I've noticed in the several years of reading these boards and talking with people offline that people here in the US really do seem to have an expectation that if anything at all goes wrong with a restaurant meal, they'll have part or all of their meal comped.
Posters to this board, in particular, often gripe when they receive an apology rather than free food, which I find kind of stunning, especially after several years of living abroad, where no such expectation exists at all.
I'm interested in hearing how people feel about this sense of diner entitlement to free food: where it comes from, what consequences it has, and whether it's a good thing.
Personally, I'm torn. I like that we have high expectations for service and quality, but I worry that we've created a greedy monster in the process.
It's part of the culture of over inflated egos/senses of entitlement that has developed in recent generations. I don't think people who worked hard, scratching out a living in the 19th century, or in the 20th century, especially after the start of the depression, or people who lived through either of the World Wars had that need for ego gratification. They were happy to be alive, to have a roof over their heads, and at least two square meals a day. Nor would I expect that American service people returning from duty overseas, in any generation, would be as cluelessly self absorbed.
In other words, maybe we have had it way too easy for too long.
We had someone at my work get extremely indignant because we didn't bring out a free dessert for someone's birthday. Granted, it is normally something we do, but still... dang.
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As a long time server/manager I've become very familiar with this phenonenon. This is how I see it.
If it is a minor problem and I (or the chef or manager)can correct it immediately we will. You know, under-cooked steak, oversalted veggies, etc. You'll get a new or re-cooked meal and an apology. I might offer dessert on me just because I can,
If it happens that your meal goes horribly wrong on a number of levels (eggregiously bad service, un-redeemingly bad food or even (god forbid) a mouse runs through the dining room) then it's likely that I'll comp your meal or even the entire check. I may even give you a gift certificate good for a return visit.
I want you to return to my restaurant and I will do everything in my power to see that you do.
About the mouse thing...I worked in a place that in the summer opened onto a patio and those little devils always tried to sneak inside. It was not a sanitation issue.
Right, Cheryl. My incident involved a coupon I got as a bonus for ordering more than $50 in Gift Certificates. The coupond was for "one free pizza" ..well we ordered the $10 pizza and then $9 salad and beverages and they took off the price of the salad (the only pizza that was $9 was plain cheese).
I sent off an email to the website the next day, noting our receipt number and what we had eaten and told them they should change the wording on the coupon, not that $1 mattered that much, but it seemed wrong.
I got an email back immediately, with a short "so sorry"asking for my address and phone number...and I responded right away. Within 30 minutes THE owner of the local chain (I don't think it is anywhere not in San Diego; but there are 5 different restaurants) called me; noting my email address (it is obvious I prepare taxes) and apologized. I said it was "ok" and jsut kind of griped me that teh wording was not clear. He asked me if I would allow any of my clients to be 'off' by "only $1" and I, of course, laughed and said "absolutely not"...we chated for a while and anyhow, the next day, I got a $25 gift certificate in the mail.
...and every client I told the story to said they will go to that restaurant instead of others that are in that mall from now on.
SO, that little bit of PR gave him much more business, and I was happy also.