Sharon (moonshaz) wrote in bad_service,

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Okay, this is admittedly a pretty small suck. But sometimes even a small suck can be big time irritating...

There is a locally owned restaurant in our town that my family and I really like to go to. We like the food, the atmosphere, etc., etc. In a lot of ways, it's really our favorite restaurant. There's just one thing we don't like so much...

We've been going there for years. We especially like to go there for breakfast. We're breakfast nuts, and they serve breakfast at all hours of the day (I mean ALL hours--they're open 24/7). I happen to like coffee with my breakfast, and I happen to like it sweetened. And I can't use sugar for medical reasons. The same thing goes for my husband. That's not usually a problem, because most restaurants these days have at least two, sometimes three kinds of artificial sweetener out on the tables. Not this place, though. The only thing on the tables there is the stuff in the pink packets (Sweet'n Low), which is saccharine based and has a nasty, sort of chemical aftertaste. No offense to anyone who may happen to like Sweet'n Low, but I just hate that stuff. I'd rather skip having coffee than have to taste that bitter aftertaste.

But that is not the suck. I always thought it was lame that they only had the pink packets, but I figured that's just how it was, and I would always try to remember to bring a supply of our preferred sweetener (Splenda) whenever we went to eat there. As time went by, we eventually get kind of tired of doing this, but we figured, "Whatever." Then one day, we got the bright idea that we would politely ask whether they would ever consider providing more than one artificial sweetener choice. Since that is what every single solitary other restaurant we've been to in the last 5-10 years does, it doesn't seem like an unreasonable request to us. So while we're up front paying the bill, we very, very politely (my husband is the very soul of tact, believe me), mention to the lady who's taking our money that we really love eating there but would love it even more if they had Splenda or Equal, instead of just Sweet'n Low.

This is where the suck starts. We make a polite suggestion for something that would improve our dining experience, and her response was to get all huffy and indignant.

"We HAVE Spenda!" she snaps. Hearing that, we are extremely surprised and sort of confused, since we had NEVER seen any in the place (and we ALWAYS check, believe me). I think one of us mumbled something like, "Oh, you DO have Splenda? Wow, we had no idea."

And then she says they used to put it out on the tables (the whole time, I am wondering WHEN? We've been going there for YEARS and never, ever saw any), but they had to stop doing that, because, she said, people kept taking it home. Yeah, evidently people were carting Splenda away by the wheelbarrowful or something. And we're all, "Wow, we just never had any idea that you had it, we really wish we had known that." And she's all, "RAWR ALL you have to do is ASK the waitress for some RAWR!" Her whole attitude was that we should have somehow known this, and we obviously must have the iq's of houseplants, since we didn't. Which really rubs me the wrong way, to say the least.

Well, we were pretty flummoxed at that point. The last thing we expected to hear was that they actually DO have Splenda squirreled away somewhere, and we certainly weren't expecting to be chewed out for having the nerve to NOT clairvoyantly know that all we had to do was ask the waitress for it. I think I spluttered something to the effect that it would be nice if they let people know they could have Splenda if they asked, like maybe they could put signs on the tables or something to let people know this, because we've been bringing our own Splenda all this time and it never entered our minds that they might have it if it wasn't out on the table with the other sweeters. Meanwhile she kept right on acting like she was just enormously offended by our assuming they didn't have Splenda. It was really aggravating, but there wasn't much we could do but throw up our hands and gtfo.

From that time forth, I quit bringing my own Splenda, of course. The challenge then became remembering to ask for Splenda every time. Mostly we remember, but sometimes the little "Oh, yeah, we have to ask for Splenda" lightbulb doesn't go on over our heads until after the waitress has filled up the coffee cups and disappeared again. I am trying to train myself to ask for Splenda right when I give my drink order ("I'll have coffee, and I'd like some Splenda, please"), but it's easier to forget than you might think. After all, this is a behavior that has never been necessary in any other restaurant, ever, so it isn't exactly second nature. More times than I'd like to admit, we've found ourselves sitting there staring at cups of coffee we can't drink while we wait for the waitress to resurface.

