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"Make Them Pay"


DonRocks
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From the article:

unless a wine is grotesquely flawed or obviously corked you'll probably accept it rather than confront the waiter.

Sounds right to me!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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If they really did get a corked bottle, I'm sure you'll agree that they deserve a free replacement. If by "comped" you mean not charged for the replacement bottle, of course I agree. That would be a totally absurd expectation by the customer. Am I allowed to call such a customer a putz? :laugh: (Probably, since no-one is named.)

The suggestion in the article is that the customer shouldn't have to pay for the REPLACEMENT bottle either.

...When a diner identifies a flawed or corked bottle of wine, he is not charged for the flawed bottle. This is the current practice. Plus, under my system, he is not charged for the replacement bottle, either. In short, if a customer has to bring a bad bottle to the house's attention, the wine is on the house...

X is a Y.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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This "new system" only makes sense if it were possible to identify a bad bottle before opening it... then, not having done so would have been laziness or negligence on the part of the restaurant staff, and the diner had done somebody's work for them. However, this is never ever the case, since it is impossible to detect a bad bottle before opening it.

On the other hand, getting a hunk of dirt inside a cooked leek, or sand on the trout, or a cockroach inside an eggroll certainly calls for something comped... or no argument when the diner complains, stands up and walks out of the place. Those events really are a sign of somebody behind the scenes not doing their job.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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This "new system" only makes sense if it were possible to identify a bad bottle before opening it... then, not having done so would have been laziness or negligence on the part of the restaurant staff, and the diner had done somebody's work for them.  However, this is never ever the case, since it is impossible to detect a bad bottle before opening it.

On the other hand, getting a hunk of dirt inside a cooked leek, or sand on the trout, or a cockroach inside an eggroll certainly calls for something comped... or no argument when the diner complains,  stands up and walks out of the place.  Those events really are a sign of somebody behind the scenes not doing their job.

Absolutely correct, Chris! The kitchen gets to be touchy feely with their product before it goes to the table. If there dirt in your leeks then the prep cook was asleep at the wheel. But until sommeliers are gifted with clairvoyance, the scenario suggested is patently absurd and likelier to cause ugly scenes and bad experiences for both customers and restaurant staff than it is to __________ (fill in the blank).

Gee, it occurs to me that I can't fill in that blank. I don't exactly understand what the writer's point was. He doesn't ever make it clear what he's trying to achieve other than rewarding diners for bad luck and costing the restaurants a whole lot of money that they have no mean of re-couping. The reason the first bad bottle isn't charged for is because the restaurant returns it to the distributor for a replacement. They're the ones that actually take the bath on the bad bottle. If the restaurant gives away the next bottle they might as well hang a sign outside that says "Upscale Soup Kitchen" rather than the name of the establishment. If this prevailing practice were not in place, and the restaurant were stuck with the cost of the FIRST bad bottle, I assure you that wine markups would have to be even higher to cover that risk.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The whole premise of this article is that somehow, restaurants are purposefully serving bad bottles of wine. This, in and of itself, is nonsense.

Restaurants aren't the only purveyors of wine. If a customer bought a bottle of wine from his local retailer, and discovered it was corked, what is the retailers liability? Using the author's logic, I would imagine the customer is entitled to:

1) A free bottle of wine,

2) Compensation for gas due to the extra round trip

3) Perhaps even "tire wear" or some other superfulous charge due to the inconvenience.

Where is the blame for, say, wineries and cork producers?

I do my part to train my staff on flawed wine detection before the wine hits the guest. What I did not get from this article except "Make 'em pay" was Mr. Giliberti's part describing to the reader about what these flaws are, and how to detect them. What if the wine is only slightly affected by cork taint? What then? When is it acceptable to send back a bottle (please to add anecdotes from sommeliers)? With the circulation that the Washington Post has, how about a column dedicated to explaining the faults in wine and how to detect them? Would not that further your goal of eliminating flawed wine from crossing the consumer'slips? An admirable goal, that.

