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Wow Busboy, you've hit a nerve. Two pages of detailed posts already.

My thought is this...everyone that Tom responds to in this column are whiners. I used to read it, but I've given up, as I never seem to have the problems these poor people are having. Sure, the reservations are lost and service is poor, but usually it's something trivial like this.

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

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Oh dear, he stiffed him?

Chris and I stiffed the waitress on our very first lunch out with the children (restaurant "stiffed" here, you naughty people). We had both been lifelong church-goers, and went to church in his hometown with his four children soon after I had met them. We ate at one of those family-buffet places, had a great time, and as we approached the door, the youngest went charging out toward the parking lot.

We all flew after him, the chase spurring him on to greater speed and louder laughter, with Chris loping along with his tie and coattails flapping, the three other kids in shrieking pursuit, and me, in a black sheath dress and impossibly high heels, tottering along in the wake of this rapscallion crew, definitely NOT laughing as the little boy I had hardly met ran pellmell for the curb. We must have provided a hearty laugh for those INSIDE as well, as several faces had appeared at the windows by the time the escapee was back in custody and we had stopped to catch our breaths.

Admonishments and gasps of relief, buckling into carseats, with my mind rattling away in thoughts of this must be how they stuff a clown-car, all of us talking at once, and we just drove away. Only later did he realize his mistake, and called the restaurant to confess and promise to come in later. And he did, before the day was out, so all was well.

Being in church for a couple of hours doesn't necessarily mean we'll skip out on the check or the tip. (I DID, however, hear my own dearest MIL whisper to the person next to her at dinner, "Seven dollars IS ten per cent of seventy, isn't it?")

I conveniently "forgot" my purse and had to linger.

Haven't carried a purse in YEARS.

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  • 3 weeks later...

What I find interesting about tipping in USA is how the restaurants have effectively transferred the obligation to pay the waitstaff well directly to the customer. The hourly wage that I read about is low indeed, so the waitstaff have to rely on tips and this is a bit of a gamble - some customers tip well, some don't - which then causes the waitstaff to be upset. Some of the venom is read on Bitter Waitress is bitter indeed.

Wouldn't it be better instead to impose a service charge on the bill. Here in Malaysia there's a 10% service charge on the bill. Everybody understands it and I do not recall anybody raising a fuss about it. The waitstaff don't have to play dice when it comes to tips and we as customers don't get any attitude about tips because we are only indirectly responsible for the waitstaff's wages. In the end, it think it works out well for everybody.

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Bringing it back to the beginning I'd say that Americans are not so much whiny but amazingly self absorbed. They think that they are the most important thing on the planet. Add to that the fact that most diners don't know anything about what they are actually eating and don't understand the basic workings of a restraunt. They are ignorant but demanding and arrogant. Years ago I had a late dinner out with my parents. The place closed in a hour and the room was mostly empty. My mother was complaining to us that the service was slow and the waiter was nowhere to be found. I told her that everyone was preping to close and had tons of work to do behind the scenes. They weren't ignoring us, they were getting ready to close. It had never occurred to her in the prior 50 years of her life that waiters did anything other than take orders and shuttle plates. She thought that when the place closed at the end of the day, the waiters just took off their aprons and went home. I worked as a waiter so I filled her in on all the side work necessary to close the place for the night. I explained that going in with an hour to spare on the clock meant slow service and all that kind of thing. She left a 25% tip and all was well from that point on.

I unfortunately feel that the "Ugly American" is not only alive but well.

Rockin the world since last week and partying like it's Tuesday night.

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Bringing it back to the beginning I'd say that Americans are not so much whiny but amazingly self absorbed. They think that they are the most important thing on the planet. Add to that the fact that most diners don't know anything about what they are actually eating and don't understand the basic workings of a restraunt. They are ignorant but demanding and arrogant. Years ago I had a late dinner out with my parents. The place closed in a hour and the room was mostly empty. My mother was complaining to us that the service was slow and the waiter was nowhere to be found. I told her that everyone was preping to close and had tons of work to do behind the scenes. They weren't ignoring us, they were getting ready to close. It had never occurred to her in the prior 50 years of her life that waiters did anything other than take orders and shuttle plates. She thought that when the place closed at the end of the day, the waiters just took off their aprons and went home. I worked as a waiter so I filled her in on all the side work necessary to close the place for the night. I explained that going in with an hour to spare on the clock meant slow service and all that kind of thing. She left a 25% tip and all was well from that point on.

