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returning an entree


sp1187
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The entrees should have been removed from the bill, and when you saw that they weren't, you should have called over the original woman, and told her that while she couldn't "make it right", she could certainly lessen the damage by not asking you to pay for food too horrible to eat.

Some years ago my partner and I were in the (then) very upscale Emeril's in Miami Beach (in the old days, the original Emeril's in New Orleans was also quite upscale, and a benchmark of gracious service and attention.

Anyway, we were greeted warmly upon our return (we'd been there the year before) and the chef sent out a number of little first courses. Plus, we had ordered starters. My partner found his main course less than edible, but chose not to say anything (I told him he should), but he said that he was full, and just didn't want to make a stink. Anyway, when the waiter cleared the plates, he saw the uneaten plate and asked, "was the dish not to your liking?". and my partner said that it really was not. An offer of a replacement dish was made, and my partner declined it, but there was no discussion of any compensation. And in fact, when the bill came, nothing was said about the main course - it did NOT appear on the bill, but they didn't point that out either. They simply didn't charge for a main course that didn't get eaten, even by a customer who chose not to speak up and say something at the time.

I thought that their handling of it was exemplary.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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My experience as a restaurant patron is that if we've sent back food because it's improperly prepared or inadequately described on the menu (e.g., something that's spicy with no indication of being so), the waitstaff either offers to exchange it or deducts it from the bill. No discussion with the manager is involved, unless s/he stops by the table later to say s/he's sorry that the food didn't come up to our expectations. It's policy.

I have a question for you, seeing that you'd tell family and friends about the poor food: Is this a place you've been to before, often enough that they know you've been there before? If so, they definitely should have deducted the entrees.

Comping a dessert, in my experience, is usually for delays in service -- diners' food not being ready at the same time, restaurant overcrowded and the waitstaff having to take longer than usual to serve our table -- not because of something wrong with the food.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Suzy, no, it was my first time there, but I really don't see what difference that makes...1st time.....100th time. I understand that regulars might get extras (comped drinks, desert, lap dances?) because they are regulars but if you are implying they should have deducted the entrees only if I were a regular customer, I would disagree with that.

K8, I didn't ask for them to be removed because I didn't feel like arguing with them. I assumed (bad) that they would make it right. (probably the Dewars on both accounts)

respect the food, something died to provide

Lotto winner wanna-be

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I have a question for those of you in the know...do restaurants generally premake or make to order their risooto?

Yes.

The entrees should have been removed from the bill without question if not eaten.

However there is the possibility there was miscommunication between the manager and server. Its all speculation at this point but in the hectic environment of service the entree charge may have simply been added mistakingly.

(Slim possibility but still possible.)

Without questioning the charge at the time we will never know. With that said I would have likely done the same. Like many I rarely speak up if unsatisfied.

My better half on the other hand? Thats another story. :laugh:

Robert R

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There might be time to see how they'd respond to you.

I'd encourage you to write them a polite note (completely objective, no slamming them or embellishing the details), and repeat all the good things about your dinner youi've said here. Mention that you were surprized to see the entrees included on your check and although you didn't bring it up at the time, you've been wondering that perhaps it was added in error. Or send it via email if they have that type of contact on a website.

This opens the door for them to address it by refunding your $, giving you a gift certificate for a future visit (even if you don't use it, you can give it to someone else) or ignoring it and confirming your suspicion that they are not up to par and you shouldn't go back.

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However there is the possibility there was miscommunication between the manager and server.

That was my first thought, since it's unthinkable to me that they'd have charged you for food that you couldn't eat; I suspected that they meant for the items to come off and to buy you dessert, and that somehow that got misunderstood.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I have to say that the manager definitely misread the situation.

I'm sure they thought that they were resolving the issue but they obviously didn't ascertain all of the facts before coming over to the table, nor did they listen effectively to your complaint. They also don't appear to have followed up to ensure that you were happy with the action that the took.

A better approach would have been to remove the dishes and then offer a bounceback opportunity (eg. free app on next visit). At least then they would have been given a second chance to create a good impression.

RM

i´d rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal labotomy! Fred Allen.

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Suzy, no, it was my first time there, but I really don't see what difference that makes...1st time.....100th time. I understand that regulars might get extras (comped drinks, desert, lap dances?) because they are regulars but if you are implying they should have deducted the entrees only if I were a regular customer, I would disagree with that.

No, I don't mean that only regular customers should have had the entrees deducted from their bill, but that if they didn't recognize you, they might not have valued your patronage as much as that of people who dine there regularly (not having the foresight to consider that you'd be telling others about your negative experience there).

