Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sending food back...


aidensnd2
 Share

Recommended Posts

I rarely, rarely send food back, but sometimes the dish I ordered is not what I get! An attentive owner or chef will make sure the menu thoroughly describes the dish, but sometimes it just happens that the menu description is misleading or inaccurate. While I would probably scarf it anyway, I understand that some diners have been looking forward to their dining experience all day and would be severely disappointed if the dish isn't as described. Then I think it would be appropriate to send it back. I don't think it's appropriate to refuse a dish just because it contains one ingredient you don't like that could be easily removed, like nuts or olives. Can't imagine it myself. I even eat the parsley. Excuse me, can I have yours too?

My thoughts exactly.

Would be foolish of me to try to paraphrase when it's already been said so well.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are two stages at which a table may return a bottle of wine. The first and most obvious is when the wine is first offered to one of the party and he or she rejects it as "off". Because not all of those who are allowed to taste the wine before it is poured are knowledgeable, there is a chance that he will accept the wine but, when it is poured there is agreement at the table that the wine is not as it should be. In such cases, as long as each of those at the table has taken only a small sip or two of the wine, it should be replaced. In cases where one third or more of the wine has actually been consumed before the bottle is returned, the restaurateur has the right to charge for the entire bottle.

I have been at restaurants and have seen clients return four bottles of wine before settling on one that they find acceptable. Frankly, I find that practice vulgar.

Best,

Rogov

Agreed. The only reasons to return a bottle of wine are because it "has turned" - is "corky" etc. You don't return a bottle simply because you don't like it. For what it's worth - I'm not a big wine drinker - but even I can tell a "good bottle" from a "bad bottle". I think that some people just like to return wine to "show off" (which I agree is a vulgar and disgusting practice).

I don't return food very often. I think a lot of restaurant food is oversalted - but I always ask the server for no additional salt in the dish (other than what's in the ingredients that can't be changed). This practice usually eliminates that problem. When the restaurant is "little deal" and the food is lousy - my usual practice is simply not to return. If it's a big deal restaurant - well - fortunately - I can't remember having lousy food in a big deal restaurant for quite a while. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ordered a smoked duck salad and it was actually unsmoked turkey. Told the waitress who answered "I'm a vegetarian, so I wouldn't know anything about the difference" Wtong answer.

Then she came back with a lame story about how the kitchen smokes the duck with turkey to improve the flavor of the duck and I must have gotten a piece of that. Wrong answer again, but quite a creative story.

Sent it back and was actually afraid to try anything else - I need at least a little trust in the folks feeding me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose the interesting thing about this thread is how many people have not responded to Dan's original question (what do you do if there's NOTHING wrong with the food but you just don't like it), which is kind of interesting, and given their views of what happens if there IS something wrong, which is not the same thing at all.

For me, fortunately it doesn't happen often, it is when I am surprised by something on there that I didn't expect and wasn't advertised (like the excess of capers mentioned), or for me when looking for a small meal of grilled chicken it was served on a huge heap of linguini, not mentioned on the menu or by the server. The linguini was probably fine but I don't care for it in quantity and I was just out-faced, it had to go back. Not charged.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since we may be exhausting this topic, I'd like to post a related story - related in terms of how one can deal with problems in a restaurant. Before I do, I'd like to point out that in response to the original question, I have already replied that if I simply don' like a dish I'm served, I tell the server nicely, and make it the restaurant's problem, on the theory that as the paying customer, I have a reasonable expectation that I will enjoy the food served to me. As people have been saying, this doesn't actually happen all that often (and I learned years ago that at a certain type of restaurant, it's diner beware anyway, so I take that into account as well).

Some years ago I was in a small Canadian city with a singer friend who was appearing as the guest artist with the local symphony in a few concerts. I am highly allergic to smoke, and he has to avoid it like the plague when he sings. So it's normally room-service for him when he's on the road. Still, we thought it might be nice to have a dinner out if we could, so I drove around in the afternoon checking out what looked to be nice restaurants for their smoking situation. This was years and years before the current bans on smoking.