Fast forward a few months, and one day I find myself thinking that maybe if they got some complaints about this they might consider changing the policy. It might not work, but certainly there's harm in trying. After all, they'll have no reason to ever consider changing if no one speaks up. So the last time I was in there, while I was paying the bill, I commented about how hard it is to remember to ask for Splenda every time. Nothing whiny or bitchy, just conversationally mentioning that it's really hard to remember and it sure would be a lot more convenient if it was made available without having to make a special request. This is a different lady this time--and she has exactly the same huffy, indignant reaction as the other one did! She gives me the same lecture about how they have to keep the Splenda out of sight because people STEEEEEAL it if they don't. Sigh. Then she has the nerve to lecture me that there IS sweetener on the table after all (I say, "Yes, I know, but it tastes terrible", which seems to go right by her, and snaps "ALL YOU HAVE DO IS ASK!" ("Yes, I know that--I'm just saying it's very inconvenient and not always easy to remember" a few times for good measure. This time, I'm afraid I got a little irritated and gave HER a mini-lecture about how ever other restaurant I ever go into has Splenda or AT LEAT Equal out on the table along with the Sweet'n Low, and I can't understand why they are the ONLY one that doesn't. Deaf ears, that falls on.

Now, like I said, this IS a small suck. I know that, so please don't lecture me about that. And if the only suck was having to ask for the Splenda, that would be such a small suck I would never bother posting about it. The suck, as far as I'm concerned is the attitude that was displayed by two different people on two different occasions when I had the OMGunmitigatedGALL to suggest that maybe, just maybe, whatever artificial sweeteners they have should ALL be out on the tables rather than one particular kind being hidden away without anyone knowing unless they just happen to say something. I think they could just have easily replied to our inquiries politely and graciously, something along the lines of, "Oh yeah, we realize it's not the most convenient arrangement for our customers, but we just feel we have no choice, and we really do regret any problems it causes." Instead what their attitude conveyed was, "Oh this is inconvenient for you? Guess what--WE don't care! STFU and use the nasty-tasting Sweet'n Low if you don't like it." And I just find that completely inappropriate. OMG, pardon ME for thinking that restaurants are interested in giving their customers a pleasant dining experience and might be open to suggestions as to how to make the experience even more pleasant. What a ridiculous notion.

In hindsight, I suspect they must get a lot of complaints about this, that they are probably tired of hearing about it and have gotten defensive and resentful about the whole thing. Okay, whatever. I'm sorry if you have to listen to comments about this ten times a day. I'm sorry if that's annoying for you. But that is NO excuse for taking it out someone who is just trying to politely let someone know what would make their dining experience more pleasant.

All that said, I would be really interested to know if anyone else has ever encountered a "hide-the-Splenda" policy like this. I would be even more interested to hear from people who work in restaurants about whether Splenda theft really is a huge problem. I know there are a lot of sticky-fingered people around, and I know Splenda is pricey because I buy it myself to use at home. But I'm still mystified as to why this ONE particular restaurant feels compelled to hide the darned stuff from their customers when no one else does that. Is Splenda really THAT special? Is it really such a magnet for thieves as all that?

Sorry this is so long. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with it.

EDITED to add: I didn't think to identify exactly who the two people were that I talked to about this issue. Since people have been assumning that I was complaining to the servers, I want to set things straight. The first person I talked to was actually one of the owners. (It's a family owned, ma & pa kind of place, and she was "ma," or maybe "grandma.") I think the second person was a manager, but I'm not 100% sure about that. It's hard to tell; they don't wear name tags or anything, so it's possible she was a hostess. But I never even raised the issue with a server. It's a policy matter, and I know they have no control over that, so I made my comments up front when we were paying the bill. Just wanted to clarify that!
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