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REALLY bad service...what would you do?

  • j

So my boyfriend and I went to the movies and decided to get a bite to eat afterwards. Restaurant is a very neighborhoody place...been there forever, fairly casual with a decent bar scene, but not too casual. Tables have flowers on them, butcher paper with crayons, but it's certainly no dive. We've both been there before. So we got there around 10pm, but keep in mind this is downtown in NYC. In the section where we were seated (middle room) there were 3 tables mid-dinner and at least 2 others seated after us.

The hostess brings us to our table and 10-15 minutes pass before we spot a waitress fawning over a table of regulars a couple of tables away. I manage to catch her eye and she says our waitress should be over shortly. So I ask if our waitress knows we're there. (We haven't seen anoy other servers in the room). She starts to walk away but then thinks better and comes back and says she'll take our order. We order drinks, entrees and ask for water. She comes back with the drinks. Another 5 minutes pass and I see someone who I guess was meant to be our waitress clearing the table next to us, so I ask her for bread and water.She brings the bread and says "Water's on the way." At this point neither of them have said anything remotely pleasant or anything to us. She does come back with the water and our food comes out a little later. It's fine, but again, no one comes to see if things are ok (although Waitress #2 did ask the other table next to us how their meal was). A little later, Waitress #2 comes and asks if my boyfriend is finished and takes his plate. Both of our drinks are almost empty but she doesn't ask if we need anything. She comes back to take my plate (with a lot of food left, and she didn't ask if I wanted to take it home although I asked my boyfriend in front of her if he wanted me to since I didn't care and he said no). We sit there for another 10-15 minutes or so with no drinks and no one asking if we want dessert. Finally I see Waitress #2 refilling sugar at empty tables and basically have to yell across the room to ask for our check. She sort of throws it down on the table. Total was only $34.75. Would have been more had we been asked if we wanted more drinks, dessert, etc. We left exactly $35 -- something I have never done, much less in NYC. I thought about asking to talk to a manager, but my boyfriend thought the message was pretty clear. Service sucked.

My boyfriend thinks we should have just left at the first sign that things weren't going well, but I wanted to give it a chance. Big mistake. What would you have done?

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  1. Sorry you had such poor serivce, it can ruin a whole evening.,

    What I would have done was get up a bit earlier in the meal when you first spotted some consistent problems with the service and go speak to the manager, very politely. It may have saved you a lot of aggravation. I know it is not your responsibility to make sure you have good service but in that situation, it would have been an appropriate action.

    If you choose not do that, I would definitely have spoken to the manager after dinner and let him know that you were leaving a 25 cent tip and WHY! By not saying anything, you leave it to the incompetent and rude waitress to tell her manager in her words about the cheapskates or not at all.

    BTW: If you haven't already, I would either go there and speak to the manager/owner in person or call ASAP!

    1. With the handy crayons I would have scrawled on the butcher paper, Help! We're trapped by bad service." and walked out.

      1 Reply
      1. I usually suck it up during the meal. I dunno why; for some reason I feel guilty if I don't leave a tip.

        I have no problem writing scathing comments on sites such as these, however. Interesting that you chose not to name the restaurant...

        2 Replies
        1. re: dunstable

          It was Walker's in Tribeca. In hindsight I wish we had either left right away or else talked to a manager. We were just so frustrated by the end of the meal and didn't see anyone who looked like a manager around.

          We should have put the crayons to better use.

          1. re: JennS

            "didn't see anyone who looked like a manager around."

            Tells the tale, doesn't it?

        2. A while ago, a friend who owns a restaurant told me he noticed business dropping. Finally, someone told him that one of his waitresses was a real " " (you fill in the blank). He wished that someone had told him earlier so he could have gotten rid of her and not lost any business. Ever since I learned that, I speak to the manager or call later and let them know. Sometimes they are either not present or too busy to watch every single server. They rely on customer feedback.

