Poor Customer Service...

My husband and I don't have a single day off together.  While adapting to this, we've tried to make a point of spending the limited holidays that we have off doing something together.  New Year's Day, we both woke up early and decided to head out to have breakfast together, something we rarely get to do.  We decided on one of our "usual" breakfast joints and was pleased to see that at 9:00am, we wouldn't have to wait as there were only a few tables occupied.

After seating ourselves, the menus were immediately brought to our table.  We weren't asked if we would like coffee, the waitress just disappeared.  Meanwhile, the couple who came in after us and sat at the table behind us were immediately asked if they wanted coffee.  While the other waitress stood there and chatted with them a while, we waited. 

We waited and waited.  There were two gentlemen in the booth kitty-corner to us who were obviously either owners or managers of the establishment.  At one point, while we were waiting, one of them get up and helped someone at the counter.  We attempted to make eye contact with him as he returned to his booth.  I craned my neck to try to catch the eye of our waitress on several occasions.  We had a quiet discussion about leaving.  At this time, just as we made the decision to leave, about 10 minutes after we got our menus, the waitress finally came back and asked if we wanted coffee.  We ordered at the same time, not giving our waitress a chance to make us wait another 10 minutes to order.

 Our food came promptly and was good as usual.  However, the two gentlemen that seemed to be either owners or managers proceeded to have a loud and obnoxious conversation, at times being so loud that I could not hear what my husband was saying.  We finally gave up on talking and just ate our food quickly so we could get out of there.  When finished, our check did not appear and I had to go to the counter to get my ticket.  As I waited at the counter, I could see my waitress and a few other servers socializing in the back.  Finally she appeared, I paid and we left.

We're not that picky about service.  I've been a waitress and it is a hard and often times, thankless job.  If the place would have been busy, if there had been more than a few tables occupied, we wouldn't have talked about leaving.  Now, I don't know that we'll be back any time soon.

So, here's the question for you. What is acceptable or unacceptable in terms of customer service?  What drives you crazy at a restaurant? What does your favorite restaurant do that you adore?  For me, my favorite restaurant knows my name and treats me like a member of the family.  They make me feel like I WANT to spend my hard earned money in their place.  What do you do when you get poor service?  Do you tip less?  Do you leave?  What advice can you give as a consumer to the local restaurants?


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts.

I used to eat at a certain Chinese restaurant in Salem all the time. When I say "all the time" I really mean it. Probably one to two times a week (my office is only two blocks away). I also used to go there once a week or so when I was in high school. Our basketball team would go for lunch and I thought the food was great then. And, truthfully, I still think it's pretty good.

However... I am not a fan of the owners, specifically the owner's wife. She is incredibly rude and has never once been friendly. Maybe it's just me but I was treated like garbage almost every time I went in there (even though I tip EVERY time and tip very well). I used to just let it slip past me but I just couldn't let it slide anymore so I made it a point never to eat there again.

It's a shame because the food is pretty good - not the best, but good nonetheless. If the owners sold it, I would go back there in a heartbeat.

Poppy said...

Wow, anon, really?
i don't think i could return to a place i didn't feel welcome @
i'd rather pack a p&j sandwich to take to work

Anonymous said...

Honestly if I am seated and no one comes back in about 5 minutes, I leave. Done it a bunch and it never bothers me. If I've already waited to order, I know that everything else is going to be just as slow. Not worth my time, especially when the restaurant isn't busy or I see the wait staff standing around talking.

Chuck Bradley said...

If I can discern an excusable reason for less than stellar service, I’ll cut a place some, or maybe even a lot slack, depending on the reason for, and the degree of, the offending shortcoming. I will brook no rudeness. I will not be rude in return but I will not be back. And mention will be made of it here and elsewhere including the name of the restaurant and the server, if possible.

