Part two of two on my tome grande on tipping in restaurants.
In part one, I outlined several incidents of excellent customer service from servers. Now, on the other side of the napkin, are the ugly stories. And I can think of four right off the bat. One a long time ago, two early last year, and one last week.
1) The Kettle restaurant, Huntsville, Ala., February 1993. Was there for a late breakfast, and - in true Talmadge fashion - ordered a Coke with my meal. Service was lackluster and slow for it being just myself and two others in the entire dining room. Waitress was borderline rude. She plunked - yes, plunked - the glass of soda (as they say back in Cape Girardeau) on my table. I took a swig, and nearly gagged. Now, there's flat Coca-Cola, and then there's Pepsi. Both, in my humble', taste about the same (although I'd rather have flat Coke). Contrary to what some claim, there IS a difference between the two. A big difference. I summoned Miz Crabb back to my table to say "This tastes like Pepsi, are you sure it's Coke?", her answer: "IT'S COKE!"
I'd since looked behind me to part of the prep area, where I saw the fountain dispenser, clearly displaying PEPSI insignia. I pointed behind me, and (rather testy by this point) said "It's Pepsi, why did you lie to me?" "IT'S ALL THE SAME!" "Ummm, no it's not."
I was ignored for the rest of the meal, except for her coming around to plunk - yes, plunk - the check down on the table.
TOTAL TIP for Miz Crabb: .01 She shot me such a nasty look as I was leaving. I returned it, with interest.
2) Cracker Barrel, Montgomery, Alabama, 12/29/2006. We'd just dropped off Tiger in Eclectic and were on our way into Troy for the night. It was a Saturday night, about 8:30 when we got there. It wasn't very crowded, and we got a table the moment we entered. Very un-Cracker Barrel-ish for a weekend evening.
Our food took forever. As in, nearly an hour. A family who were seated after us received their food long before we did. I was getting a bit ticked by this point; we'd driven from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, it had been a long day, and frankly I was ready to finish the last 42 miles into Troy.
The server's attitude wasn't ugly, just ... indifferent. The food was okay, but she left me hanging for tea. The empty glass begin sprouting cobwebs. I raised the time issue to the server, and she gave out a lukewarm apology, and said she'd summon the manager to our table.
The manager offered only glib apologies and then went back to the kitchen. It was already past 9:45 by then. We got our check (something they wasted no time with). Full ticket. Uh-uh, this was a case where we should've gotten something comp'ed. I've never asked for such a thing in the past, even when meals were beyond terrible. But this time I demanded it. Ah, but what else? Yeah, the time on the check. 8:55 p.m. Clearly they were cooking the time so as not to make themselves look bad. We'd placed our order by 8:35. The time stamp refers to when the order is keyed into the system, which cues the cook staff to prepare it.
I wanted the manager, but instead got Miz Whatever. I lit into her, saying we'd waited an hour for our food where others had received theirs sooner. That we'd been on the road for more than 12 hours, that I was ready to get to our destination, I was tired, very pissed off, and did not want this to come to a Mexican stand-off (never mind, it already did). She went back to the kitchen, and produced a revised tab, with one of the meals erased. Seraphim, again, ate free.
Total bill: $13 and change. Total tip: $1.50, a little over 10% on the reduced ticket (one should rightfully never stiff the server a tip on a comp'ed meal, unless the problem was brought on by that server, but in this case she was part of the problem). And I don't think she deserved that much.
Maybe there's a reason that Cracker Barrel didn't have a big crowd.
3) IHOP, Savannah, Georgia, 02/11/2006: This was beyond outrageous, and was so off-the-chart terrible I can't even think of the incident without grinning. Our server's name was Chris (again, real name), and he was extremely rude. It began before we were even seated. He was trying to get past me (it was one of those cramped old A-frame style buildings), and said, "WOULD YOU MOVE??!!" Phew.
It went downhill from there. Everything was answered with rudeness. The order took forever. After it arrived, I found I was stiffed two strips of bacon. I called his attention to this discrepancy, and his response was something along the lines of, "I'll get it, just watch your attitude."
This was so outrageous as to be laughable. MY attitude? Hey, you started it with your Car 54 "Do you mind? DO YOU MIND??" bit!
I could've brought this to the attention of the manager, but there was a good crowd in there, and people were waiting behind us at the cashier. I figured at that point that anybody that rude had to be working for someone who either turned the other way, or condoned such behavior.
But I called IHOP's manager the following Monday, and his demeanor told me nothing would be done about "Chris." As such, we haven't been back, and I don't plan on returning, either. I hate that, for I love IHOP; did I mention that we need a bloody IHOP out toward Rincon, or somewhere nearby on I-95, as they have in Brunswick??!!
Total tab: approx. $22.00. Paid begrudgingly.
Total tip for Christopher Toody: One (1) tarnished Lincoln penny. Only the second time in my life I've ever used that device to make my statement.
Maybe "Chris" used that to put around his neck for his bling.
4) Stone House, Rincon, Georgia. March 2006. Opened in a converted house just up highway 21 from our turnoff. It looked promising -- home cooking, classic oldies motif (old vinyl records covered the walls of the dining room). Like Cracker Barrel above, our order took way too long for it being practically empty. This would've been, what, Saturday at about 730? It does NOT take more than an hour to fry catfish. Seraphim was the one who brought up the issue this time, and they seemed apologetic, but also making excuses. We can't find anyone to work, and we're short kitchen staff. (solution: Pay more to attract good talent -- that's how it's done with CEO's, why not with those who actually work?) Hmph.
Seraphim left to go outside as I settled up. I paid the tab, about $20.00.
Total tip: $3.00, exactly 15%. I tried not holding it against the server.
BUT HAD I HEARD WHAT SERAPHIM HEARD, she might've gotten The Chris Penny. Where our table was situated, and the ambience of the place, Seraphim was in earshot of the kitchen, where I wasn't (you'd have to see the place to know what I mean). My wife heard our server go back into the kitchen after she asked about the delay, and proceeded to berate us to whatever kitchen staff was back there, for having unreasonable expectations about a restaurant.
In other words, we were served by the Naomi character from the movie Waiting.
The Stone House closed recently. Boo to the hoo. Yet another restaurant in Rincon that tried but failed. Frank & Linda's (probably the only good restaurant we have) has nothing to worry about.
Folks, I don't go to restaurants hoping to get free meals. I don't go to restaurants wanting to show off my naturally attractive snarky personality to hapless and incompetent servers. No, I go to restaurants to enjoy a nice meal, brought to me by an attentive and genuinely nice server who wants to make my experience a good one. And everyone with half the sense God gave a doorknob (as my mother is fond of saying) knows that a good experience = repeat business to the "word of mouth" power.
Of course, some are unclear on that concept. Rest in pieces, Stone House. You are not missed.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Why haven't I received any fresh-ground pepper for my salad? I'm going into the kitchen to get some!" Gleck
Chris Cornell, My mom, and Me
5 weeks ago