          1 Reply
          1. re: shopgirl

            My husband and I used to own a restaurant in the Florida Keys. Let me tell you, I was never so busy that I could not evaluate how a server was doing. Plus there are other clues owners use to keep tabs on service. You look at tips on the credit card receipts. Sometimes people write comments on their tabs. You can SEE the looks on customers' faces. If they look pissed, you better darn well fix it. If the problem is the server, you give the table to someone else and start doing something to make those folks happy. Plus, other servers usually will grumble to the manager or owner about other servers. You take those comments seriously and ferret out the problems. Servers are the face and personality of your restaurant. Now, if JennS really liked going to the restaurant (aside from that one incident) she might want to drop a note or give a call (before the restaurant opens) or drop in for a chat with the owner. If that owner is worth anything he or she will take that very very seriously and fix it by firing that person or making sure she understands what good service means and that it is expected with every single table (even the ones while they are doing their end of the night side work). That owner would probably get back to that customer and would probably offer a free meal to compensate for the bad time. One aside about that restaurant... if servers are yelling across the dining room to each other and acting in a generally slack way in front of customers there are probably problems that extend beyond the waitstaff. That means you may want to find another neighborhood joint.

          2. I had a very similar situation once.
            But a long story real short, before I paid I seeked out the manager, and told her the story. When I got to the part about having to open my bottle of champangene and serve it myself, she quickly asked to see the ticket. (Which was well over $100.)
            What I expected was that she was going to cross out the champaign.
            Instead, she stuck the ticket in her pocket, told us she was sorry, and asked us to please give them a try again sometime.

            2 points for Ralph and Cacos

            1 Reply
            1. re: Barbecue Joe

              What on Earth? So she brought the bottle to the table, then just walked away? That's one of the most outrageous incidents of incompetence I've ever heard. IF I were her manager, I would have fired her on the spot.

            2. " He wished that someone had told him earlier so he could have gotten rid of her and not lost any business."

              So where was your friend all that time and what exactly was he doing that he never noticed such apparently blatantly and continual bad performance from one of his employees?

              I'll talk to the manager about a problem from the kitchen or something otherwise not obvious to the FOH, but it's THEIR job to keep an eye on their staff, not mine.

              8 Replies
              1. re: MikeG

                This drives me crazy.

                Guess what? Managers don't see everything that happens in a dining room. They're not omnipresent, they're not omniscient, they're not omnipotent. If they're across the room, they aren't going to hear the plates being dropped rudely on the table; they might not notice that you weren't offered pepper or Parmigiano cheese or whatnot, they might not know that drinks aren't being refilled (for all they know, you said, "No thanks, I'm fine," when a refill was proffered).

                Of course it isn't your job to tell waitstaff how to do their job, but if they aren't doing it well then a complaint to management is certainly in order. They can then fix it for you... unless, of course, it makes you feel good to leave a bad tip (which gets you branded as a cheapskate unless you've spoken to management) and then complain later about it on the Internet.

                If I don't do my job well, certainly people complain to my manager; it isn't any different in a restaurant.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  not really to concerned if a waiter who is bad at their job considers me a cheapskate or not. If they want to blame the customer for their own poor performance & subsequent tip, then they have bigger problems than just being bad at their job.

                  Like I said I tell the waiter to their face they were bad, or if they are out smoking a cigarette, or are otherwise occupupied they get a note telling them why they got what they got.

                  Also many times a poor waitstaff is a reflection of bad management.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    "They can then fix it for you... unless, of course, it makes you feel good to leave a bad tip (which gets you branded as a cheapskate unless you've spoken to management) and then complain later about it on the Internet."

                    I guess I sorta glossed over this part w/out really absorbing it. Isn't the point of a tip to thank someone for good service? Why SHOULDN'T poor service be reflected in the tip?

                    1. re: JaneRI

                      some of the waiter types on this board feel the tip is their entitlement, not something they have to work for.

