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Thread: Complaining about a lousy meal

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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Default Complaining about a lousy meal

    So what's your response to being served a bad--as in, improperly made--restaurant meal?

    When I lived in the South, if your food wasn't right, you were expected to say something about it, and the establishment took care of it, usually in a friendly way.

    In the area of California where I currently live, if I dare to say anything about inedible food, I'm usually treated in a very hostile manner.

    What's the norm where you live? How bad does it have to be before you complain? What do you say?
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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    Usually if the food is salvageable (i.e. I can pick stuff out without that much of a problem) I won't say anything.. yes, it's a pain in the ass and I'm usually the last one to start eating.. but I feel like it would be more of a pain in the ass to send it back to get it fixed.

    Now, if the food is completely inedible then I would have to ask them to rectify the situation. I don't eat meat but this past summer I took my brother out to lunch and my brother ordered a hamburger, well done.. it was completely raw in the middle.. gristly and bleeding, he was literally gagging. He said he'd just eat his fries but I insisted that he get another one. The waitress seemed kind of annoyed but seriously it's a $12 hamburger, lady, and it's pretty much still ALIVE on the plate.

    You just have to speak up if it's completely unacceptable. I wouldn't expect a stellar response at more casual, lower priced places but you bet your ass if I went to a chi chi restaurant and ordered a $30 entree that sucked I'd send it back or ask for something different instead.

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    A*O
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    I guess it depends on HOW you complain and what you are complaining about. Making a big fuss and saying food is "inedible" and being rude obviously won't go down too well. But if the meal isn't what you ordered then of course you should politely and calmly tell them that it's a bit under/over cooked, too salty, etc etc. If they give you a garnish of rocket leaves instead of watercress, or some other minor detail then it's not worth risking the goodwill of the chef and staff by kicking up a fuss. I also know what happens to food that assholes send back to be re-done...
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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    I was served a stuffed pork chop that was raw inside (not rare I mean raw) at a party 10 or so people. I very nicely showed the waiter who snagged my plate in a huff - he didn't return my plate until everyone else's dinner plates were cleared. This was the first and only time I have ever said anything about poorly made meal (mainly because I wasn't going to eat raw pork).

    Unfortunately, I was a guest and had zero control of showing the waiter how I felt by not giving him a tip, the host didn't notice and I didn't want to make a scene (in retrospect maybe I should have).
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    I just return it to the kitchen and leave. I will not pay for it, nor will i give the staff a chance to spit in my food.
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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    To A*O,

    In America the prevailing principle of customer service is that the customer is always right. If you don't like the meal - even if it's the wrong color - a restaurant that wants your continued business will replace the meal or comp you. Unfortunately, this general policy gets abused at times by customers. I worked in food service during school years ago - it's outrageous what customers said and did to get free food. I hated having to smile and keep my mouth shut when they were clearly in the wrong.

    If the food is not good, let the server and if necessary, manager know. If you are treated in a hostile manner, let them know that you will not be patronizing their establishment any more and will be sure to let your friends and family know about the shoddy treatment you received there. The profit margin in food service is paper thin - they want your business.

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty View Post
    If the food is not good, let the server and if necessary, manager know. If you are treated in a hostile manner, let them know that you will not be patronizing their establishment any more and will be sure to let your friends and family know about the shoddy treatment you received there. The profit margin in food service is paper thin - they want your business.
    Also don't forget the power of the internet these days. News spreads SO fast and SO wide within hours, sometimes minutes, especially restaurant review places.

    I am afraid of something being done to my food, but luckily I have never had food brought out that wasn't to my liking and had to be returned.

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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty View Post
    If the food is not good, let the server and if necessary, manager know. If you are treated in a hostile manner, let them know that you will not be patronizing their establishment any more and will be sure to let your friends and family know about the shoddy treatment you received there. The profit margin in food service is paper thin - they want your business.
    This is how I've always seen things. Where I used to live, things were pretty straightforward like that. In my current town, though, very few people have a customer-service orientation.

    A close friend of mine is a restaurateur in my old city, and while I was in college I helped her out with bookkeeping and some other odd jobs. She and her partner wanted to know if the food wasn't up to snuff. They much preferred a chance to get it right and keep a customer's business.

    Still, I'm not very comfortable saying anything when my food is seriously messed up. I know how hard restaurant jobs are, so I don't want to make extra trouble, and I also don't like not being able to pay for the meal, because I know the profit margin is so slim. But I also don't feel right not saying anything, especially if it's something that I know will affect other diners, such as a soup being really, well, inedible. And no, I don't use that word with a server. But inedibility is definitely a point at which I have to draw the line. If I can't eat the dish at all, because of something grossly wrong with it, then I must say something. I just politely state what seems to be wrong with the food.

    But man, I hate doing it here, because of the incredibly shitty treatment I get in response.
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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    Are you getting this treatment across the board or at a particular establishment? If you can't speak up then just stop visiting this particular restaurant. It's over.

