Thessalian (thessalian) wrote in bad_service,

As a first-time poster, I actually gave a little thought as to what story I should lead off with -- since I work in the NHS (National Health Service for non-Brits; so-called 'free' medical care that comes at a higher psychic price than you can imagine), I have a million of 'em.

However, since it's nearly Easter and I don't want to depress anyone, I'll start with a bit of bad service I received a long time ago.

As I understand it, people in the South of France are really polite and nice, contrary to popular British xenophobic myth. However, Parisiens tend to prove the British right about the French being arseholes, particularly those dealing with tourists in the retail or food service industries.

My mother and I, on a long weekend in Paris, had a really hard time finding a decent meal (yes, in Paris; we were trying not to be your typical tourists and actually tried things off the beaten track). After two days of predominantly inedible food, we found a 'quaint little bistro' a few blocks from the hotel and went in to hopefully get something palatable.

We were sneered at immediately, seated at a table too small and wobbly to be of much use to a diner, and then ignored for awhile, until surly waitress turned up and threw menus at us -- and I mean that literally, in a "Olympic discus hopeful" sort of way. She came back some time later with bread, which was stale but, since I was hungry, I thought it would do with some butter. So I asked the waitress. Politely. In French, to show willing; it's apparently polite to at least try to speak the native tongue when you're in a foreign country. Whether my accent was too Quebecois or it's simply an insult to the bread (stale, remember) to butter it in France, I'm not sure. All I know is that she looked at me as if I'd grown a second head and said, "Beeeeeeuurrrre?" She sounded like a sick sheep. I just looked at her calmly and said, "Oui. S'il te plait."

The butter came -- with the meal. And that was just the start of our problems. My mother, forgetting the cardinal rule of foreign dining (if you can't figure out exactly what it is, ask the waiter or just don't order it) ordered something of 'boeuf' and wound up with paper-thin slices of raw steak spiced so as to somehow taste like it came out of the cow instead of off it. I, on the other hand, wound up with pork brochettes that had the approximate consistency and texture of a rubber ball and cold chips. All told, dinner was a nightmare.

So we do every trick in the book to try to get the attention of our waitress. We lay the fork and knife parallel to each other on our plates. Then we put our napkins in our plates. Then we do the obvious neck-crane thing to try and catch her eye, but she is too 'busy' chatting to a bunch of guys at the bar to even pretend she can't see us, much less to actually come over or anything. We tried a hand-wave, an "Escuse me?" and still nothing. So my mother was finally pushed to the cardinal sin of any restaurant customer; waving her credit card in the air to signal without doubt that we want to pay the bill and go home.

Waitress comes over and Frisbees us dessert menus.

This is where it gets amusing. My mother, pushed to the brink by bad food and worse service, goes calm-before-the-storm and says, "Go. Outside. And wait. For me." I leave with alacrity, thinking that someone's going to be dead momentarily, or at least wish they were. However, my mother joins me outside the restaurant thirty seconds later, saying, "Let's go". Realisation dawns: "You didn't pay the bill, did you?"

"No. She obviously didn't want her money. Now let's go!"

We'd got most of the way to the corner and crossed the road before I heard shouting. Very familiar guy in dark suit and red tie is running down the street hollering at us. I recognise him; he sat us at a crappy table two hours ago. "Um ... Mum? That's our Maitre d'." I thought she'd stop, chew him out, maybe pay the bill and we'd stop being so stupid. Instead, my mother says, "Run". I was so stunned that I did as told.

Unfortunately, due to wine consumption and ineptness at anything that isn't above board, my mother got the bright idea to hide in an underground car park, not realising that the door at the bottom was locked. The maitre d' caught up with us, and the stupid part of the whole thing was that, because she was carrying no small denominations and didn't want to go back to pay by credit card, my mother not only had to pay the bill but leave a hefty tip as well.

So that's how sucky service drove my mother to a life of crime ... sort of.
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