on your rhinstone-clad shoulder....blaring Glenn Campbell's unforgettable and ever-edifying 1970 hit "TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS!!"

Advisedly & Experiencedly yours as ever,

The Rev. Dr. David Terry

Turner Pack Rats said...

well, i just made a great comment which firefox in its infinite wisdom erased.
anyway, your problem? - you're female. embrace your male side and tell that old fart off. people in his job esp in an economy like this (and with what he probably pays for rent or taxes) can't afford to treat anyone like that. you need to go back in there, emphasize how much MONEY you've spent for his good but overpriced stuff, tell him you'll be telling everyone you know including the yoga biz upstairs from his store about his behavior, and be eating a pastry from a competitor while you do it. do it when there's lots of customers in the store. do it in a LOUD tone of voice. don't let him get away with it. every time you go to yoga, rap on the window a flip him the bird. a guy would. if he treats you this way - a paying customer - think how he treats his employees. besides, you'll feel better and on the way home, you'll find a friendlier place.

Tree said...

Well... you are no longer invisible to Silver Moon Bakery!

A NYC chum who is one of your dedicated readers and a bakery regular, told me your voice had prompted her own. She called them to echo your sentiment that their often poor behavior is not equal to their excellent baked goods and that it lessens the quality of experience. She reports the bakery has been inundated with comments this morning and was scrambling to find out who you are and what you had said!

Old School Brand said...

In the words of my late grandfather,"It don't sound right if it ain't said right". In these days of warp speed technology, human one on one connection is the exception , not the rule. I will hold out for the Old School way..even if it means doing it myself! I made bread last night and will enjoy my toast just like I like it!!

Tricia said...

We have a bakery here in St. Louis called Bittersweet. The displays are wonderful and the treats are terrific but sometimes the counter help acts like they would rather be anywhere else but there. So maybe Bittersweet is a good name. However, if I feel like someone appreciates my business it makes me want to support them. I get my morning coffee from the Gelateria a few blocks from my home. I am always greeted by name and they often inquire about my current project. The coffee is great but I enjoy our little exchange of small talk just as much.

Anonymous said...

life is too short and no business is worth it. write Silver Moon and complain. Everyone.

Sheryl said...

LOVE your blog and your book. Have read all your posts on all your sites. Never commented before. I really dislike rude people, (I suppose, now, I fall into that category :( ). Sometimes, I just have to take a moment and TAKE a stand. Here is my email to Silver Moon Bakery. I also included a copy of your post. I hope that is ok. Thanks for so much joy and entertainment. Please keep writing!
Shame on YOU, Chief Grump re: Dominique Browning

If you can't remember Dominique Browning, after years of patronage, (her appearance is quite nice and QUITE memorable!) you certainly won't bother to remember me. Don't worry, you don't have to bother. I won't be back. If you want to apologize, feel free to comment on slowlovelife.com. We WILL all be reading! Sheryl Finley

William said...

Help is on the way!!

I've contacted the Department of State, the office of the Governor and the office of the Mayor and a full investigation has been launched into the report of a rude cashier at the Silver Moon Bakery.

Reports of coalitions of Upper West Side empowered gals forming have already been released by the national media outlets - organized (hopefully peaceful) protests are certainly soon to follow.

karensandburg said...

the owner of silver moon would like to talk to you. below is the email exchange we had.

you have lost a dear friend in dominique browning, a spectacularly popular and beloved writer of many books, a blog and former editor of House and Garden magazine. she endured countless rude experiences at your establishment by the cashier whose final insulting words drover her out the door for the last time. she wrote glowingly and lovingly about your bakery in her book "Slow Love," so it took alot of abuse to finally drive her away.

in response to her recent blog detailing her experience, i went to your website and was blown away by the beautiful offerings you create. it is a shame that you don't appreciate your customers more, or as it seems, appreciate them at all.

karensandburg said...


i have just read dominique brownings blog. i was greatly saddened by reading of her deeply unpleasant experience; since you are a customer, you may know that, to me, one of the most important aspects of Silver Moon is to connect with the community, not just bake good breads and pastries.

such behavior as she experienced is unacceptable. i would like to contact dominique to find out at what time this happened, so that i can identify the person who waited on her. i do not know how to contact her, and couldn't find a way to do so on her blog, any kind of "reply" or "post comment" button. if you know how, i would greatly appreciate your letting me know.
many thanks,
Judith Norell
Silver Moon Bakery

Anonymous said...

i too wrote the owner of Silver Moon Bakery on your behalf and the owner was kind enough to return the same email to me wishing to contact you to apologize. Dominique, your unpleasant experience was a point of debate amount several friends yesterday who interestingly offered varying opinions on your situation.A common one- Instead of sulking away, ask to speak to the owner and make kind amends in person. Fortunately you have some lovely blog readers to speak up on your behalf- but be the change you want to see in the world as one smart old goat said! On not just on the interwebs.

