Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The restaurant business is an unstable, unpredictable one. No two days are the same, and that's what I like about it. There is a constant revolving door of employees and their daily dramas, menu items that are here today, gone tomorrow, and the hustle and bustle of vendors through the back door delivering gossip about your competitors along with produce and beer. Policy changes come down the pike, inventories fluctuate, and equipment breaks down. But in this state of flux there is one undying constant: customer complaints.

There are dozens of complaints thrust upon me every day. Most of them are easily corrected without incident and without raising the ire of the mighty paying customer. The majority of the dining public understands that we are only human and mistakes are inevitable. There are, however, occasions where a customer is so famished and frail that the slightest thing can set them off, triggering a flood of emotions and a rush of adrenaline so great that they shake uncontrollably like an epileptic with Parkinson's disease.

I was called to the front door to deal with a man who was unhappy with his food which he had purchased to go. It had taken so long, and he was so hungry when he finally got home that he could not be bothered with utensils, and with a passionate desire to quench his hunger, he simply bit the end off of his baked potato. In so doing, he revealed a natural imperfection within the Idaho Russet, which he could only assume was a worm. I tried to calmly explain that sometimes potatoes have bad spots inside, and that we are unable to submit every tuber to a cat scan before serving. I then apologized profusely, and reimbursed the man for the price of his meal. "I'm keeping this potato!" he said threateningly as if to imply that it would be submitted to a laboratory for further testing. I wonder if he still has it to this day, perhaps in a glass jar on display next to his bowling trophies.

I received a phone call from another to go customer who informed me that there were no grilled vegetables in his entree. This would have been a terrible oversight, as the skewer of veggies was an integral part of the dish. In an effort to clarify the situation, I inquired whether there had been any zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms, or onions in the box. He said that indeed there were, to which I replied that those were the vegetables called for in the recipe. "An onion is NOT a vegetable. LOOK IT UP!" he screamed as he slammed down the phone. I did, and it is.

And God forbid you should make someone wait for a table five minutes longer than you predicted. Red faced and veins bulging, stomachs twisted and tied into elaborate knots heretofore reserved for bondaged submissives, ready to explode with furious anger they will confront you with their battle cry, "You told me fifteen minutes and that was TWENTY MINUTES AGO!". Then they will invariably demand something for free, or for their bill to be discounted. I wonder if these people have ever been to the doctor for a three-thirty appointment and then demanded a free prostrate exam when the nurse finally calls for them at four-fifteen.

Poor service? Don't tip. Didn't like it? Order something else next time. A fly landed in your tea? He was thirsty. Get a replacement. Life is not perfect, and neither are we. Some people actually think that they are, and those are the people who like to point out every minute mistake, every detailed flaw, and then refuse to let you do anything to rectify the situation. "No," they'll say. "I didn't tell you because I wanted something for free. I just wanted you to know why I will never come back." Well, sir, I value your input, and I hope that it makes you feel superior to point out the shortcomings of others. I'm sure you have never admitted to a mistake in your life and you're probably only bitter because you did the right thing all those years ago and married the girl that you didn't love but knocked up in the back seat of your father's Monte Carlo and can't help dreaming of how great your life could have been without the weight of unwanted children and a nagging spouse dragging you down. Thank you for your business, unfortunately I have to go extract a stray kitten from underneath the fryers. Just when I thought I'd seen it all...

1 comment:

Mick said...

trust me it no better in the automotive field I am constantly telling people they cant run veggie oil in their diesel. then they say but its clean oil. uugh morons