Last week J took me out to dinner for Valentine's Day at a nice restaurant here that I'd been wanting to try in forever and a day (actually just since we moved here a couple years ago), but the stars never quite aligned with planning a lunch or dinner there. Until Valentine's Day 2012 came along. Then it was like bashert.
With J being all busy at work, I made reservations over a month in advance just to be sure we got a table since the place is popular and small and award-winning in the Bay Area, which doesn't bode well for holidays. And when we got there that night, everything was perfect -- the ivy-covered brick outside, the smell of wine and hearty Italian dishes wafting into the lobby, every woman in the place wearing some form of red. Then we got seated and that's when things starting going downhill, thanks to our server, Rick.
After looking over the extensive beverage menu (which consisted 100% of wine), I quietly decided I would just have water unless Rick recommended some "preggatini" that bartenders can usually whip up at comparable restaurants.
"I'll have a glass of the Pinot Noir," J ordered across from me.
"Shall I make that two?" Rick asked, motioning to me.
I smiled and said that I wished, but I was pregnant and couldn't drink alcohol. Instead of recommending something else (um, even club soda would work for me, honey) he curtly grabbed the drink menu from J's hand and said, "Well, you can just smell his then" and walked away. Strike one.
A little later we were ready to order, and Rick stood dutifully near us with a pen and pad of paper in hand. But as J was in the middle of our order, a customer at a nearby table stood up and made his way over to our server, tapping him on the shoulder and complaining about not being brought something they had ordered. Instead of quickly apologizing to us that he needed to deal with this other customer, Rick turns around as J is still ordering, talks to the customer, then strides away without letting us know...well, anything. J's voice trails off and he gives me a look like you've got to be kidding me.
"Well that was rude," I said. "Maybe he'll apologize when he comes back."
But no, he never did apologize. Rick drops off whatever it was he'd forgotten at the nearby table and ambles back over to our table, standing silently near J with his pen poised over his pad. No explanation or anything.
Now I don't want to sound snotty or entitled or that I expect to have my butt kissed whenever I spend exorbitant amounts of money on food or clothing, but in my book this kind of customer service is completely inappropriate in this caliber of an establishment.
The next day I talked to some friends about it and wasn't planning on doing anything until a couple of them suggested I leave a bad Yelp review or call the restaurant. Personally I don't do Yelp reviews (especially since most of them around here are written by pretentious San Francisco hipsters decrying any business as lame or unworthy if it falls outside of city lines), and I've never been one to call a place and complain about service. It just seems like such a first world problem to me, and I'd rather vote with my wallet and take my business elsewhere. But in this case my friend had a point, so I called and left a message with the owner.
Two days went by and nothing. I'd almost forgotten about it until I got a call from a strange number, picked up and it was him. Without going into all the specifics, after my conversation with the owner, I was very very glad I'd picked up the phone and made that call. I detailed exactly what happened that evening and he apologized and said that if it was any consolation, Rick had been getting similar complaints lately from other patrons, including a food critic at a major publication, so I wasn't the only one. Then he asked if he could make it up to me by offering us a dinner on the house next time we came in. How could I turn down $200? Of course I said sure all casually, though internally I was freaking out like "whaaat? this is not what I expected. Score!"
So was I glad I called? Of course. Will I make it a habit? Probably not, I still feel like people who call to complain about everything little thing are annoying with their false senses of entitlement, but under special circumstances that I feel cross a line, I will definitely pick up a phone.
This week in books 10/21/16
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