It pains my heart to even write this blog.
Let me just say that Exuma, Bahamas is the most beautiful place in the world! It boasts of blues you can’t even begin to comprehend, as if the more than 1,000 shades are created on site and the words to describe them aren’t even born yet. The boyish hues crash into each other so peacefully, creating a visual that can’t be captured by any camera’s lens. The waters really are crystal clear and are like none other I’ve soaked in before. How can there be so many shades of blue?
The whites, nudes and tans of the sand perfectly complement and accent the waves, creating a blanket like effect at the shoreline.
The quaint little island is surrounded by these shockingly beautiful waters, with brightly colored homes and stores nestled through tiny corners and alleyways. I’m an island girl at heart, so I love the down home feel; the narrow streets, quietness of the days and nights and the move-at-your-own-pace culture.
Before this trip, I’d never been to Exuma, although I’ve been planning a trek to the island and its cays for sometime.
My sister, especially, has always had Exuma on her bucket list. We would search for hours sometimes, staring at photos of the pigs, the beaches, the sandbanks, dreaming of being there. So when this trip came around we were beyond excited to finally see what’s arguably the most beautiful Bahamian island.
But what started out as a relaxing Easter holiday getaway and a celebration for my brother’s 17th birthday, quickly turned into a depressing three days.
Almost as soon as we deplaned and hit the town, we encountered bad attitudes, horrible customer service and stress no one should have to deal with on vacation.
I know it’s less than smart to generalize a whole group of people, based on the misbehaviour of a few and I refuse to dump all Exumians in this category. However, in telling the story, I can only tell what I’ve experienced and been privy to; and that was some of the worst treatment and poor hospitality from my own Bahamians that I’ve ever received in my life.
While we overlooked, bypassed and ignored the more subtle versions of this bad behaviour, two incidents that took place really put massive dents in the trip and were my “get me the hell out of Exuma” moments.
Chat ‘N Chill
On day one of the trip, I was beyond excited to hop the quick ferry ride over to what everyone on the island said was party central on a Sunday; Stocking Island. There they have pig roast, music playing, volleyball games, a cool and colorful gift shop and the bar and restaurant Chat ‘N Chill. After about two hours of relaxing on the beach, catching up on some sleep and watching my brothers
fall off ride jet skis, we got hungry and joined the line to order. The lady serving had the most unwelcoming welcome, but like I said, some things we brushed off. We placed our order for drinks and food and waited as they were prepared.
The whole mood and atmosphere were off putting and it’s almost as if they didn’t want us there. The attitudes were deplorable and the service, below subpar. My sister and I ordered a conch burger to share but when it finally came out 20 minutes later, the stench was unbearable when we cut into it. We called the same server over who admitted that it smelled spoiled. But with no apology nor empathy for us as customers, she simply said, “Well what else y’all want?” All the while a male who was also behind the bar violently threw bottles and cans and garbage into the bin, which was just under the bar counter where I sat. I had to move, in case something bounced up and whacked me in the face.
Anyways, my brother’s ribs looked good so we opted for that as our replacement. As we waited a gruelling 15 minutes, enduring snares, glares, cut eyes and being ignored, my sister said to the server, “We’re really not enjoying the service in here today.” The server replied, “Awww ok!” Well ok then!! In five minutes we had our belongings packed and proceeded to head to the boat, without the food we ordered and not even asking for our money back! We just wanted to leave. Before I left I turned around and said once again, “You guys really ought to do better with your service and treatment of customers especially us Bahamians. Your attitude is poor!” Through a hail of insults, curse words and threats, she shouted some belligerent, asinine remark in front of the whole restaurant. The workers at Chat ‘N Chill aint so chill!
UPDATE: Tuesday April 25, 2017 – I received a call from the co-owner at Chat ‘N Chill Kwanza Bowe who apologised for her staff’s behaviour. She was absolutely pleasant and genuine and ensured that the situation would be remedied. I actually met her earlier in the day at the gift shop and she was indeed helpful and courteous.