Exactly!A dissertation about why wines are corked, and how one can recognize TCA taint, would have been far more valuable than this rubbish.

Isn't the whole purpose of this column to educate consumers? What educational purpose did this column serve, other than to tell the dining public, "You don't jack about wines, and restaurants are trying to hose you."

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Exactly!A dissertation about why wines are corked, and how one can recognize TCA taint, would have been far more valuable than this rubbish.

Let's add to that a discussion about alternate, non-organic closures like synthetic corks or Stelvin caps and why they're preferable.

Isn't the whole purpose of this column to educate consumers? What educational purpose did this column serve, other than to tell the dining public, "You don't jack about wines, and restaurants are trying to hose you."

The purpose of this column appears to have more to do with the author stroking himself than educating anyone. His premise is illogical on so many levels it's hard to decide which fallacy to address first. It also clearly illustrates that no attempt was made to discover or explain what "corked" wine really is, what the statistical likelihood of getting a corked bottle might be (anywhere from 6%-8%), or what standard industry practices/restaurant etiquette are and why they are that way.

Rubbish indeed.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I think it's what sets the NYTimes food/wine/restaurant writers apart from the Post is this very amateur-ish, almost self-important arrogance. Even more curious is how this pointless diatribe made it passed his editor?!?!?!

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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I think it's what sets the NYTimes food/wine/restaurant writers apart from the Post is this very amateur-ish, almost self-important arrogance. Even more curious is how this pointless diatribe made it passed his editor?!?!?!

I've e-mailed the Food Editor and asked that very question.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I know this post is a little off-topic, but I have to bring up something that's been bugging me lately. This article is just a continuation of the absurd complaints and expectations that the Post propagates. Lately (especially in the "Ask Tom" section in the Sunday Magazine) the trend has been to bash servers for failing to meet impossible expectations. No one seems to take human error into account. Whether a server makes a mistake on the bill, or doesn't do enough to quiet another customer or, god forbid, unwittingly serves a corked bottle of wine, it is an excuse to treat the server as a servant, instead of a human who (JUST like the customer) occaisonally makes a small mistake. I think that dining out should be a pleasant and - dare i say- unforgettable experience, but everyone needs to take it all a little less seriously. I love food. But at the risk of being tarred and feathered, its just food.

My boyfriend and I are both servers/bartenders at wonderful fine dining restaurants. We have high expectations of ourselves, and when we dine out, we expect the same from whomever is waiting on us. I expect my server to know the menu and the wine list (and to not bullshit me) - but it's okay to have to double-check something in order to get it right. I expect the bill to be correct - but it's okay to make a mistake, even overcharge us, as long as it's fixed when I bring attention to it. The patrons who write complaining about servers' mistakes apparently expect perfection. They seem to think that every minute error is purposeful and is their waiter's fault and liability. I don't think its asking too much to expect quality service from a waiter (especially if you're paying over $50 per person for the meal), but absolute perfection 1,440 minutes a day? Can we all just relax a little? Cut each other some slack?

Eat.Drink.DC.

...dining in the district...

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.

- Orson Welles

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makes you wonder why we critique obscure, peripheral things like food/restaurants/wine but don't critique or better yet give "star ratings" on things like hospitals/doctors/lawyers. The things you really need when your life/health or freedom is on the line. We are a strange society...

Edited by sdelgato (log)

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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So, I could see a case for this if

  • a) the restaurant has a sommelier (or wine staff)
  • and b) that person tastes the wine before serving it to you

Because then you get into the universe of "the restaurant inspecting the bottle beforehand".

But then you open yourself to the customer arguing with the sommelier and "always being right".

How many restaurants still do this anyway? Not most restaurants that most people eat at.

It's a silly idea, and I hope no one takes him up on this. I expect to pay for a bottle of wine if I order it, and if the bottle I get is different than the one they brought out first because the first one was tainted, I should still be paying for the bottle.

Derrick

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Oddly, it seems that everything that we pointed out in this thread has been incorporated into this "response" of his. My best guess is that the food editor passed along my link to this thread and he got an earful about it.