William said...

I propose a staff line-up for Dominique to identify the culprit and then a good old-fashioned public flogging right there at the corner of 105th and B'way!

Let me guess, Dominique, after all of these 'concerned' emails being sent to the owner 'on your behalf', that you will be slinking by the place in disguise from now on!

Doshee said...

Ok. enough is enough. Maybe the guy just had a bad day. And no, he doesn't know you even if he's seen you 100's of times because he has seen others 1000's of times and more. So buck up here, Dominique. There are some real economic consequences brewing for your favorite bakery. Why can't we all get along?!

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is anything wrong about writing on a personal blog about an experience and the resulting disappointment in the lack of customer service and/or good manners. I think it is good for a variety of reasons....

david terry said...

I read this series of comments late last night and immediately considered that Ms. Browning is, all-too-obviously, having her first Henry II Moment.

For better or worse, it seems that some of Browning's more enthusiastic knights have indeed rid her of this bothersome baker.

That aside?...

I read this to Herve (who spends most of his waking days publishing and working in the public sphere) last night, and his immediate reaction was "So the already-grumpy guy who probably thinks as of today that she cost him his job also knows where she goes to yoga every week? hmmmm...."

Seriously....If I were Ms. Browning, I'd change that description to "where I used to go to yoga" or "upstairs, where I've been to yoga classes in the past".

Quite sincerely,

David Terry

Anonymous said...

What did you want from your post -

Readers to rally for you?
Apology from Silver Moon?
Dent their business?

With all the engagement and action on your behalf, please tell us readers about the outcome.

david terry said...

In Response to "Anonymous"( 22 March, 9:10 am).....

Not to act too thoroughly as though my boyfriend were some French oracle which only I can approach and interpret in my role as Head Priestess, but?....

He remarked last night (and this would, I think, answer your questions) that he expected Ms. Browning would be more than a bit abashed and, possibly, even distressed to find that her writing had caused such immediate and quite-practical results....none of which (including what seems an impending "line-up" of employees at the Silver-whatever bakery) could have necessarily been anticipated by her when she wrote that piece.

As far as he could tell (and he did say this), the "theme" of Browning's essay was "Hey....I do yoga and try to eat right and act pleasantly and be a good person & mother, and pet dogs, and say hello to strangers, be mindful o' the environment, wear clean underwear when I go out....and I LIKE to think I'm a GOOD person....so, how can one unpleasant little encounter so thoroughly mess up my mood and my day and leave me feeling grumpy/irritated/etcetera?....why/how do I let this 'get to' me so much?????"

That's a feeling that I expect all of us (except for the most self-congratulatory and self-involved) have on a VERY regular basis.

In any case, that's what I believe Ms. Browning was, in all sincerity and without ANY ill-intention or attempts at manipulation, "doing" in her essay.

Obviously, a bit less specificity regarding names & descriptions would have prevented a situation that I expect leaves her feeling scarcely better than she felt on Sunday afternoon when she wrote about her experience that morning.

Quite Sincerely,

David "vivre et d'apprendre" Terry

karensandburg said...

this post has certainly hit a nerve and i think david you're right about identifying that 'nerve' as partly about our frustration over being thrown off kilter by someone like the cashier. when we take such good care of ourselves in so many ways, why/how can we be thrown off so deeply by someone like him? good question and worth thinking about (again)...

and william, you're so right about riding your bike, picking up your goodies and leaving and dismissing them as assholes and not engaging. as a female character in the movie "delores clayborn" said, "sometimes, delores, you've got to be a stone cold bitch." maybe not you dominique, but just a drop sometimes might be useful...

Kinyama said...

my husband and I have made it a policy to only frequent those businesses that are friendly on the UWS - seriously, if they are mean to us in anyway, we don't go back. Silver Moon is on that list. Sadly. We both worked in the service industry and I can tell you your "hello"s and "goodmorning"s are wonderful and shouldn't be wasted on bad owners who don't deserve them!