At this point we were just ready to get off the island! It had been three days of really trying to figure out what the hell was going on in Exuma? What did we possibly do to everyone we encountered to be treated so poorly? We gathered for breakfast before trekking around the island and heading to the airport. We ended up at Driftwood Cafe and went inside to order our breakfast. As instructed we pulled up a table on the outside deck and waited for our server to bring the food out. Harsh, tacky and unprofessional our server (who I later learned was Cynthia) came out with the drinks. I had ordered a latte and was expecting some heavy cream at the top. I asked her if they served the usually frothy drink with cream and that I would like a little to put in my cup.
“I don’t understand what you talking about, you need to go inside and get it yourself,” she barked back.
“Could you just bring me a cup of heavy cream please,” I’ll do it myself.
“No, I don’t know what you need so, you have to get up and explain that.”
“Fine. I’ll drink it without the cream.”
Cynthia came back a few minutes later and brought out the food. I’d ordered eggs with some toast and bacon. There were no salt and pepper shakers on our table, but I spotted a pair on the table next to us. Cynthia was cleaning that table at the time so I asked her to please pass the salt and pepper. She picked them up and rested them on the edge of the table she was cleaning, a little closer to me but still a ways away. She walked off and when she came back, I asked her if she could please hand me the salt and pepper because I couldn’t reach it. She was carrying some cups, so I said, “I’ll wait until your hands are free.”
The third time Cynthia walked straight by my table and I waved at her to get the items. She had just finished serving the table behind me and replied.
“You have to realise this is a cafe, this is not a restaurant. If you need something, just grab it and get it. That’s how we work here, it’s not a restaurant. Everybody else does it!”
She slammed the door and went inside.
And the salt and pepper shakers never moved from the spot they were placed.
Soon after we left the
restaurant cafe, my siblings and I walked across the street to my mom who decided to have breakfast at the hotel. Cynthia saw us chatting and a barrage of curse words flew our way. I couldn’t believe this woman was on her job acting this way.
She was the absolute pits!
SEE VIDEO BELOW!
The Bright side
Despite feeling like unwanted aliens in our own country, we actually did meet a few friendly faces. Like Cindy at Peace ‘N Plenty, the crew over at Lumina Point who treated us well and made us feel at home…after all we kinda were. The staff at February Point was phenomenal and the food was to die for and my girl Richenda at the car rental! We got to see the swimming pigs, take boat rides through some of the cays, drive from one end of the island and back and spend long days by the beach. Although these pleasant interactions were the silver lining, they were far outnumbered by the dark clouds that loomed over the Exuma trip.
I really battled with writing this Exuma blog as honestly as I did, I mean after all, this is my country and it is the most beautiful country in the world with some of the friendliest people in the world. But I believe in keeping it real at all times, in all situations. I really want the best for this country and after having travelled to so many other places, I often come home embarrassed and depressed that our hospitality and customer service are so poor at times; towards the domestic and international tourist. We have to act as if every tourist, every customer, every patron is special, because we are! Our attention to detail in service and just common courtesy leaves much to be desired sometimes and I’m sure wont be tolerated for forever.We can't take our blessings for granted Click To Tweet
The fact that millions of foreigners visit our shores each year and many locals decide to vacation at home; we act as if this will always be the case, as if the tourism goose will forever lay these golden eggs. That could very well be true if we focus and improve on the “small things,” like pleasantly greeting your customers, serving them with pride and for god’s sake a smile wont hurt!
I’ve seen amazingly blue waters, visited historical sites and had awesome authentic food throughout my travels, so the things we boast of as unique tourism strongholds could be found in many parts of the world. What ought to make us stand out as a desired destination is our people, our customer service, our hospitality and care for everyone we serve, Bahamian or otherwise.
I need an Exuma redo!
There’s no way I could travel all the way to Thailand and be treated like royalty, but get snubbed in my own country!