Jocelyn (jocelyncs) wrote in bad_service,
Jocelyn
jocelyncs
bad_service

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When Bad Service Happens In Good Restaurants...

I love eating out.  Absolutely love it.  But what do you do when a restaurant you adore decides to peg you right between the eyes with bad service?

I adore La Madeleine.  Absolutely love them.  I worked across the street from their Bethesda location and discovered their heavenly quiche, French dips, and caesar salad.  I got lunch from them at least once a week, and took my folks there when they came to visit me once.  The service was always quick and friendly, even during the lunch rush.

And then...(dun dun DUN!)...shortly after I stopped working in Bethesda, it happened.  I was in the neighborhood after depositing my last paycheck and decided to grab a last quiche lorraine from them.  The place was dead, I paid for my food at the register (it's a cafeteria style setup, only the food is far better than anything you'll usually find in such a place) and the total came to just under nine bucks.  So I paid with a $20 bill. 

Cashier (one of a gaggle of waitresses and servers hanging out behind the counter) handed me a $1 and some change. 
Me: (blinks)  Uh, excuse me, I paid you with a $20.
She:  (flat-voice)  Ten.
Me:  (staring, repeats)  No, I'm quite sure I gave you a twenty.
She:  (bored-voice)  No, ten.
Me:  (sigh, cannot believe this is happening here of all places, as politely as possible.)  Can I talk to your manager please?

Gaggle exchanged glances, went to find him.  I moved aside to let the next customer pay (too bad he hadn't seen me pay, but he'd been back ordering soup.) 

Now, I know what you're thinking:  maybe I was mistaken?  Believe me, I pondered the possibility, but for one very important fact:  I had JUST come from the bank and deposited my paycheck, complete with $80 cashback to get me through my week.  And they were all $20s, brand-spanking-new colored twenties, back when those things were kinda cool, ya know?  I had admired them at the teller before putting them in my wallet, and I had NO other cash.  I was quite certain of what I'd given them.

Manager arrives and I explain the situation.
He:  Well, go ahead and have your lunch, and I'll count her till and make sure there wasn't a mistake.
Me: (thinking:  there ain't no mistake this time, but okay)  That's fine.
She:  (and the gaggle, shifting about eyeing each other)  I'll just pay her the $10 myself, okay?
He:  No, no, it's policy, we have to check.
She:  (VERY nervous)  Okay.
Me:  Okay.  (Goes to eat.)
He:  (As I'm finishing my lunch)  We counted her till, it's not off.
Me:  (Siiigh, Oh boy, here goes.)  Well, then, I"m very sorry to say this, sir, but someone pocketed it.  I have no doubt that I paid her a $20 bill--I had no other bills.  (I was in a mellow mood, having just been paid, so I was much calmer than I might have been on another day, and I didn't want to be rude, but I wasn't about to walk out of there after paying $19 on a $9 meal.)
He:  May I take your phone number then and we will call you if the till is off at the end of the day?
Me:  (If someone pocketed it, what good will that do?)  I'm sorry, no.  I know I paid $20, and I would like the $10 change, please. 
He:  Alright, I'll be right back.

I have little doubt he decided it was best just to throw the money at me and get me the hell out of the place, but he brought me $10.  I thanked him and calmly left, feeling multiple eyes burning holes in the back of my head.  A sad end to my many months of patronage of that restaurant (well, okay, last year I started going again), but I went on their corporate website that day and made a detailed complaint about a very dishonest employee.  I have little doubt the cashier either did it herself or watched one of her girlymates do it.  Either way, not cool.

Possibly the only restaurant I adore as much as La Madeleine is Legal Sea Foods.  I frequent the one in Chinatown, Washington, DC, near my law school.  I go in quite often for clam chowder with a book to study.  Please note:  for someone who orders small meals, I'm a DAMN good tipper.  Most restaurants I frequent quickly realize that, and sometimes the waiters fight over me.  [/preen].

Anyway, one day, it happened there too.  Place wasn't busy, and I came in on a rather warm afternoon after buying some textbooks.  I wanted clam chowder, but was so hot at the moment that I was really thirsty, first and foremost.

Waiter:  Gets my order
Me:  Clam chowder, lemonade, also a water.  (It was August in Washington, DC, peoples, I'm talkin' HOT!)
Waiter:  (Leaves)
Me:  (Waits)
Me:  (Waits)
Me:  (Waits and parches)
Me:  (About ten minutes later, to waiter who was not mine)  Can I get a glass of water please?  (Thinking:  I'm DYING here!)
He:  No problem.  (Gets me water)
My waiter:  (To Waiter 2)  *Mumble mumble*
Waiter 2:  *mumble*water*mumble*
My waiter:  (To Waiter 2 and random busboy)  *Mumble*wanted lemonade*mumble*HUFF! (Shuffles to bar and gets me VERY full lemonade, spills it on tablecloth)
Me:  (Thinking:  Whatever)
My waiter:  (Brings chowder)
Me:  (No longer parched) *Eat*happy*drink*no longer dying of thirst
My waiter:  (To Waiters 3, 4, 5, and Busboy and cook--WELL within earshot)  *mumble*lemonade girl*mumble*causin' trouble*mumble*water*yeah, stupid*
My waiter's posse:  (Laughing, shooting furtive glances at me)
Me:  Oh no, you are NOT talkin' smack about me where I can HEAR you.

Now, mind you, I've done retail and restauranting.  I cannot claim it is unethical to make fun of customers, whether or not they deserve it, as I have done it.  But I have the good sense to do it in BACK, nowhere that the customers (and certainly not the object of the amusement) can POSSIBLY hear me!

Me:  (on the way out, to manager)  By the way, your food is great, but you might want to mention to your servers that it's a bad idea to talk about customers where they can hear.
Manager:  (mortified)  Who did this?
Me:  Well, I don't want to get anyone in trouble, just generally... (thinking:  he'll have to fire half the staff!)
Manager:  (polite but firm, props to him) Ma'am, I need to know the cause of the problem if I'm going to fix it.
Me:  (Oh well, they deserve it.)  Well, it was my waiter over in that section, the cook with the  [description], the [description] busboys, the waiter in that other section, and the waitress with the [description].
Manager:  Thank you very much, ma'am, I promise that won't happen again.

And, to his credit, it never did.  I'd always been treated great by that restaurant, and in every time I've gone back since (which is VERY often) I've always been treated great. 

So, obviously, I haven't stopped patronising these particularly wonderful sources of delicious delectables, but there's nothing worse than a dining experience that makes you question whether you should keep going to a restaurant you love.

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