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Okay well it seems pretty obvious to me youre talking about Five Lakes Grill so why not just say it -- your profile says Michigan, you went out of your way to say "Ruhlman and a teacher", I just looked at the menu and there it is. (Mods delete the name if you must). You wont ask for those 45 dollars but you will tell all your friends and family and then come on here as well, which will surely cost them more than 45 bucks.

You say you dont want to fight, but whats going to happen on an online forum? Youre going to end up in some degree of debate -- and none of us talking will help you get any recompense.

I just went to a pastry shop in Baltimore today (I live 20 minutes south) and got some unfilled cannoli to go. They gave the shells but forgot to give the filling, which I didnt notice until I got home. Now I could have just been "f them, I wont ever go back" but instead I just called and they took my name and address and are sending a gift certificate along with their apologies.

Now again this is in Michigan, which Im sure is not faring well in these economic times, and it might be possible that they need every penny they can get and if they think "well the customer didnt say anything" that its okay. Once my mom got an erroneous late charge on her credit card, and she told me she had to talk the guy down on the phone "will you pay 25?" "no" "will you pay 20?" "no" all the way down. So maybe they have a policy that they wont do it unless specifically asked -- not a good way to do business, but still.

Im sure that the last thing they want to do is take someone for a few bucks. But as someone in the biz (now here is my bias which invalidates my whole argument, right?), the worst thing a customer can do is be unhappy, never say anything, and never come back. Yes, you as the customer has the right to think "well, they should have thought of everything", but you could have still brought it up and avoided an argument or confrontation:

"I noticed the entrees are still on the bill"

"Yes, they are."

"Ok."

And that would have been the extent of confrontation.

Rico

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You say you dont want to fight, but whats going to happen on an online forum?

People fight on-line? What a facinating concept.

"I noticed the entrees are still on the bill"

"Yes, they are."

"Ok."

And that would have been the extent of confrontation.

You assume that "Yes, they are." would have been their response and that "Ok".

at that point would have been mine.

You got a gift certifcate for something you paid for, but didn't receive. So you bought a gift certificate.

Edited by sp1187 (log)

respect the food, something died to provide

Lotto winner wanna-be

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You say you dont want to fight, but whats going to happen on an online forum?

People fight on-line? What a facinating concept.

Whats even more fascinating is if you quote the very next sentence where I say "there will be debate", which is what is in fact happening. People give their opinions.. you come on here to be justified in feeling slighted, and dont get me wrong, they did mess up, but it wouldnt have hurt to speak up. That's all I will say about this, as I doubt anyone will change anyone elses mind.

Rico

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This thread would veer way off topic if we drifted into the psychology reasons why one person will speak up while another will remain silent.

1. First mistake was the poster being charged for the entree.

2. And if by chance there was miscommunication between the manager and server that would fall under mistake number two.

People handle social situations differently. To suggest sp1187 could have handled it better is one thing. But it is reaching pretty far to suggest he is responsible for the outcome and should not have mentioned it on an food/restaurant discussion site.

Like I said up thread, I very well may have let it go without confrontation myself. Why you may ask? Because it is anyone's guess what the response may have been from the manager. By putting myself in that position I am opening the door to hear something that may not be satisfactory. Like were charging you for the entree for whatever silly reason.

Which brings us back to how we each handle social situations. Twenty five years ago the price for that confrontation would have been far more costly to me then the price of the entree. :laugh: Now that I am older and much more mild mannered. Plus dare I say wiser I learned to avoid putting myself in that position from the start.

Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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There is no restaurant I have worked in where the entree would be charged for, and the same goes for a few friends I have discussed this with. There will be some occasions where complimentary dessert(s) or a round of drinks would be offered as well depending on the 'severity' of the incindent.

Also, I've always made it policy that, when a dish is sent back and a different replacement ordered, the lower priced of the two is the one charged for.

In the position of the diner I'm not sure if I would have said anything at the time (I'm British and we're notoriously bad at complaining - or so I'm told, some of the idiots I've had to deal with over the years would tend to say otherwise!) I would certainly write to the restaurant about the issue though. You'll be able to tell a lot about the place by their reply (or lack of it...) Hopefully, the management will be equally annoyed by the incident and will be gratefull that you pointed it out. Otherwise their not worth any more of your money.

There is something that was taught to me at the very beginning of my first supervisory role - a well handled complaint can be almost as good for business as a flawless experience. Fortunately *most* customers are rational people and realise that things can go wrong from time to time - how this is dealt with speaks a lot about the calibre of the restaurant. At the restaurant where I held my first GM postion we had a regular couple who had been dining with us at least twice a month for over two years. However, on their first visit everything went wrong which prompted them to write a lengthy letter of complaint. The then manager sent an apologetic but honest reply with an offer of a complimetary dinner so we could show them our usual standards. They took him up, had a fantastic time and the rest is history.