A pet peeve, and it may be peripherally categorized as service, is the all too common practice of popular places not accepting reservations. (Or in some cases for parties of 5 or fewer) I consider this disrespectful of my time. The offending restaurants don’t care. If I don’t want to wait, I can go elsewhere and I usually do. I’m sure they’re perfectly happy without my business. Three come to mind. Two make me sad, because they’re good restaurants. (Word of Mouth and Wild Pear) And the other one, I wouldn’t return to voluntarily anyway. (Olive Garden)

By the way, I find value in the dining experiences of others. That’s the primary the reason I haunt sites such as this one. If I’m not told what restaurants are being commented upon, the remarks do little to guide me.

Poppy said...

i too have several criteria.
like if it's a place i have gone 2 for yrs?
they get another chance.

Amber said...

Anon 1: It's tough when the food is good and the service stinks. However, I have decided that customer service is a major deciding factor for me. With all of the other great, local restaurants in Salem these days, I would rather give my money to a place that offers the whole picture.

Anon 2: We too have left a couple of times, although we generally wait about 10 minutes. It is a two way street - If I am going to give you my hard earned money, there should be some level of mutual respect. And making a paying customer wait when there is no reason is disrespectful.

Chuck: I too get annoyed by places that don't take reservations. We still go to these places (although, not Olive Garden), but only when we know it won't be packed.

As far as identifying the restaurant, I don't believe in condemning a business in a public forum based on one experience. If this had happened more than once or if there were other concerns with the restaurant, then I would absolutely give a full account. Instead, I will email the owners directly and give them a chance to explain or correct the problem.

Poppy: I agree. We have more tolerance for a place we know treats us well and may be having an off day versus a new or less frequented restaurant. First impressions really do mean a lot!

Chuck Bradley said...

Amber, Re: Restaurant I.D. Valid point well taken!

jeff said...

For me.... I'd hope I had a penny available. That's all the tip they earned.

tracylee said...

A couple of times, service has been so bad, I deliberately have left zero tip.

1. The restaurant owner seated us. Our server also happened to be the bartender on a busy night. Service was very slow. The owner stopped by to check on us, we mentioned it, and he said: "Oh yeah, this is a bad table". Nothing more. I never returned there.

2. A restaurant I frequent. It was a slow night, so they sent home the higher paid (better) server, leaving one less-experienced one to handle about 4 tables on two floors. The diners on the other level were bringing down their dirty dishes and the waitress would just wave them towards the dirty dish cart in the corner. I did tell the cook that night why we left a zero tip, and he understood perfectly. I still eat there frequently.

Anonymous said...

I think if you're going to leave zero tip, or a penny, or a nickle (that's my brother's trick, when they forget put ice in his coke when he asked for no ice), you need to say something to the owner or manager if available, or to another server if you don't feel like confronting the offending server. If you then get a rude or dismissive response, then don't go back, that's understandable.

Though when I waited tables it never happened to me, I worked very hard, got the orders right and in a reasonable amount of time (but not so great at the schmooze part) and if I got no tip, I would think they forgot or were cheap or just jerks and I would have no incentive to try to make it right (think comped meals or gift certificates, people!) or improve my service.

Also don't punish your server if the the problem is with the kitchen. Trust me, servers who have to work with a bad kitchen feel your pain.

Communicate! Passive agressive tips don't improve anything. If after a few tries it's clear the service is always bad, then yeah, shun the place. Unless the food is really worth it!

For the record, I usually tip 20%. If the service is only so-so or it's a place you order at the counter, then 15%. The least I would ever give is 10%. Thankfully I've never felt compelled to stiff the server. I have walked out, if I get ignored, however.

Anonymous said...

Leaving a penny or a nickle is just spiteful. If you aren't happy with the service, then leave nothing. If it's consistently bad, then don't go back or complain to the manager. That penny/nickel business is bush league.

Anonymous said...

The original post sounds a lot like experiences I have had at Off Center Cafe. The food is good, but the service, almost every time, stinks. After the last time - when I literally waited an hour for a cheeseburger only to have it come out so overdone and obviously heat-lamped the bun broke apart when I took my first bite - I decided to make Word of Mouth my go-to place in the neighborhood. Higher quality food, and the service is always excellent. True, they don't take reservations and at times there can be quite a wait, but I think it's so that people in the neighborhood have a chance to get in...it ain't called a "Neighborhood bistro" for nothing.