I found one place that actually had a totally separate no smoking dining room, and when I explained my needs to the manager, he showed me that the bar area and other dining room where smoking was allowed turned out to be in another wing of the building - this room really was going t be a smoke free environment (many places think and say they provide that and then when you check it out you find that it's something like a plant separating the two spaces).

So he made us a reservation for the no smoking room, and we returned that night. The food looked quite interesting and we ordered up a nice meal. Just as our main courses arrived, the room filled with smoke. We found that behind us, in a large circular booth, were eight people who had just lit up. My friend fled the room, and I stood in the doorway and called for the waiter and the manager. The manager was gone, and the waiter was an idiot. His explanation was that the smoking section was full and as it would be a very very long time before a table for eight opened up, he sat them in this room. I explained why this was wrong, and he basically didn't care, and asked if we wanted to move a few feet across the room and finish our meals. I explained that we were leavng. He insisted on bringing me a check, and I said that while that would take a lot of nerve on his part, I would certainly pay him for the appetizers we had - there had been no beverages. He insisted that the main course would have to be paid for as well since he served them. I didn't want to stand in the smoke and argue, and so I told him to get the check to me as quickly as he could.

When it arrived, I totalled it out. In the space on the credit card slip where it said "Tip" I put some big fat zeros - then I circled the word "tip", drew an arrow to the margin, and wrote in the real tip: "Next time, dont seat smokers in the no smoking room."

Perhaps that made an impression on him or his boss or whoever saw my comments. I don't know. But it was something.

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think I would send something back because I didn't like it (Although it raises an interesting quandary, If you are trying something new, how do you know whether you just don't like it, or it is bad?).

It has to be quite bad for me to send something bad, although the scale/cost of the place does factor, if it's cheap I am less fussy, and also if If I get a dodgy steak in a seafood restaurant, then it probably was my own fault!

Sending things back is quite often a pain anyway, I once sent back a piece of halibut which was so overcooked it had turned mushy. When I finally got a new one (Which to be honest was still overcooked, but not as bad) my girlfriend had almost finished her (nicely cooked, and very tasty looking) sole.

The unmentioned ingredient problem is another one that would cause me to send a dish back, I remember sending back a seafood pasta dish which came in an unadvertised gloop of tomato sauce.

The Chef actually came out and apologised (with a free plateful of bresoala) - turns out his boss had made him add the sauce as some previous customers had complained that there wasn't enough 'sauce' with the dish, but they hadn't changed the menu.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All this suddenly reminded me of one of those regional "separated by a common language" incidents, the kind of thing that happens all the time when you're on the road and every new city you go to looks like... the inside of a theatre. I was working on a show in Sarasota, and on my first morning there I went with the crew to their usual coffee-break place across the alley, and I ordered an English muffin with butter. And got... an English muffin with margarine. icon8.gif Called the waitress over and politely suggested there'd been an error somewhere: "I asked for butter, and this is margarine." She looked at me with the kind of blank astonishment usually reserved for little green men and gasped, "You mean... you want COW's butter?"

Luckily for me, they did in fact have cow's butter, and a replacement muffin with cow's butter she then brought me - on the double. (Union crew breaks aren't long enough for dawdling, and of course she was well aware of the fact.)

Once I had some caffeine in me I thought the whole thing was uproariously funny. But sometimes I have to wonder - why was it such a shock to her?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't send food back if I don't like it. I'm an adult; presumably I know what I do and do not like to eat. If I was trying something new, I was prepared for the possibility that I might not like it. If I felt that the dish wasn't a good value, that the portions were too small or there weren't enough truffles or gold flakes or what have you, I'll make a note not to return, but it's innaproppriate for me to punish the restaurant for their choices in serving size. Maybe I really think this plate would be stellar if the chef had made the decision to finish the sauce with a little more acid, or if he'd used rosemary instead of thyme. A dissapointment, sure, but I am not in the habit of punishing people for having tastes different from mine.