                      1. re: swsidejim

                        It’s not only that – even good servers will tell you that their tips often vary for reasons that seem to have nothing to do with their level of service. It’s sadly not unheard of for people to leave little or nothing even after a meal when the server has done his/her very best. Maybe they don’t believe in tipping or they got the bill and it was more than they wanted to spend so they saved by undertipping or not tipping at all. Maybe they didn’t like the food but when the server came by they said it was fine because they didn’t want any trouble. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse and now they’re in a bad mood. Or maybe they just plain forgot or made a mistake (this is especially common w/ credit card users.) If a server only received a bad/nonexistent tip when they had truly rendered poor service I am sure they would know it, but that is far from being the case.Therefore, the only way to really get your message across is to say something.

                      2. re: JaneRI

                        Of course it should... but the sad truth is that due to that sense of entitlement that swsidejim mentioned, the message sent when they get a crappy tip is not "you need to work on your skills" but "this guy was a cheap bastard". The only way to make sure the message gets across correctly is to let someone know -- either with a note, which is a good idea, or by speaking to the waiter/waitress or manager.

                      3. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Managers may not see every little bad act by a server, but if a server is giving poor service to one table, bad service is probably being given to other tables and a manager doing his job WILL catch it. It is the managers job to see that things are smooth and customers thrilled with their experience at their restaurant. PERIOD. Anyone that does not do the work to make that happen should be ditched. PERIOD. All through the night managers roam the restaurant to gauge customer satisfaction, sit at the expo line seeing that service goes smoothly and that the food looks tip top. Managers say things to waitstaff like: "Why does table one look pissed?" Why are the folks on One looking bored? ON and ON.

                        Finally, most folks are like Jenn. They are not going to go up o the manager and complain. They just will leave and not come back.

                        Branding a customer as a cheapskate???? I laugh at that. If you are out there making comments about customers like that, it is not a tell on that customer, it is a tell on you.

                        1. re: Wanda Fuca

                          I have a fairly simple policy. If I leave a bad tip for service i ALWAYS stop by the manager or MD and explain that I left a XX tip for the following reason and if the waiter comes up and complains he has the appropriate data to discuss with the waiter.

                          If i have a problem with the food either i send it back or if it would ruin a great evening we are having i'll suck it up, pay and tip regularly and either call the next day to mention this to the manager or not go back.

                    2. I had a similar experience to yours not too long ago, It was at Daniels in NYC. After being pretty well ignored over the course of our dinner, at one point we asked a few questions about one of the entrees and were treated to a look that said "are you idiots?", our waitress actally snorted and then half answered the question. It was a prix fixe meal and we asked for the check before desert. That seemed to frustrate our server no end, they kept (we had more than one server) saying that it was included. I kept saying "I know, but we would like to leave." I thought at that point someone might pay some attention. But no, the bill was plopped on the table (it was $400) I paid and we left.

                      We had checked our coats when we went to get them - we were asked for the first time that evening "how as your dinner." I told the woman who handed us the coats that it hadn't been a good experience. She wanted to go get the manager and I should have let her. Instead I handed her the $100, that would have been the tip and we left.

                      By the time we got back to our hotel, the woman at coat check had contacted the manager, he had called the hotel (they had made the reservation) and we were told that we were not being charged for the meal and that a letter was being sent to give us a "complimentary dining experience for 2 at Daniel."

                      Long story short - I should have spoken to the manager, I gave the certificate to a friend - they had a nice time and left a large tip for the woman in coat check.

                      1. I once had dinner w/my mother and sister, at a casual red-sauce Italian family restaurant. Not a big night out, just grabbing a quick bite. Well, the waitress seemed to dislike us on sight - assuming 3 women won't tip well? I don't know. Well, you can imagine how her dislike grew when my mother and I split an entree and we did't order any alcohol. At this point maybe you're thinking you'd dislike us too, but the reality is we wouldn't be lingering and would turn her table over quickly. It was pulling teeth to get her to come over for drink refills, when she brought the shared dinner she didn't bring an extra plate (and it wouldn't have killed her to ask the kitchen to split it for us, right?) and when the plate was requested she slammed it down.