I unfortunately feel that the "Ugly American" is not only alive but well.

Anyone who thinks that dining complaints are uniquely American should simply google the appropriate words--restaurant,dining, complaints, etc--with the country of choice.

For those who are not up to it or are somehow googlephobes I include a link from our own Daniel Rogov on the subject.

Rogov

As for the link to the Washington Post piece, I read it and after a brief period of thought, I believe the patron was justified in his complaint (he may have overstated his displeasure using the word "ruined"). It is generally not good policy--at least in a so called fine dining establishment--to crowd diners together in one part of the room when the place is half full. Most customers appreciate a restaurant that is concerned with privacy--within reason of course. IMOP, the owner responded appropriately--I would suggest a re reading of his comments. He clearly understands the problem and the diner's complaint as legitimate.

I really do not like when people fall back on stereotypes. "Americans (of French or British or Chinese....) are this or that."

I will use one here though. Many Americans seem to revel in self loathing about their fellow countrymen and women. it is never about the self loather--afterall they are "enlightened." No the self loather is embarrassed by his fellow Americans.

We "don't know anything about what we are actually eating"?

First, this is a pretty broad generalization--it implies we are ignorant of food and that somehow the rest of the world is not.

I believe this is wrong on both counts.

As for knowledge about the "inner workings of a restaurant." I don't get this one either. One goes out to eat one has expectations and those are met or not met.

Does one need to know about the inner workings of an automobile or a computer to be able to ascertain if he or she is happy with the performance of either?

The fact is, IMOP, your mother was right to be put off by the service.

The restaurant was open (an hour before closing?) they accepted your party. Regardless of the time the restaurant should have provided the same level of service whether or not you entered an hour or one minute before closing.

One could say that if one enters a restaurant one minute after opening one should be patient as the staff is still busy with polishing silverware and dicing garnishes.

So mom was right. Saying that she is ignorant or demanding because she expected to be served properly in the restaurant IMOP is excusing the establishment for being rude and arrogant. Restaurants are about customer satisfaction and service--in fact, they should have provided an even higher level of service under the circumstances.

If you entered any store or retail establishment--say-- to buy a car or a computer and had to wait while the staff went about the business of closing up--ignoring you--would you be so "understanding"?

My advice--listen to mom! :wink:

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Well JohnL whatever you speak must be gospel so I'll do whatever you say. But since you don't know my mother, let's keep her out of it if you please.

Rockin the world since last week and partying like it's Tuesday night.

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Well JohnL whatever you speak must be gospel so I'll do whatever you say. But since you don't know my mother, let's keep her out of it if you please.

gee you are certainly welcome to disagree!

"gospel" is a bit over wrought--I am not worthy.

You brought your mom up and I am actually agreeing with her

position as conveyed by you in your post. I think she was right and you were wrong.

So where's the beef?

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...um, so anyway... thanks so much for the Customer's Suck! site - I wasted a perfectly good afternoon laughing my ass off and cluttering up colleagues inboxes with links to posts in there.

I still think Bitter Waitress rules the whine heap - hat's off! :cool:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

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...um, so anyway...  thanks so much for the Customer's Suck! site - I wasted a perfectly good afternoon laughing my ass off and cluttering up colleagues inboxes with links to posts in there. 

I still think Bitter Waitress rules the whine heap - hat's off!  :cool:

I have to admit--I was suprised that so many in the industry are so jaded.

I thought that the customer was always right!

Restaurants are in the service industry.

On the other hand it is understandable with all the stuff one has to put up with in dealing with the public that some venting is certainly to be expected.

And a lot of it is pretty funny. :smile:

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Well JohnL whatever you speak must be gospel so I'll do whatever you say. But since you don't know my mother, let's keep her out of it if you please.

I know JohnL already pointed it out, and I know its really so obvious that it shouldnt need pointing out, but you introduced your mother into the conversation. Your snarkishnness towards John therefore seems silly and misplaced.