Why on earth would a restaurateur in Albequerque give a rat's ass what policies are being suggested/adopted in a DC restuarant, especially at the urging of someone who clearly has no idea how restaurants operate or what a customer relations nightmare he's suggesting? I think my bullshit detector is twitching, and I think eGullet has struck again! :hmmm:

Is there NO ONE else here that finds it incredibly suspicious that each and every point made in this thread last week is addressed in the writer's "e-mails", in precisely the same order that they appeared on this thread??? Particularly after I mailed a link to the thread to the then Food editor???:unsure:

My understanding is that the Food Editor has stepped down from her post as of last week. I wonder if being asleep at the wheel and allowing this pointless and dangerous drivel to be printed might have had anything to do with that?

S'all I'm saying. Just wondering is all...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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So, I could see a case for this if
  • a) the restaurant has a sommelier (or wine staff)
  • and b) that person tastes the wine before serving it to you

Someone beat me to the punch. I've seen this practice a few times in my dining experience. It won't happen at many restaurants and it won't happen often. It will only happen in superb restaurants with very experienced and confident diners and then only with the kinds of wines a well heeled connoisseur might order. I think it might happen a bit more often if it weren't for the problem of the average diner screaming bloody murder about losing a sip of his precious wine. It is the ultimate service to a diner, in my opinion, but it can only be done in those very high priced restaurants with proper staff.

The flaws in Ben Gilberti's arguments have pretty well been hashed out. If restaurants have been making obscene profits, we'd probably have all stopped eating out. An assumption that current wine pricing covers a new potentially expensive service is flawed. The suggested policy would increase prices not only enough to cover the profit on the flawed wines that are accepted, but to cover the anticipated expenses of scam artists who will order above their head once in a while knowing the can actually drink for free. We'll all pay for that. On an economic level, this is completely unthought out and impractical. I'll hardly defend every current restaurant practice, but we have a system that's the result of many years of wine service in restaurants and is in line with what's been done for centuries in other countries where wine with meals is an even longer tradition. Most of the inequities I see in how restaurants deal with diners, would have changed long ago, if it weren't for the resistance of diners, not restaurateurs. No, I've never owned a restaurant.

As a New Yorker, I have mixed feelings about the comparison of the Washington Post to the New York Times. My chauvinism makes want to say, "Right on, we're New York, the center of sophisticated food and food journalism." Unfortunately, I've seen some pretty inaccurate things said in the NY Times. I haven't read enough of the Post to really make a comparison, but it seems to be doing a credible job. Perhaps I'm only directed to the best stuff, or maybe even only to the mentions of eGullet. :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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... we have a system that's the result of many years of wine service in restaurants and is in line with what's been done for centuries in other countries where wine with meals is an even longer tradition.

But restaurant wine pricing is distressingly high in the United States - you can often find a decent bottle of wine in a European bistro for $10-15, or a half-bottle for $5-8. The unfortunate truth is that domestic wines in the United States are generally not worth what they're sold for, and the multi-tiered import system makes imported wines almost as expensive.

... Unfortunately, I've seen some pretty inaccurate things said in the NY Times. ....

Certainly nothing but the best and most cutting-edge wine journalism from Frank Prial though, right? :rolleyes:

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Oddly, it seems that everything that we pointed out in this thread has been incorporated into this "response" of his. My best guess is that the food editor passed along my link to this thread and he got an earful about it.

Why on earth would a restaurateur in Albequerque give a rat's ass what policies are being suggested/adopted in a DC restuarant, especially at the urging of someone who clearly has no idea how restaurants operate or what a customer relations nightmare he's suggesting? I think my bullshit detector is twitching, and I think eGullet has struck again! :hmmm:

Is there NO ONE else here that finds it incredibly suspicious that each and every point made in this thread last week is addressed in the writer's "e-mails", in precisely the same order that they appeared on this thread??? Particularly after I mailed a link to the thread to the then Food editor???:unsure:

My understanding is that the Food Editor has stepped down from her post as of last week. I wonder if being asleep at the wheel and allowing this pointless and dangerous drivel to be printed might have had anything to do with that?