The sense of entitlement people have, this sense of personal outrage, really bothers me. I don't go to restaurants to see what I can get for free. If I want food that I know will be prepared exactly, to-a-tee, how I like it, I'll cook for myself. I know people who go out to eat with the intention of making a fuss, waiting for one false step from the kitchen or the service. I don't eat with those people.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't send food back if I don't like it. I'm an adult; presumably I know what I do and do not like to eat. If I was trying something new, I was prepared for the possibility that I might not like it. If I felt that the dish wasn't a good value, that the portions were too small or there weren't enough truffles or gold flakes or what have you, I'll make a note not to return, but it's innaproppriate for me to punish the restaurant for their choices in serving size. Maybe I really think this plate would be stellar if the chef had made the decision to finish the sauce with a little more acid, or if he'd used rosemary instead of thyme. A dissapointment, sure, but I am not in the habit of punishing people for having tastes different from mine.

The sense of entitlement people have, this sense of personal outrage, really bothers me. I don't go to restaurants to see what I can get for free. If I want food that I know will be prepared exactly, to-a-tee, how I like it, I'll cook for myself. I know people who go out to eat with the intention of making a fuss, waiting for one false step from the kitchen or the service. I don't eat with those people.

That's just what I would have said, only better said!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i agree with markk in principle - if i order something in good faith and it turns out that i just don't like it - i don't feel badly about ordering something else. whether i do or not is less topical - i believe i have every right.

i went to a local tapas place a few months ago and had a mediocre meal, nothing to complain about, but just not very good. the waiter offered dessert and we hemmed a little. he then started talking up the flan du jour. (i'm very anti-flan) he cajoled me into trying it (best flan ever - not flanish, etc) but sure enough - a flan by any other name is still eggy to me. when he came over to check back i told him the truth. he removed the flan and brought cookies (good cookies!) instead. he charged me for the flan anyway. i wasn't surprised, but i probably won't go back. in my opinion - a restaurant (and by extension the front of the house) has one meal-long opportunity to get you to come back. that should be the goal - every place worth eating in that i've ever worked in - it has been. i really didn't care about paying for the flan - but a good experience with a waiter can absolutely change my impression of a restaurant...and get me back for a second or third try.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All this suddenly reminded me of one of those regional "separated by a common language" incidents, the kind of thing that happens all the time when you're on the road and every new city you go to looks like... the inside of a theatre. I was working on a show in Sarasota, and on my first morning there I went with the crew to their usual coffee-break place across the alley, and I ordered an English muffin with butter. And got... an English muffin with margarine. icon8.gif  Called the waitress over and politely suggested there'd been an error somewhere: "I asked for butter, and this is margarine." She looked at me with the kind of blank astonishment usually reserved for little green men and gasped, "You mean... you want COW's butter?"

Luckily for me, they did in fact have cow's butter, and a replacement muffin with cow's butter she then brought me - on the double. (Union crew breaks aren't long enough for dawdling, and of course she was well aware of the fact.)

Once I had some caffeine in me I thought the whole thing was uproariously funny. But sometimes I have to wonder - why was it such a shock to her?

Wow! "Cow's butter," indeed.

That reminds me -- in reverse, I guess -- of the time we were driving cross-country and stopped at a place in Oklahoma, I think, and ordered grilled cheese sandwiches. They arrived and lo and behold, they were grilled cheese and HAM sandwiches. We told the waitress there seemed to have been a mistake -- we just ordered the ordinary grilled cheese. "Why, that IS the grilled cheese!" she said and looked at us very clearly as if to say, "Who on God's green earth doesn't know that grilled cheese always has a big hunk of ham in it?!"

We had to very sweetly explain that we didn't eat pork and could we please just have a cheese sandwich, please? And then we did.

Edited by redfox (log)

"went together easy, but I did not like the taste of the bacon and orange tang together"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok once I sent something back just because i didn't like it.