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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qwerty View Post
    Are you getting this treatment across the board or at a particular establishment? If you can't speak up then just stop visiting this particular restaurant. It's over.
    It's the rule rather than the exception in our county, I'm afraid. I've had a couple of out-of-town guests find this out the hard way. The food here isn't very good, in general, and pointing out even a major problem with a meal will get you treated badly. I still haven't adjusted to this situation, especially because I moved here from a place where great food and amazing service were everywhere.

    But there is a specific local restaurant I've had two really bad experiences at. I don't plan to go back, but I may end up in it again at some point if someone else really wants to or if someone schedules a meeting of some sort there and I'm supposed to attend. Since this isn't a city, options are limited.
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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    ^^I am really surprised to hear this. Your experience is really countercultural.

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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    I've had waiters and waitresses get seriously pissy with me if I say something (which, like I said, is rare if I can fix it myself) but if I allude to speaking to a manager or someone "higher up" (which I hate to do since I know wait staff have crap jobs) they usually change their attitude.

    Case in point: we took my grandma out to mother's day brunch a few years ago and she got some fruit on the side with her meal.. she's seriously allergic to honeydew and we even told the waitress "hey, listen, it's REALLY important that her dish has no honeydew and the utensils used to serve the fruit didn't touch the honeydew".. she said something like "ok, no problem" and when her food arrived, sure enough, it had honeydew. It was only a side dish but I felt really pissed that they would serve her something potentially dangerous like that. My mom agreed and when we brought it up the waitress said "well, like, they pre-cut the fruit and stuff..." *blink* So.. I'm assuming the cooks hands fell off between then and now and he can't cut up more fruit? It wasn't a big deal.. the fruit was like $3.. but it's the principle of it, IMO. This wasn't just something that had a weird taste to it.. this was like an allergy thing. Yes, it probably would have been smarter to just avoid the fruit altogether, but I think the waitress' response was really out of line. The manager made the rounds a little while later and my mom mentioned it to him and he looked peeved that the waitress failed to respond appropriately. Seriously, I don't think a lot of managers/higher-ups in some eating establishments realize how some of the wait staff might act in situations like these and since diners interact with these people for pretty much the entirety of the meal it can "make or break" the dining experience... and THAT'S when you get negative reviews online and all that stuff. I know it's annoying to have to deal with it sometimes as a person in the food service industry but when customers are polite and reasonable about it then it really shouldn't be a problem.

    Shinola did you speak to a manager or were you just dealing with the wait staff? Maybe since it's not a city the restaurant feels that customers can either deal with it or leave and they know they aren't losing a significant amount of business since, as you said, you'll probably end up there again at some point in the future.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Some people confuse a real food allergy with a casual dislike. Would have served them right if you had had to call 911!
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    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Lane View Post
    Shinola did you speak to a manager or were you just dealing with the wait staff? Maybe since it's not a city the restaurant feels that customers can either deal with it or leave and they know they aren't losing a significant amount of business since, as you said, you'll probably end up there again at some point in the future.
    I think you've nailed it, Penny. This county is one giant captive audience for indifferent (even rude) service and mediocre food.

    And if I make too big a stink and call for the manager, it might come back to haunt me. Example: The people who used to run this restaurant were parents of kids at our school, where Mr. S works. And one of the restaurant managers subbed in the office sometimes, so she worked directly with Mr. S and I saw her regularly. Maybe she would've treated me better as a result of the connection, or maybe it would've just made things awkward for everyone. 'Round here, I have to vote for awkward.

    And now that you've made me think about it, I should probably do as the locals do. The best way to handle this might be to figure out who's running the place now and who I know who knows that person ... so that I can get word to them through the grapevine that I've had problems with the food and the service.
    Posted from my fucking iPhone

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    Elite Member Nevan's Avatar
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    ^^^ We run into this a LOT. Both my husband and I have shellfish allergies. Mine are bad, but his are life threatening. There are VERY few restaurants, if any, in our area that doesn't serve at least some sort of seafood (he's allergic to seafood too). We have to do a speech when we order that his food can't even be touched with the same spatula or whatever and you can tell most of the time they're just mentally rolling their eyes. It really pisses me off.

    We recently went to an Olive Garden with a large party for a celebration. My husband ordered the mixed grill which comes to the table on shish kabobs and then the waitress is supposed to remove them onto your plate before she serves it (we know this because we go there A LOT and that is what he always orders). There were two waitresses waiting on us because there were so many of us and my husband watched the one dump the entire shish kabob onto the serving platter (you know, the one that is lucky if it gets wiped down once a day) and then proceeded to pick them up WITH HER BARE HANDS and put them on his actual plate, all the while snickering to her co-waitress. He said something and she said it wasn't like it fell on the floor. The other waitress said she'd go get him a new one, but there was no way with the other one's snickering and attitude that he was going to chance what would come back to the table. He didn't eat his dinner that night. I have been at other restaurants and had minor complaints which were rectified immediately and the manager still would come out and ask if everything was okay and apologize. No one ever came. He didn't want to make a stink because we weren't paying and our pastor was there. It was so bad that even our pastor's wife (who witnessed it too, everybody else wasn't paying attention) said something and STILL no one came out. And my husband's uncle still gave them 20%, because that's how he is. They didn't even take his dinner (uneaten) off the check. It was absolutely horrible.

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