S'all I'm saying. Just wondering is all...

Why are you so intent on finding malfeasance? Since you have basically accused this writer of fraud, lets see evidence that the message from Albequerque is made up, not to mention the email from Nora.

This writer may have made a poor suggestion. But the ire he has drawn from the Beverage managers is a bit above and beyond. This article is not going to start a trend is people expecting free wine unless you let it.

Can you chill? The Wash. Post has had a good relationship with the DC board, why not keep it that way?

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This article is not going to start a trend is people expecting free wine unless you let it.

I think DCMark hits the nail on the head with this comment. I don't see enough restaurants (if any) adopting this suggestion that it is likely to build any broad expectation among consumers that they are somehow, sometimes entitled to a free bottle of wine.

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This article is not going to start a trend is people expecting free wine unless you let it.

I think DCMark hits the nail on the head with this comment. I don't see enough restaurants (if any) adopting this suggestion that it is likely to build any broad expectation among consumers that they are somehow, sometimes entitled to a free bottle of wine.

I'm hardly worried about any restaurants adopting this policy. Or at least not of their staying in business very long if they do. The sense of entitlement in a misinformed public is a very real concern, however.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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You know, I just realized how misguided the Post article is. In many states, Virginia is one of them, it is against the law to give away alcoholic beverages and in some cases, to even discount-price it. A hefty portion of the Post circulation is by subscribers in Northern Virginia. So the "make them pay" scheme suggested by the article could subject many restaurants to the loss of their liquor license. If a customer tries to cash on on such an expectation, a simple "sorry, that would be against the law" should shut them up.

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You know, I just realized how misguided the Post article is. In many states, Virginia is one of them, it is against the law to give away alcoholic beverages and in some cases, to even discount-price it. A hefty portion of the Post circulation is by subscribers in Northern Virginia. So the "make them pay" scheme suggested by the article could subject many restaurants to the loss of their liquor license. If a customer tries to cash on on such an expectation, a simple "sorry, that would be against the law" should shut them up.

I'm curious if this means that there's no such thing as a bartender buying a good customer a drink, or a manager comping a round to a table that's waited too long for their reservation? Many states have prohibitions on "promoting" of drinking through Happy Hours, discounts, etc. That's a very different thing than legislating away an important Customer Relations tool from every restaurant employee/Manager in the state.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I don't think you can have a happy hour in Virginia that includes discounted drinks. Most happy hours have some free food available, but that is about it. My hunch is that the state laws are all over the map on this issue with the Bible belt having more restrictive rules and the liberal northerners having less restrictive rules. The point of my post is that, depending on state law, the scheme advocated by the Post columnist could be illegal in some states and is likely illegal in a state where a lot of people read his newspaper.

edited to add:

Take a look at Todd Thrasher's post under the "Discounts for Restaurant Insiders" thread. His restaurant's discount policy does not apply to alcoholic beverages because he thinks it is against the law.

Edited by mnebergall (log)
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I don't think you can have a happy hour in Virginia that includes discounted drinks. Most happy hours have some free food available, but that is about it. My hunch is that the state laws are all over the map on this issue with the Bible belt having more restrictive rules and the liberal northerners having less restrictive rules. The point of my post is that, depending on state law, the scheme advocated by the Post columnist could be illegal in some states and is likely illegal in a state where a lot of people read his newspaper.

edited to add:

Take a look at Todd Thrasher's post under the "Discounts for Restaurant Insiders" thread. His restaurant's discount policy does not apply to alcoholic beverages because he thinks it is against the law.

I understood that part of your post. I'd still be interested in having someone familiar with Virginia law weigh in and answer my question about "free" drinks given to appease an angry customer or promote the business.

Massachusetts, that liberal stronghold, banned "going bowling" or serving fishbowl sized tropical drinks that were meant to be shared with multiple straws at Hong Kong restaurant in Cambridge some years ago. I think they were concerned about liability issues, but they took away a serious form of entertainment from untold numbers of Harvard students.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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