It was a roasted chicken salad, the description was roasted chicken and grilled vegatables on a bed of greens...what arrived looked as though it had already been digested, honestly I just couldn't look at it it was sooo gross.

i was very apologetic, I asked to change my order i ordered a turkey paillard salad with cranberries..it tasted fine but on my second bite there was a metal coil from a scrub brush..I had to send that back too

the waiter was quite snotty from the get-go (pre-send back, once we sat down as a matter of fact) so I didn;t feel too bad about it but I will never go back to that reastaurant again

I do send things back though that are undercooked, over cooked, smell weird or are just so badly prepared that I can't fathom paying for it, esp. salads that are over dressed, at which point I do get the dressing on the side because I don't trust the kitchen anymore

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So I've been on the road for six hours and need food to take medication. I enter a small mountain resort community and look for the basic food place. Enter and ask for a cheeseburger lettuce and tomato no dressing of any kind and a beer. Beer is welcomed, Enter the burger...

everything I ordered plus MAYO, MUSTARD, KETCHUP, PICKLES, ONIONS AND PEPPERS. I called the waitress over and asked what did I order? She looks at the pad and repeats my order to me. Send burger back. Watch in the open doorway as the cook Washes the burger in the sink and puts on it on a new roll. She brings it back (mind you she has watched this) and when I refused it all I got was a torrent of @^%$*&"?$ from both of them so I did not even pay for the beer. Lucky for 7-11 where a fruit pie enables you to have enough in the stomach to medicate.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny - wouldn't you think that eventually people in a service business would catch on to the general idea? Catching more flies with honey than with vinegar is not just virtuous and golden rule-ish; it's sound business sense. Of course courtesy is and ought to be a two-way street - admittedly ought to be so much more often than it actually is. But I think the days are gone (if they ever existed outside the minds of satirists and New Yorker cartoonists) wherein people going out to dine got a thrill from being treated with contempt by a snooty waiter. No matter what the nature of the complaint, how will the situation be made any worse by gracious behavior? or any better by arguing and sulking? Unfortunately for the two-way-ness of the courtesy street, there is an extra onus on the restaurant staff to treat the customer well, for the simple reason that the customer constitutes the livelihood; perhaps the balance is redressed somewhat by the consideration that a customer who is impossible to please or appease is a customer nobody wants. Anyway, no matter how I twist and turn the transaction between staff and customer, no matter how many angles I look at it from, I simply can't see any advantage to either party in behaving rudely to the other.

As for comping where a customer had reason to be dissatisfied with something, in the big picture is that not good policy? Excluding ex hypothesi the extreme cases and basing the principle on generally reasonable behavior (the steak really WAS overcooked, say, or the sauce really DID contain something that triggered an allergy etc.), seems to me that what you lose by comping you gain back several times over in increased good-will for the business. I don't know anything about the actual day-to-day mechanics of running a restaurant - I'm just thinking about the broader business model and assuming that a good restaurant budgets for that sort of loss and chalks it up to PR. And on the other side of the coin maintains a carefully-considered and well-enforced policy regarding interactions with customers.

Damn, don't you wish someone would train the customers to treat the waiters decently too?

Edited by balmagowry (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Damn, don't you wish someone would train the customers to treat the waiters decently too?

That's a job for parents. :raz:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't send food back just because I don't like the way it tastes. I do send food back because its cooked improperly, is old, etc. Good waitstaff can usually tell if your steak is on the well side and you ordered medium rare. I've had servers wait until I cut my steak and approve of it before they left the table. That makes me want to give them an even bigger tip. :biggrin: If the food contained a sauce or ingredient that was not on the menu...like a huge dollop of tomato sauce, I'd be upset. I'm not supposed to eat tomato sauce and to do so causes a great deal of discomfort for me. I would definitely send my meal back if it contained something I couldn't eat. If I knew about it ahead of time, I could prevent it.

Oh, and I believe in the fair treatment of all waitstaff...surly or otherwise. :wink:

it just makes me want to sit down and eat a bag of sugar chased down by a bag of flour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, and I believe in the fair treatment of all waitstaff...surly or otherwise.  :wink:

Amen, to that. Having been abused by customers as a waitperson and having witnessed awful abuse heaped on past coworkers I couldn't agree more.

And balmagowry, I am in agreement on the more flies with honey philosophy, too. Having waited tables for large parts of my working life, I know what a difficult (and often thankless) job it can be. It makes me want to make servers lives a little easier and I generally overtip for service especially when well done.

On sending food back: Keifel, the boychick and I went to a local Mexican restaurant of some regard last night to ward off the gnawing hungry befoer making the big grocery run. The last time Keifel and I ate there it was fair and I figured they were having an off night because before that I had always been served good, honest fare. Last night proves that they are in decline.