Also, I agree with your mother's position . . . except the leaving of a 25% tip for a waiter who was apparently, by your mother's estimation, a little too scarce during the meal.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I have seen ugly French, German, American diners, but Americans in my experience seem more over the top when ugly. However, while living in DC I saw quite a few privileged (usually drunken) foreign "diplomats" acting quite badly.

Intimacy aside, I have had the unfortunate experience of having (usually drunk, once again) people, whose behavior let's say would have been more appropriate for a sporting event, spoil the tranquility of fine dining with friends and family.

Regarding tipping I really see three different categories:

1. If the service is simply phoned in, e.g., entrees arrive at different times, the server is rarely available of ignores the table, etc. = 10%

2. The service is minimally competent, but the server seems cheeky, burdened, or disinterested, and every action seems laborious = 15%

3. 20% = competent, smooth, water glasses are filled, I am occasionally asked if everything is ok, I am informed of kitchen back ups, etc. -- this not that much to ask for.

I, however, always tend to tip 20% in diners and other places where the wait staff works hard for less money due to the relative inexpensiveness of meals. Fine dining wait staff, however, need to put in some effort to get 20% on a $200+ meal.

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hey, I'll dob myself in here - I'm an aussie diner in the UK, and I whine all the time. I like to think however it's because there's so much to whine about.

Hey, I just about have to rugby-tackle waitstaff to get the bill in half these places  :laugh:

Bearing in mind most of the wait staff are Aussies here in England because life is so dire back home :wink:

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  • 1 month later...

I am a hostess at a 'fine dining' restaurant, and as someone who has never given a damn where she was seated as long as the food was good, it has been an eye-opening experience!

One thing that I find hilarious is the fairly large group of regulars we have who bitch and moan about how noisy the restaurant is, how they want a quiet table, etc. Um, we have an open kitchen, and if you've been to the restaurant before (which the people I'm talking about have), you know this. On a busy night, a quiet table really doesn't exist. It just doesn't. I, the hostess who practically lives on freaking coat check tips, do not have a personal vendetta against you, I am just trying to find a way to get everyone seated within a reasonable amount of time even though the GM has overbooked every slot, keep all the servers happy, not totally weed the kitchen, and maybe, just maybe find time to pee once during my 10-hour shift. I'm not trying to ruin your life, so just CALM DOWN, and if you want to eat in silence, try bringing a granola bar to the library, mmkay?

I am also mystified by the people who hate their food and everything about their experience every time they come to the restaurant, but KEEP COMING BACK. Are they masochists? I can see giving a place a second chance, but if you still hate the food after the tenth time, you probably just don't like the restaurant and should branch out a little. I'd be happy to suggest some places if it would mean that you'd just go away and stop torturing us and yourselves!!

Edited by phlox (log)

"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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Phlox:

Your points are well taken. And, might I add, that you sound like one of the few hostesses I've met that understand their job and all of the implications of it.

I have never understood why that four top over there looks any more appealing than the one you've just been seated at in the same noisy dining room. The lighting is the same, the table top accoutrements the same, the menu is the same, etc. Why diners feel the need to be the alpha dog in the seating game I will never understand. Just sit the f*%k down where you're told unless there's some truly compelling reason to move like a back injury and needing a padded booth to sit in. There's a reason you've been seated there. It's that server's turn to be seated. You're messing with people's livelihoods because you want to make a fuss over nothing. Sit down and shut up!

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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Exactly!

This is another reason why it's always better to make a reservation, even if it's the same day or just a few hours beforehand. I ask an almost annoying battery of questions so that when you actually come in, everything goes smoothly. I ask if it's a special occasion, if anyone in the party has trouble using stairs. We use Open Table, so I can jot down all kinds of notes - so please, if you have an allergy, hearing problem, a certain kind of wine you like, you're going to a show afterwards, whatever, tell me ahead of time! I will plan for it! But if you want to change tables at 7pm on a Saturday, please excuse the look of panic in my eyes! Ha!