Dominique said...

Wow, everyone. This did hit a nerve--not just mine. I'm amazed. And taking a deep breath:

First, thanks to Karen Sandburg and other shining knights for doing what I was too angry, and too shy, to do: confront the perpetrators directly. I'm touched by your concern and kindness on my behalf.

Partly I didn't confront because I made up my mind I wasn't going back--and I didn't want anything from the place. And partly: I am aware that I am really bad at that sort of thing--belting out my annoyance on the spot. Confrontation frightens me. Yes, I know. Working on it. But there is temperament to consider: I simply don't like to fight, and if I must do it, I'd rather do it at a safe distance.

What did I want? To think through to a larger point. To ask: is it me? or does this happen to others? Why is it powerful? And, perhaps talking about it could even bring about change.

I keep going back to what VL said in the beginning--she was right, in a way, that I should have gone back to talk to the guy, and looked him in the eye. But in another way? I'd been trying to "be the change" for months, in my approach--to no avail. Sometimes you have to call it quits.

And something in me did snap: I had had enough of trying so hard for niceness.

One reason I write is that it helps me think things through. I could be keeping a journal. But I publish to connect with people, to see what others have to say about the things I'm experiencing. I always learn from readers. And thank you.

What I came to, in terms of the larger theme, was that we're in danger of losing something that matters--the small civilities of daily business exchanges. Small, but important. This is going on all around us. And if we don't ask for change, it isn't going to happen.

No, I didn't expect such a response. It has been fascinating to see exactly how much these kinds of encounters mean to so many of us. They buoy us along--as they should. No matter how much we plug in, tune out, personal encounters are woven through our lives, and they alter the hue of our days.

David Terry hit it with his description of his training in his early restaurant days (and what is the name of that place? I'd love to visit it.) What a great philosophy: to welcome guests to your business as if they were special, coming into your own home.

And I wanted to make a larger point with this post: The warmth of hospitality in small businesses makes a big difference to the tone of a neighborhood--and neighborhoods can be surprisingly fragile in large cities.

As for the "bad day theory". Sure, if that's what it had been, I wouldn't have been disturbed, much less provoked to write in protest. Sadly, I, and many others, have had the same experience of rudeness over and over again. Again, the point is larger: kindness makes a difference.

Was it wrong to identify the culprit? It was necessary. This wasn't a generic moment. And I didn't want to be coy about it. In fact, if I could, I would be kibitzing about the large and small exchanges that go on all over this city, chiding and praising in equal amounts. I find hyperlocal news to be helpful, and powerful. I share my "finds" --my moments of delight--whenever I can. In fact, I would say I emphasize those, and ignore the others, even if it means being Pollyanna-ish. Because I have to choose to see things as better.

I can assure you that my remarks won't have negative economic consequences for this delicious bakery; my raves about the food will attract more shoppers. And keep them-- when the staff gets better training in welcoming their customers.

Now I will take another deep breath, and call the owner who kindly left her number, and thank her for doing so.


KnitNana said...

Appalling. I am so frequently stopped in my tracks by poor customer service now. It's distressing. I'm not sure how you could keep on for ages being pleasant.

I remember, years ago, wandering an antique shop and "lucking into" a find of 12 place settings (plus pieces) of my wedding china. The price tag was hundreds less than it could have been, but I was in grad school with limited funds. I approached the owner, and said, shakily, "Do you have layaway?" "Of course! What would you like to do?" I mentioned a 6-month arrangement, and he said, "That's fine, I'll wrap them up for you to take with you."

"What? Oh my, no, I said layaway. I'll pay you and be back to get them in 6 months. But you don't know me for me to take them today!"

"You'll pay me. But you'll take them now. I've no concern that you'll pay me. I know you will."

And of course, I did. How much better to find that people can appreciate the customers they have. Of course, I also went back to that antique mall, and shopped again, but then, you (and he) knew I would!

Anonymous said...

This is, for me, one of your best blogs....why??...because when something like this happens to me I think its got to be only "me" it happens to, certainly not someone famous and so successful like you! So, I guess, misery loves company so to speak, and if it can happen to someone as gracious as you...well, it makes me feel better! Isn't that lousy thinking? Really all kidding aside, this blog really represents why you are so popular..you always hit home

Anonymous said...

