We went in, and the hostess mumbled something relating to the fact that there were no menus left. Apparently, as the next server to arrive at her station informed us, we were supposed to be following her. Oops. She got us menus, and we waited for our server to arrive. Slow, but not so slow that it was bad service. She took our drink orders, thanked my brother for showing his ID, and vanished. We got someone else's drink order first, with a "just kidding!" as she realized her mistake, then got our own after what seemed like longer than it should have taken, even for drinks from the bar. It felt like quite a while before we got to place our food orders, but she apologized again for the long wait. Then my brother (let's call him sakanagai) had a simple question, or so it seemed... how much would it cost to double the meat in a burger? He noticed that the Applebee's burger comes with two small meat patties, but he wanted two of the patties that come in the larger burgers. She fluctuated between $2 and $5 in random increments, saying "I don't know" after every guess. If those numbers were attempts to remember a PIN, she'd have lost her ATM card. No offer to find out... just "It could be $3.50, or $3.00, or $2.50, or $4.00... I really don't know. Is that okay?" He said it was okay, the poor fool, as long as it had no tomatoes (as anyone who's asked why people order diet drinks with fatty foods while I was around knows, he can't eat tomato - he can pick it off if it's not too juicy, but he's basically allergic). We got our appetizer in timely fashion, and the food not TOO much longer after we were expecting it, but when he looked at his burger, the patties were tiny. He decided to ask the waitress whether that was the size of the normal patties, or whether she'd brought him an Applebee's burger by mistake.
Cue the waiting. I think it was about 20 minutes before she stopped by our table again. I'd noticed a lack of ketchup, wet-naps, and a glass of water (since I'd been waiting so long, my drink was getting empty, and I hadn't thought to order water beforehand... lot of good it would have done me, since sakanagai's was long empty and no refills in sight), but I let his query take priority, and she gave us the "I don't know" chorus for five minutes before agreeing to ask a manager about the patties.
Cue the waiting. 20 more minutes, and I was getting full while sakanagai hadn't been able to take a bite. She was sure giving the tables on the other side of the partition plenty of attention, but she didn't even walk down our aisle for us to get her attention without shouting across the restaurant, and we didn't want to take time away from the other tables while she was working - that would be rude. Finally, she came back to us. Yes, she'd screwed up and entered the order as an Applebee's burger because it was cheaper and she thought it was the same thing. She comped his meal (except his beer) and offered to have a new burger made, also free. He asked for it in a to-go box, since I was going to be finished long before he got it. Prophetic words...
Cue the waiting. I wasn't expecting much, but the people across the aisle from us had been waiting since just after we sat down, and when she finally got to them to bring them their check, they reminded her that they hadn't gotten their dessert yet. At least their check was somewhere... no sign of ours. It had to have been half an hour. I REALLY wanted some water (yay heat wave, yay me for splurging on a drink without free refills... and yay for no chance of getting refills anyway), and I was starting to get hungry again, so I ate more of my food. It was getting to be a second dinner by the time the check arrived, with a promise of a to-go box to follow. He gave me $3 and called it his share of the tip. We discussed the Dick Solomon tipping method, which was also an independent idea of mine - the stack of singles on the table, shrinking every time we felt slighted - but the stack wouldn't have been large enough. I wasn't sure he was going to want to give the whole three bucks anyway. The people across the way finally got their dessert and check, and had almost as much trouble getting her to take their payment. Finally, she got back to us and took sakanagai's untouched plate of food away... and left the check and my card.
Cue the waiting. By this time, Not only had the table across the partition from us been reseated, but those women had finished their meal, including dessert, paid, left, and been replaced by another family. The girls from the local sports team who were sat down the aisle from us while we waited for our drinks were long gone and had been replaced. Large tables of people had come and gone. We waited on...
Finally, she took my plate and the check, and brought the copy for me to sign with little fuss. Surprisingly, she left a pen without being prompted, and I asked sakanagai one more time if he still wanted me to leave the full three dollars. The end result: $2.50, which was 10% of the comped bill rounded up. I was feeling a bit too generous to leave a penny. I wrote on the bottom of the check "We exist! Please check on us!" because, had she been even the tiniest bit attentive to us or even walked past us at some point during the meal, none of these problems would have been difficult to correct. I never did get to order my water or ask for ketchup or extra napkins, so my hands are still covered in riblet sauce. And I wanted dessert, but I also wanted to leave while it was still Wednesday, so I refrained from asking.
And on her second visit after picking up the check, she noticed that sakanagai still didn't have his burger and made preparations to bring it out. Soggy, with bacon and tomato. He left the tomato in his long-empty water glass, and we beat feet.
I'm sure there must be good Applebee's service stories out there, and my brother's apparent magnetism for bad service may have been a factor (and really, he takes it well most of the time and never pre-empts it), but we got to the restaurant at 6:30 and didn't get out until 8:30. A trainee waitress, probably, but I'm not sure that's an excuse. If it is, then I hope she takes my little message to heart. Just because we're a table of two doesn't mean we don't intend to tip well.
On the bright side, the We Love Katamari soundtrack arrived in the mail today, so we had a good mood pick-me-up for the trip home.