We were served burnt food. Burnt to the point of actually being carbonized. Keifel caught the waitresses eye and told her the situation. One of the cooks brought our replacement dinners himself and apologized. They also offered us a free dessert which we let the boychick have. Sadly it too was far under par, but it was the gesture that made a good impression. We will not be eating there again as our dining out budget is too small to throw at poorly executed food, but we did leave our server a generous tip and thanked her for being so swift in dealing with the situation.

Keifel still had to talk me into sending it back though. That is only the third time I have sent food back. The first time was a sandwich that was dripping with mayo (I detest mayo on sandwiches) after I had been very clear in asking for no mayo. The second was at a very nice restaurant in Atlanta on Valentine's night when my tuna steak had a very long hair curled up on it like a piece of Christmas candy. I quietly told our server, who almost instantly brought me a new plate with a different piece of tuna (could tell by the shape) and offered my companion and I both a free dessert for not making a fuss when they were so busy.

Kindness generally prevails. Also, last night was a teaching moment of sorts for the boychick as he saw first hand that being calm and polite about a situation paid off in an unexpected way.

Victoria Raschke, aka ms. victoria

Eat Your Heart Out: food memories, recipes, rants and reviews

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I very rarely send anything back in a restaurant. I'm pretty easy to please. One experience, however, has really stayed with me.

About ten years ago, my wife and I ordered minestrone at an italian/pizza restaurant near our getaway home in southwest Michigan. The menu didn't mention any meat. (We are Jewish, and don't eat pork or shellfish or eat meat when eating dairy.)

When the soup came, it had huge chunks of pork sausage in it. We told the waitress to take it back -- that we couldn't eat it. She said fine, but that we would have to pay for it anyway. I told her I would not. The manager came over and told me she wouldn't take it off our check. I told her she might as well call the police, because I wasn't going to pay for it. I told her to bring me a check without the soup on it or I would have to start complaining very loudly about how they were trying to extort money from honest patrons. I think I even threatened to call the police from my cell phone.

We didn't pay for the fucking soup.

Needless to say, I have never driven by the place without thinking about how rudely we were treated. And we have never been back -- we even warn our guests away from going there! (I'm an Irish/German Jew. If a person could make money from holding a grudge, I'd be rolling in it!) If they had treated me better, I's still be a customer. (Their pizza was pretty good.) But after that? Screw em.

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that if you don't eat something that is ordered because it doesn't stand up to the description of the dish, well I think it's up to the staff that is hovering around constantly asking "how is everything" to notice that "everything" isn't great. That's why I left an outrageously high tip to the waitress who noticed my plate of orzo untouched. When I explained that it was mushy and tasteless and just not what I had expected, she removed it and said it would not be on the bill. Didn't have to say another thing about it.

And $18.00 for four prawns in nothing more than a garlic tomato sauce is way excessive I don't care about the cost of prep. I know what it cost for a bag of the stuff from the supplier. And the insignificant amount of money the waiter staff gets from management---my daughter is a waitress in two different establishments plus a student. When her tips are 300-400 bucks a night and her wage is $30. I think we all know who pays the wages. Her tip out are what pay the other staff.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just recently a new Greek restaurant opened up in our neighborhood (love greek). My daughters and I make a habit of going out for dinner once a month. Dragged them both to it. Nothing looked familiar on the menu. Didn't even have Greek salad for god's sake. Or anything that resembled souvlaki. When I asked the waitress about this she explained (quite huffy) that this was Neuvo Greek. When the food came I realized what she meant was Peasant Greek. The food was awful. Truly awful. And the prices --- I ordered this prawn thing Prawns in tomato sauce appetizer for $18, there were four prawns only.

There is a world of Greek food beyond "Greek" salad and souvlaki, and I don't think you have any right to be irritated merely because the menu didn't conform to your notion of what "Greek" food is. A restaurant offering "American" food isn't obligated to include hamburgers and grilled-chicken caesar salads on its menu, either. The $18 price tag on an appetizer should have given you a clue that this place was shooting for something other than what you'd see at your standard corner tarama-and-souvlaki joint, as terrific as those joints can be.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...