Bad Service Equals Lip Service

By Mama2Dylan
I took my 11 year old son and his 11 year old friend out for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Salem. This restaurant is not a chain. My husband and I began dining there over 12 years ago before my son was even born. At one time we knew each and every server’s name and they all knew ours. Now they have some new faces though. My husband wasn’t with us, he had to work.

It was much later than we normally go out (about 8:30) so we were very hungry. The restaurant wasn’t very busy at this time because the evening rush was over. As we all know the Salem dinning scene has rolled up its carpets by this time of night! We were seated in an area that is separated from the main dinning area because we wanted a booth and the booths were either occupied or dirty. The area where we were seated is separated from the main area because years ago it was the “smoking section”. We were the only people seated in this section.

We were given menus and as we looked them over and discussed what we were having we noticed no server had been to our table in what seemed like forever. Finally she arrives looking hurried; she drops a pitcher of ice water off, but no glasses. Aren’t you supposed to get glasses of water and then she comes around to refill them w/ the pitcher? We figured maybe this was a community pitcher where we all picked it up took a chug and passed it around! She also dropped off a placemat & place setting because there were only 2 at the table. However, I was miffed to see her carrying the placemat under her arm pit for lack of another hand.

Now we wait and wait and wait to see her again. Meanwhile I see a busboy. I ask for 3 glasses to drink the water from and our customary pot of tea that also has not been delivered. Much to my relief he brings them right away. Ok here we sit waiting and waiting and waiting again to have our order taken. Humph. I’m getting really ticked by this time.

Finally the server emerges from the kitchen to take our order. I ordered a small appetizer for us to share and a family sized bowl of soup to share. Then I ordered our entrees. The appetizer took much longer to come out then the same appetizer that I have ordered there almost each time in the past.

Then the wait began for the soup for what seemed like 3-hours-later (as in the SpongeBob episodes). As we sat I almost began to sing the Jeopardy theme in my head. Finally after what seemed like an eternity the entrees arrived. WHAT? Where in the @#$%! is the soup? When I asked the server said she didn’t know why the entrees came out before the soup. She said she called for the soup 3 times. I think she was full of egg rolls because she probably forgot it and was covering her butt. And if it truly was the kitchen’s fault why hadn’t she been to our table to apologize for the delay of the soup?

As we dive into our entrees because we are starving what appears out of the corner of my eye? The server with our soup! I promptly sent her back to the kitchen to pack it to go. Had I been quicker on my feet I would have told her to cancel it, or shove it where the sun didn’t shine! As we continued to dine she showed up with to go boxes and the check. She didn’t ask if everything was ok. And normally when I dine there they wait till you are done and then ask if you want containers and drop the check. And they always offer to fill the containers. Also it was my son's birthday I would have liked to have it recognized but didn't get a chance. :(

When I went up to the register to pay I asked the Asian lady at the counter if she was the owner. She said yes, I am a co-owner. I went on to state my complaints telling her it was the worst service I have ever had there and made sure she knew I had been coming there for 12 years. I also told her I am in the food service industry and I have lowered my standards in the past but this time was inexcusable. She barley looked up as she was shuffling some papers in a near squatting position under the register and only offered a few “I’m sorry about that”. I said SO AM I”! I was furious! I just spent $40 and had the worst experience I have ever had. And for the first time I left the server no tip. I have never stiffed a server in my life. And I always tip 20% and more.

In addition after we were seated 2 more parties were seated in our section but a different server took them. It was very evident to me that they too were getting poor service. As I voiced my disappointment to the co owner the booth behind us came walking up to pay. They told me they also had bad service. I told them I was disappointed the owner didn’t offer to make things right. Maybe comping my soup or something. I also told them that there are plenty of choices to dine and I don’t need this place. Especially in this economy.

My question to all of you is what do you expect when it comes to service? What do you do if the service is terrible? What do you expect the establishment to do to fix the problem and make you want to return as well as not bad mouth the place all over town?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

That sounds awful. I don't think I have terribly high standards. I try to be gracious, especially if it's a place where I've been before and it just seems like they are having an off night. But we went to one place recently, the service was so bad that not only did I not tip (I always tip 20 percent), I left a note saying that it was a horrible experience and I would not be back. I wanted them to know I didn't tip because of the bad service, not because I am cheap.

jeff said...

My expectations of service:
Quick.
Accurate.
Unobtrusive.

lavachickie said...

Come on how, on a review blog you must tell us where this was. =-) I'm guessing and I think I have about a 60% chance of being right...

You know, life happens sometimes, so my expectations aren't for perfection. But if something DOES go wrong, I want my server to let me know. Tell me what happened, what it will mean to our service, and what they are going to do about it. It's that simple.

Some situations that could have been a disaster that were turned into gold:

- Our entrees were plated up, but DROPPED by the asst manager as he put them on the large serving tray for the server. We were informed of this, a sincere apology was given, we were told they would remake our entrees so this would take time, but while we waited, they would be happy to provide us with the appetizer of our choice free of charge. A mistake was turned into a GREAT experience, one that brought us back again and again.

- We had a reservation, however the venue was small and had a very slow turnaround time. They had a larger # of parties than usual this evening, so it was made all the worse. To top it off, WE had five people, which made it possible to sit at only a few of the tables. We waited about half an hour before being seated. But they told us right away there was a problem, gave us an accurate estimate, apologized and provided free wine on the house to cheer us up while we waited.