Dominique, Years ago I used to take my daughter to violin lessons near the Silver Moon. They were always brusque. Instead, Sal's pizza joint down Broadway became our hangout while I waited. One day my daughter left her violin there. Sal called me at home later that night(our number was written in the case) and offered to deliver it to us out in the suburbs, as if it were a pizza! Of course, he was from the same part of Italy as my mother in law, but I clearly wasn't the only beneficiary of his kindness. I couldn't help but notice how this patient man and his brothers standing in front of a hot oven every day provided the warmth that made that corner of the UWS feel like a neighborhood. In effect, these little shops have the chance to become the heart and soul of the area, the way the kitchen is the heart of the house. Great pizza, too. Here's hoping the Silver Moon learns to become a real part of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

"I'd been trying to 'be the change' for months..."

You got a nasty case of BeTheChange Burnout; thanks to you we now know that it happens, what it looks like, how demoralizing it can be, and what we need to do to feel better.

elizabeth said...

Perhaps you just need to talk to the business owner. Then let them have a look at your blog.

karensandburg said...

many years ago i read an article which asked many famous people the question "what could you not live without?." some responses were quite grandiose, others had to do with favorite possessions, but i'll never forget Walter Cronkite's response - "simple human courtesy."

Judith Norell said...

I have read all the responses to your blog, and identify with many of them. I started Silver Moon Bakery in order to create a warm, friendly atmosphere where I live and work(as well as to bake the best breads and pastries I could; one of the great moments I remember was after 9/11 when so many people crowded in to talk to us, to each other, to seek warmth and community, and to smell bread, bringing a sense of comfort and stability amidst all the horror and chaos.
I am very sorry that you had such an unpleasant experience. I hate it when counter people (or anyone) are rude and unfriendly, an all-too common event in the city. We really do try to be friendly, but, clearly, don't always succeed.
I hope you will call me so that we can talk. (By the way, I invented the corkscrew rolls for my husband, and I am so glad you like them.)

Judith Norell said...

I have read all the responses to your blog, and identify with many of them. I started Silver Moon Bakery in order to create a warm, friendly atmosphere where I live and work(as well as to bake the best breads and pastries I could; one of the great moments I remember was after 9/11 when so many people crowded in to talk to us, to each other, to seek warmth and community, and to smell bread, bringing a sense of comfort and stability amidst all the horror and chaos.
I am very sorry that you had such an unpleasant experience. I hate it when counter people (or anyone) are rude and unfriendly, an all-too common event in the city. We really do try to be friendly, but, clearly, don't always succeed.
I hope you will call me so that we can talk. (By the way, I invented the corkscrew rolls for my husband, and I am so glad you like them.)

Sheryl said...

I received an email from Judith, too. Here is my response. Community matters! Once again, Dominique, thank you for your spirit and inspiration. Sheryl

Thank you for your prompt response. In my previous email, I should have better articulated that no one has a problem with the $6. Now, you will probably have a thousand people come in and try try the "regular customer line". How tedious!

People in the front of the business represent the business. They are the face and the spirit of the business. Whether you recognize a customer or not, if they say they are a regular customer, just agree with them. It would have been so much nicer to reply, "I know you are a regular but I am so sorry, I just can't let you pay tomorrow." See how easy it is to be marginally nice. We don't expect to be bosom buddies and take the store for free. Just be NICE!

Note: The fact that Dominique wrote so happily about Silver Moon Bakery in her last book makes the rudeness so absolutely RUDE!

We all communicate with Dominique via the comments section. Just click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of the blog post. You should really read all the comments, as you seem to have quite a few customers that are Dominique's regular readers.

When you comment in the comments section of slowlovelife.com it will be done for me. Once again, thank you. SF

Anonymous said...

From strictly a business perspective, not all customers are equal. And that's a fact of the market economy, which, if anywhere, businesses on the Upper East Side are better off understanding.

On a more human side, if you have been born and bred to not engage in overtly rude displays (unless absolutely necessary,) you don't have the defensive instinct to react in mirroring ways when confronted with a moron. Though it might feel good in the gut to say, "f- you and f-your business like forever," it is never appropriate thing to articulate. You will always be outnumbered by savages that get away with their own retardation.

Silver Moon might just miss your business, don't underestimate your coordinates!

