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  • We are not amused!

    Yesterday was trivia night at a local island-themed restaurant. The food is interesting, although their drinks menu is longer than their food menu.

    We always join others who regularly arrive anywhere from about 30 minutes or more ahead of us to halfway through the game. This is standard operating procedure for trivia night no matter where it's held, and the restaurant has been hosting the event for some time now. Nobody should be surprised by late-comers.

    The two who were already at our table were well into their meals when we arrived. In a series of long waits of at least ten minutes, we were offered a beverage but no menu, received our drinks and had to ask for the menu, were given the menu, and had our order taken. About 20 minutes later, our appetizer arrived, a simple dish of six shrimp in a coconut-rum sauce. A few minutes later, I actually managed to flag the server over and ask for a bread basket.

    By the time the bread arrived, our final two companions had joined the table but were completely ignored by our server until he delivered our main courses, which was about 20 minutes after the shrimp had been delivered--at least 40 minutes after ordering. Getting refills on anything that wasn't alcohol was negligent at best.

    Of the two who joined us last, one got her food, the other did not. Luckily, he wasn't billed for it, although I suspect that initially he was but then the server realized he'd never put the food order in. No apology was issued by the server at any time.

    We had the worst time trying to get his attention all night. One of us ordered fries, but the ketchup bottle we were forced to borrow from another table was absolutely empty. Another ran out of both salad dressing and cocktail sauce. Two wanted to order seconds on the peel-and-eat shrimp-by-the-piece special, but in the end had to get theirs "to go" because it was almost 9 pm when they were able to place that order. And still, one companion never got anything other than a glass of soda-pop.

    Meanwhile, there are two tables outside on the veranda where every Monday is the same group of people who sit for hours drinking alcohol and smoking cigars and cigarettes. Our server was also responsible for them, and they received prodigiously good care and attention in spite of the fact that while I was there, none of them had eaten any food. Perhaps they already had; I don't know.

    However, when it was time to hand out the checks, we could not shake this guy. He hovered around the table until each one of us had pulled out cash or card.

    And so I present this dilemma: Mister was so ticked off, he didn't want to leave a tip. I paid with cash on purpose so that my amount couldn't be changed later, and left slightly less than 10%. The owner of the restaurant stopped by our table because he is a personal friend of one of my tablemates, but none of us complained about the server.

    I didn't even know how to broach the subject. I've never had to complain about really bad service before, and couldn't start. I had hoped that one of the others would speak up, especially the guy who didn't even get the food he'd ordered. No one did. Also, I felt uncomfortable with the tip. I've never given so little, but then again, I've only once had just comically bad service from a brand-new server (which resolved itself happily and is now a running joke with my dinner friends). Last night's server, however, has been at that restaurant at least for as long as we've been going there.

    Please advise me on how best to proceed. By sheer luck I will not be returning to that particular restaurant again, but I still want to have my arsenal ready just in case this unfortunately happens again.


    Beav said...

    The best way I've seen (and it was used by my Sweetie) was to leave an exceptionally small tip (say $.50), and write on the receipt you sign. (Something like "horrible service" or a frowny-face.)

    The manager looks at these receipts - he has to. By leaving so small a tip, you send a clear message. There can be no mistaking it. By leaving a 10% tip - or no tip at all - you might be disappointed with the service, or you might just be a cheapskate.

    Be aware, however, that you are likely to see your server or the manager after doing this. The one time my wife was forced to do this, the manager told the server to come find out what she had done wrong - so she proceeded to stomp over to our table and demand that we remove the 50 cents. (You can imagine how that went over.)

    Anyway, that's my 2 (and 48) pennies.

    Anonymous said...

    It sounds like you received sub-par service. However, if I may be so bold as to point out a few things to consider:
    -Based on your description, you received poor service in part because the restaurant was so busy. For example, a 20 minute ticket time on an appetizer means that the kitchen was equally slammed, and assuming he put the order in right away, your server has NO control over how long it takes for your food to come out to you.
    -Was everyone reasonably quiet while the order was being placed? I, myself, have had difficulties in the past properly hearing an order because the guests nearest me won't stop talking loudly.
    -If the gentlemen on the veranda were not eating food and just ordering bar drinks, then they were probably extremely easy to care for: no one needed extra dressings or condiments; all the orders were likely routine; and someone else probably made their drinks, so all the server had to do was pick it up and take it to the table. Or if that restaurant has drink-runners, all he had to do was ring it in.

    I'm not saying what kind of service you actually received because you were there, and I was not. But I know that people have left me poor tips for what they thought was "poor service" when in actuality the restaurant was incredibly busy, and I was doing the best anyone could do.

    However, your server sounds like he might very well be a douche, and if that's the worst you've ever tipped and you're kind of bothered by it, you probably did the right thing. I disagree with leaving no tip or a 50-cent tip: all it says to the server is that you're an asshole. 10% for poor service definitely gets the message across: "I understand the tipping custom in this country, and I would have tipped more if you had done a better job." Plain and simple.

    Anonymous said...

    Oh, and if I may add: Don't forget to talk to a manager when you do receive great service. Everyone complains, but a compliment and a good tip go a long way in making someone's night. Even "Great service! Thanks!" on the credit card receipt can turn the night around.

    Soo Mi said...

    whenever I receive stellar service, and especially when a place is slammed, I always write it on the ticket. My mom kept us afloat waiting for 3 different restaurants after my dad left. She was always exhausted by the time she came home, and I'm a little nicer to the wait staff because of it. I also never send anything back to the kitchen, even if it's really not what I ordered.

    To clarify, the place was in fact pretty busy, but this guy seemed to go out of his way to ignore us. Even when he stopped at the table next to us, he wouldn't look our way.

    Our table ended up with 6 people, arriving in pairs. The first pair received good service. It crashed with the second pair (us) and burst into flames with the last pair.

    It's just a sad thing all the way around.