Things happen. The definition of great service is being able to handle those things positively. I don't expect perfection, but I expect consideration, communication, a genuine concern for my experience, and if things REALLY go awry, some accommodation. I don't want the world, but something reasonable -- if we have to wait twice as long as usual for our entrees, give us an appetizer, for instance.

And what makes me really admire a team is when the staff proactively address a problem, and offer the solution. YOU know when something isn't quality -- don't make the situation worse by trying to pass it off as something other than it is.

The fact that you had to tell the co-owner that there was a problem and she couldn't even fake giving a damn... that's a shame, and something I wouldn't reward with a return visit.

Yes, mistakes happen. But what you describe is systemic. Chances are the server didn't care because the co-owner has ceased to care.

Anonymous said...

I believe that in this economy, it is less frequent that parties go out to dine, and when they do, it should be appreciated, that they chose your establishment out of the many choices. This being said, I expect the service to be friendly, not rushed, attentive, professional, correct (nothing forgotten or wrong) and a sincere Thank you for dining with us at the end.
If they are having an off night, this happens, but don't blame "understaffed" or any other reason, as even if the place is understaffed, the patrons should NEVER feel it or see it. If the wait is long, offer an appetizer or soda's on the house, it will appease the patrons and word of mouth and their return visit it certainly worth it. Not to mention the worthiness of a tip.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

Lavachickie has described some excellent scenarios where a restaurant has made a mistake and has addressed them appropriately. I had an experience (http://eatsalem.com/2009/03/19th-at-battle-creek-clubhouse-grill.html) a few weeks ago where a mistake was made right through friendly and apologetic service. Spot on.

I greatly appreciate when a restaurant owns up to their mistake and makes an effort to "win my business." When they don't, that tells me they don't care whether I come back -- which means neither do I.

Anonymous said...

Why bother pointing out that the owner was Asian? Who cares?

What's the point of this posting if the restaurant is not identified? What's the point of the posting if the food is not discussed?

Neil said...

By the details you give, I am thinking of the restaurant you patronized. If I am right, my wife and I dined there last weekend. However, we had the usual form of personable and timely service. Our food was hot and tasty; again, as usual.

That is no excuse for what you experienced, of course. It does indicate to me that sometimes people write off entire days, no matter the harm to their customers or clients, or even close friends. You do need to communicate, more formally if possible, to the owner. If she then throws you off, you are left to choose your principles or your taste.

Anonymous said...

What's the point if we don't know the name of the venue?

mama2dylan said...

Anonymous said...
"Why bother pointing out that the owner was Asian? Who cares?"

"What's the point of this posting if the restaurant is not identified? What's the point of the posting if the food is not discussed?"

I mentioned the lady was Asian because there were 2 people at the counter. I assumed she was the owner of this Asian restaurant because the other person was very young and Caucasian and because I know the owner's are Asian. It was not meant to be a derogatory comment.

The title of this posting is "Bad Service Equals Lip Service" If a restaurant is reviewed (mostly for it's food) the tile of the posting usually reflects the name of the particular restaurant. In this case I wanted to share my bad experience in an effort to ask the questions relating to bad service at the end of the post: "My question to all of you is what do you expect when it comes to service? What do you do if the service is terrible? What do you expect the establishment to do to fix the problem and make you want to return as well as not bad mouth the place all over town?"

If you'll notice I never mentioned the food was bad. In 12 years I have never had bad food at this establishment nor bad service. I also didn't name the restaurant because I really don't care to bad mouth it based on one bad experience in 12 years causing people not to dine there as a result. I always thought this blog was about more than just the food aspect of the dining scene.

Neil said...
"By the details you give, I am thinking of the restaurant you patronized. If I am right, my wife and I dined there last weekend. However, we had the usual form of personable and timely service. Our food was hot and tasty; again, as usual.

That is no excuse for what you experienced, of course. It does indicate to me that sometimes people write off entire days, no matter the harm to their customers or clients, or even close friends. You do need to communicate, more formally if possible, to the owner. If she then throws you off, you are left to choose your principles or your taste"

I did write a letter of complaint to both owners and addressed it to them by first and last names. I have not received a response from them yet.
________________________________________

Salem Man said...

m2d,
I liked it that you didn't put a name on it because we can discuss the situation without personal feelings getting involved. This is a situation that I'm sure many of us have been in and the perspective of the customer is different then the perspective of the restaurant owner.

Anonymous said...

mama2dylan: Boring. Tell us the name of the place and tell us about the food.

Anonymous said...

Was it Kwan's?


With service: I have had great experiences there and bad experiences there (good/great 70% bad 30%).

Typically very good food though.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking Lum Yuen. The few times people have dragged me there I've had ho-hum food and sub-par service. It always astounds me when people say they think it's the best in town. Personally I like Golden Crown near Nordstroms- great food, more quantity (especially the kids meals) than Kwan's and cheaper.

Anonymous said...

i love golden crown! it's my favorite chinese in salem. and man they are FAST. and a great deal! . shoot. i want to go there for lunch right now!

mama2dylan said...

Update:

I just received a letter from the manager of the restaurant with a $40.00 gift certificate enclosed. She apologized and stated that the server admitted that I received "horrible" service partly due to staff members leaving early, and that the cook would not make my soup because he had an argument with the server and that the server didn't ask the owner for assistance. The manager assured me that the problem had been dealt with and invited me back.

I recently had a very bad experience at another Salem restaurant while dinning out with my family and Salem Man and his family. I wrote to the district manager and complained the bad experience. She promptly mailed us $80.00 worth of certificates, which is about what we spent that night.