GEAC, California said...

I am grateful for this blog and the erudite and witty comments that follow, but what struck me after reading 64 comments was that there was such a dearth of anyone willing to put themselves into Mr. Grump’s shoes!
Can anyone of us imagine what it must be like working weekend after weekend, lines snaking out the door, nary a break, perhaps making minimum wage (or slightly above) and maybe having inadequate staffing. It seems to me that in this type of scenario, customers would cease to be regulars or friends but almost the enemy. I am most certainly not condoning “bad behavior” nor do I think what happened was not rude or hurtful, but I think it is important to look at the big picture—what is it about the system at Silver Moon Bakery that allowed this to happen. In this way, the blame game stops, compassion can set in and change can happen. Bravery would not be walking back into the bakery, but spending a day working behind the counter!
Aren’t we fortunate that most of us have weekends off and can afford the $2 corkscrew rolls?
Yours sincerely,
GEAC, California

Doshee said...

TWO DOLLARS!!!! well that's it. I'm finished with the entire Upper West Side.

Lady, be happy it isn't 50 years ago when your neighborhood was ruled by gangs. Talk about being rude.

Anonymous said...

Slow love?????

Anonymous said...


Your readers took action for you
with the bakery.

The bakery called to apologize.

Think we're all done with this post.

Pass the pastries, please.

Doshee said...

can you also give me a frappucino with no ice and no coffee and no frappe? it's what I can afford being a writer -- i.e., another word for unemployed.

Susan Fine said...

Before we moved to Chicago five years ago, we lived at 103rd between West End and Broadway. We often went to Silver Moon, but -- you know what -- that place is overrated. I distinctly remember the day I went and bought a fruit tart to take to a friend's place for dinner, and literally had my breath taken away when they told me the cost. I had already ordered it, and they had packed it up, so I had to buy it. I knew I could have made it myself, and it would have been delicious, and I would have saved some $20. We don't miss that place at all, although we miss the Fairway pretty much every day. My husband had decided that it was his mission to befriend everyone at the store (the uptown one), and while he never got anywhere with the butchers, he and the women in the bakery were very friendly -- so much so that when we were back in NYC last summer, they all remembered him and wanted to know all about how he was doing. He also liked to slip a small tip to the person who bagged his groceries. There were various reasons for his approach to Fairway but chief among them was how awful he thought many people were to the people who worked there. That's probably important to keep in mind in these situations: some folks in NYC are kind of terrible to the people who help them in businesses. Think about how many people don't even get off their cell phones while they bark orders at those behind the counters.

margot said...

two stories to share: 1. from July 2001-Jan 2003 I lived on a street in the east end of Toronto and used to frequent the corner store for snack necessities. Last summer I popped into that store for a cold drink on a hot day and the gentleman there remembered me. I was FLOORED. We even had a little chat and he asked me about my dog!
2. From 1996-1998 I worked at a magazine in a 23-floor office tower in Toronto, with a small snack shop/news agent on the main floor. When I returned to work at the building in 2002 not only did the lady who worked at the shop remember me, she remembered my name. It was astounding (and one of the reasons why I thank my parents for calling me Margot).
Alas, it's a funny world and it takes you by surprise some days and smacks you in the face others - but then, you know this already. As for this incident, I'll second everything William in your comment stream says.

Anonymous said...

when one door closes another opens. i believe everything happens for a reason. maybe now you will find an even better, tucked away gem of a bakery that will blow you away (and your taste buds).

suej said...

I'm with those who wonder about his life and how tough it must be to be in a service role and have no skill for it - day in day out that exhausting drain of coping with what he's not enjoying. It is easy to love and like those who are nice to us, friendly to us. The tough experience is loving those who are sullen, show no warmth, seem to reject us and are not likeable. They need our slow deep love all the more because of it.

Doshee said...

or maybe you'll just find a cure for cancer. now that's a door to be open. I agree with SueJ. why not try having compassion for your "sworn enemy."

Anonymous said...

I am very happy to have found your blog and that was due to your interview on CBC radio, very interesting. Curious I found your blog and read about your experience in the bake shop and it resonated with me, you articulated that experience so well, it is one that is so familar to many people yet not spoken about. A dear friend once told me, you may forget what a person did or said but, you will never forget how they made you feel. Thank You and have a Great Day! - Nancy Gould

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