And yes, I do take my job seriously. A lot of hostesses just sort of stand around, but the host/hostess really does have the power to make the restaurant run more smoothly. At least where I work, we are expected to keep an eye on every table and decide which ones to turn, and we are who you can blame if the kitchen dissolves into chaos at 7:30. I also know the menu (people I work with seem surprised that I actually like food - hello, I work at a restaurant!), and I try and listen in on the little spiel the chef gives about the tasting menus for that day, even though I'm not really required to know anything about it. When I'm getting people's coats and saying goodbye I ask what they had or if they liked anything in particular if they seem chatty. For whatever reason, guests sometimes give me more feedback than they give their servers!

I also have the all-important job of being The Person Everyone Goes To When They Are Bored And/Or Need Something. Need a rubber band? Glue? A safety pin? A mint? A cab? Someone to join you in making fun of the guy who looks exactly like Bilbo Baggins at table 119? I'm your girl!

Edited by phlox (log)

"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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I also have the all-important job of being The Person Everyone Goes To When They Are Bored And/Or Need Something. Need a rubber band? Glue? A safety pin? A mint? A cab? Someone to join you in making fun of the guy who looks exactly like Bilbo Baggins at table 119? I'm your girl!

:laugh:

The hostess really is the go-to gal at the restaurant. It's refreshing to see someone that takes it seriously, instead of the usual hired-only-on-looks-and-definitely-not-brains types that stand around looking statuesque and flipping their long blond locks over their shoulder all night but wouldn't know a thing about the menu or why it's important that you not seat the 450 pound Jabba the Hut sized guy at the duece by the one bottleneck in the room that every waiter has to squeeze through. :rolleyes:

If you ever want to move to Philly, let me know. I'll help you find a job and hang around with you too. I think we'd have loads of fun.

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 may take you up on that someday!

The Looking Pretty part is actually sort of fun - the hosts and floor managers kind of set the tone of the place, so it's important. If a little lipgloss and some ironing makes people feel like they're someplace glamorous, I'm happy to do it!

"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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Phlox:

I'm sure you've got the Looking Pretty part down pat. Your employers are just lucky that there's more to you than that. You get what your role in the restaurant is and take it seriously. That's huge.

I was referring to those hostesses (and there's an endless supply it seems) that can only manage to Look Pretty, but don't have two brain cells to rub together and make a spark. :huh:

More on topic for this thread, is that folks need to be nicer to hostesses in general. They're just doing their job. Some obviously better than others. :smile:

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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Phlox, thanks for the vivid and clear descriptions. Some of us really arent out to make your life harder, just to make our "dining experience" (aka meal) better.

Is there a certification badge that competent hostesses wear, so we can distinguish them immediately, on a first visit, from the eye-candy-only?

I've asked to be moved because a previous bf needed more room for his elbows as he wielded k&f, or because my husband has a knee that doesnt fold properly. Neither of these issues would be evident to a hostess during the seating process.

Would an explanation be preferable to the simple request (Is it possible to get a bit more room please?), or would that take up precious time? I'm genuinely curious. Thanks.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Kouign:

Certainly a knee that doesn't fold properly, or any other medical issue is a compelling reason to ask to be moved, and I'm sure a polite and simple explanation to any hostess would remedy the situation. I was talking about the folks (and they are numerous) that just want to exercise authority over the hostess and pick their own seat, as if it were a cafeteria and not a fine dining venue that required a hostess to "direct traffic" and do all those things that phlox was talking about.

Moving from one four seater table in the second row of tables to another in the second to last row of tables in NO different, yet folks insist on doing it, in many cases just to feel like they're in charge somehow. I wonder how they'd feel if someone came into their place of business, say a doctor's office and said, "No. I'd like to be in Exam Room #3, not #5", and then proceeded to march in like they owned the place. It's really not very different.

I'm sure a lot of people don't realize what goes into seating a busy dining room, but the large parties are already laid out, certain folks may have requested sitting in a particular server's section and are coming in 15 minutes, Server Susie has only had 6 customers and Server John has had 12 so she needs to be caught up, etc. There really is a way to do it properly or else there would be one of those tacky "Please Seat Yourself" signs at the front desk, right?