Cheers,

Matt

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There is something that was taught to me at the very beginning of my first supervisory role - a well handled complaint can be almost as good for business as a flawless experience.

My only disagreement is that I think that a well-handled complaint is actually better for business than a flawless experience. A flawless experience means that nothing intruded upon the guest's dining in any way, whatsoever, and many guests (perhaps most) would be unlikely to notice a flawless dining experience, in the unlikely event that one should happen.

On the other hand, a well-handled complaint is a rarity that proves how good a restaurant actually is.

Just to stay on topic, I certainly would have made sure that the entrees were comped in this case, and given that the restaurant has been named at this point, a little research into the place seems to indicate to me that they'd be likely to make it right if you contacted them.

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Ah the wonders of 20/20 hindsight. If we could bottle it, I'm sure no-one would ever again walk away from a situation saying to themselves "I wish I'd said..."

Many Australians, like the British, tend not to complain about poor food or service, instead simply paying, walking away and then talking down the restaurant.

IMHO saying something is the correct action as it gives the restaurant a chance to make amends. I do say things like "this venison, although it looks rare and perfectly well cooked, has a texture like badly cooked blade steak." In that situation, I received a replacement dish no questions asked along with many apologies after the chef tasted the dish and a warm feeling that the issue would be raised with the supplier at their next encounter.

If you don't have time to stay, as was the case here, I would expect the entree (we call them mains, confuses the hell out of me when a main course is called by the French name for entry or starter) to be complimentary. That it wasn't was a failure on the part of the restaurant not, as some have implied, on the part of the customer. Having already sent back the mains, which most people wouldn't do (to the long-term detriment of the restaurant), would I then take the further step of a confrontation over the bill? I think despite the comments from our armchair critics, I probably wouldn't (and would suggest strongly that they wouldn't also if they were really in the situation rather than at their computer screens).

By raising the issue here, it has led to a healthy discussion. I hope that all in the professional food game will take note of what people are saying and make it common practice to react appropriately to customer issues (barring when the situation is manifestly ridiculous like complaining that a BLT had bacon, as mentioned earlier).

Now the restaurant has been named, one could suggest that common decency demands that they need to be made aware of this discussion to make a response and, optimally, recover from this awkward situation.

If the poster does not do it, how about someone else from the locale doing the right thing?

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Having already sent back the mains, which most people wouldn't do (to the long-term detriment of the restaurant), would I then take the further step of a confrontation over the bill? I think despite the comments from our armchair critics, I probably wouldn't (and would suggest strongly that they wouldn't also if they were really in the situation rather than at their computer screens).

I read a lot of similar discussions, and am criticized for not saying anything when a restaurant screws up, but it's usually because I think that the situation is hopeless, that my comment would accomplish nothing, and because I particularly don't feel that it's my responsibility to teach the restaurant how to do its job properly - and still I'm told that whatever it was, was my fault, because I didn't want to say anything, and certainly didn't want to get involved in a "scene". But, to me it is a given that if I send back a dish because it's so poorly or improperly cooked that I can't eat it, I'm not going to be charged for it, or pay for it. But if it does appear on the bill, I certainly will point out that we sent the dish back because it was inedible. That to me is not a "scene", that's pointing out an error on a bill, which I do all the time.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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  • 3 weeks later...

Depends on why the entree isn't going to be eaten. If the item is described accurately on the menu and prepared properly but the customer simply doesn't like it they should pay for it. If it's sat there for 20 minutes and the customer then complains it is cold, they should except a trip to the microwave or pay for it. And if it's a simple matter to make the food right (rare steak when medium was ordered for example) then it's up for debate due to so many variables.

However, if the reason is because there is an error on the restaurants part it should be deducted with no question. Not accurately described, cooked wrong, so horribly seasoned/cooked/prepared that it is inedible, etc. it should absolutely be taken from the bill.

All other courses should stay on the bill, and if a replacement item for the same course is accepted it should be paid for. While a free drink or a discount for the inconvenience is nice it shouldn't be expected and one should look at such humbly and with a thank you.

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If it's sat there for 20 minutes and the customer then complains it is cold

I assume this means if it sat in front of the customer, not in the window.

All other courses should stay on the bill, and if a replacement item for the same course is accepted it should be paid for. While a free drink or a discount for the inconvenience is nice it shouldn't be expected and one should look at such humbly and with a thank you.

I agree, it shouldn't be expected, it should be the establishments call if they want to further compensate the diner for the inconvenience.

I don't agree with the humble part.

That feeling should be with the restaurant. After all, they made the mistake.

The diner shouldn't feel humble in any situation.

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