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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It's not hard to determine if the hostess is not entirely present mentally. I do have special circumstances that I address at the time I put my name on the list or make my reservations. They're very simple...I need a "table" with four seperate chairs because I will be bringing my 11 month old still in his car seat for one seat, my 2-1/2 year old that needs a high chair for the other then my wife and I. See? Simple. But for some reason, these visual accroutrements that greet me seem to think it doesn't matter that I asked for a table and try to sit me at a booth. I don't want my toddler sitting in the isle in her high chair. It makes me very nervous when the server is holding or passes hot plates of food over her head when they arrive. I don't think it's unreasonable. One time at the same restaurant on the same visit, I was walked to a booth three different times by three different airheads and waiting over 30 minutes for this. Tables were open all over the place. I finally walked out after suggesting to the manager she get new employees as at least three of them were useless.

I feel that if I'm respected as a customer and he/she knows the restaurant (if requested best lighting, best servers, best ventilation, etc.), the hostess will get my respect as will all the staff I come into contact with since the hostess has just set the tone for my dining experience. I rarely complain about anything unless "it" just will not work out...seating, quality of food, unruely neighbors, etc. If they respectfully try to correct my concerns, then I will do what I can to be reasonable with their attempts to help my family out. It takes quite a bit for me to get upset about something. And it's true for me that I do involve the hostess when asked how was my dinner. I always make it a point to tell everyone when it's good and only my server when it's not.

We need more hostess's like phlox that's for sure. :-)

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Thanks for the feedback. In future I shall add the explanation.

1) knee or 2) we like the inlay on that table better :wink:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I don't know how far and wide "Old Spaghetti Factory" restaurants range (basic Italian food on a budget) but it is a stand-by when no one wants to cook dinner during the week. The seats in their booths seem exceptionally high and with my stumpy 26" inseam legs I get uncomfortable sitting through a meal (usually about an hour). So when I step up to the host station besides telling them the number in my party, I ask to be seated at a table. I don't discuss how their booths affect my arthritis (in my spine, affects my legs) or complain of past pain, I just make my request. I've found at most restaurants if you want something specific AND reasonable, they will to the best of their ability accomodate you. If they are not busy and you are looking for some privacy you just ask them up front if you can be seated a bit away from others.

When peaple respond to the question "how are you" with "I can't complain" I always have the same silly comeback for them. "Well, I can teach you how!"

The truth is a bit different, though. I try very hard to remember that I am a human among other humans and we haven't figured out yet as a genus species how to be perfect.

A couple of years ago my early 20s daughter asked to have her birthday dinner (immeadiate family and grandparents) at Bucca de Beppo, a family-style chain italian restaurant. After the meal was over and we were standing up to leave a server was bringing the entrees to a table near us. He misjudged the heat of the plates and in pain ended up launching one of the plates towards me. I was covered with spaghetti from my collar to my shoes. He was mortified and genuinely apologetic. The manager was there in seconds also apologizing and asking my to bring in my dry cleaning bill, etc. I told them that would not be necessary (except for those torturous times I don a suit I'm strictly a wash and wear person). They reworked the bill to comp us the desserts, which I appreciated. I was able to chuckle and not get my buns in a twist because I've lived enough years to know that accidents happen. I won't give you my age but I'll tell you I remember when Alaska was admitted as the 49th state and seeing the flags get changed to have 49 stars on them. Today as I typed this out I chuckled again. I washed my clothes and went on with living. Life happens, and most of it is good. I try to focus on that.

Just some rambling thoughts on how I view needs and happenings while dining out.

Porthos Potwatcher

The Unrelenting Carnivore

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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When my customers (I'm not in the restaurant business) ask for something that inconveniences me and seems entirely frivolous to me, my gut reaction is to think "thank God I have customers" and also to think "if I please them, and have a winning attitude as well, they'll probably stay customers".

Maybe it's naive to think that restaurant service people don't grumble and rant, but I don't like to be made to feel that I have to explain or justify a reason for preferring something, when I am the paying customer. If you seat me where I want to be seated and that throws off your plan, maybe you should build contingincies into it for individual customer preferences and desires. If I'm inconveniencing you with my business, I can always go elsewhere.

Edited by markk (log)

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

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

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