                        For the first time ever in my life I didn't leave a tip - but I did leave her a note explaining that i'm normally a very generous tipper but her rude behavior made me stiff her, and she might want to think about how she treats customers in the future.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: JaneRI

                          Slamming the plate down is one of the most hostile things to be done in a restaurant -- I can't think of much else that would say "I really wish you would leave" than that.

                          The only time it happened to me -- and I'm making a distinction here between graceless servers who drop the plates with a clunk and rude servers who slam the plate on the table with attitude -- I lost my temper and caused a huge scene in the restaurant, to which we never went back.

                        2. Your story made me remember something that happened to my wife and me some years ago when we were living in the Bronx in New York City. We had been in the habit of stopping at a German chophouse (I think it was called Ehring's) on West 231st Street regulary on the way home after visiting my parents. Over the course of time they got to know us and generally gave us excellent treatment.

                          One evening we stopped in quite a bit later than usual and asked the manager if it was too late to order dinner. He assured us it was no problem and gave us a booth, where we were served by a waitress who had served us a number of times in the past, and always in a friendly and efficient manner. Not this time, though, even though we had been generous tippers (20%+) in the past.

                          Although the place was less than half full she took forever to stop at our booth initially and seemed less than pleased to see us. Then we were astonished to hear her loudly complaining to the party in the booth behind ours about the nerve of some people coming in late to eat. She went on for several minutes in this vein, clearly aiming her comments at us. It really startled us and made us feel unwelcome, so we hurried to finish our meal and get out of there.

                          When she gave us the check she finally smiled and acted more friendly, which we found to be equally offensive, as we interpreted this behavior to be nothing more than angling for the usual good tip. Not this time, though.

                          We rounded the total to the next dollar and left that as her tip. I wrote a note on the check: "The reason for this tip is because we did not feel welcome."

                          The next day I wrote a letter to the manager, telling him what we had experienced. I told him in the letter that we had had this waitress on several occasions in the past and she had been really good, but that we were so put off by her behavior on this occasion that we felt compelled to write. A couple of days later the owner of the restaurant called us at home and invited us to dinner on him to make up for our unfortunate experience.

                          We took him up on his offer and guess who our waitress was? She was a long-time employee and she couldn't have been more apologetic. Of course the entire meal was comped but we did leave the waitress a nice tip. We had many an enjoyable experience there afterwards with nary a negative one, including having this same waitress a number of times.

                          1. leave as minimal of a tip as you feel comfortable with, along with a note to the server as to why they are getting a poor tip reflecting their poor service.

                            Then never return to the restaurant again...too many good restaurants, and servers who care about their jobs to waste time dealing with a poorly run restaurant.

                            1. Das, if the tip was 13% instead of 20%, yes they might think that. IF they got totally stiffed and had been bitchy besides, they KNOW it wasn't because the customer was a cheapskate, whether or not they admit it is another story.

                              In my case I did leave a note....but I think leaving NOTHING to someone who's been a jackass speaks for itself.

                              1. If it was a small town USA, I would've sucked it up, got my food and left a miniscule TIPS (original meaning "TO INSURE PROMPT SERVICE") like you did, but it's friggin NYC, and only (!) 10pm - early enough to find plenty of dining establishments open but late enough to not justify 15 min wait for a waiter, I would've walked out 10 min into being ignored.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: welle

                                  "To insure prompt service" is a modern folk etymology created to provide a backstory for the practice of tipping that has no grounding in reality, because—quite apart from the fact that the gratuity is called a "TIP" rather than a "TIPS"—if one's intention were to ENSURE prompt service, one would provide the tip PRIOR to being served.

                                  1. re: mclaugh

                                    I'm pretty sure I've seen an old Manhattan restaurant menu with 'T.I.P.S.' on it (from the early 20th century) and it wasn't forged. A lot of Internet sources credit it the origins of 'tips' to English pubs as early as 18th century, in that case I agree with you that no way they would've spelt it with "I".

                                    1. re: welle

                                      Which proves what? A restaurant menu is the LAST place I would look to as a reliable source for information on the etymology of a word.

                                      1. re: welle

                                        Well I've no clue what might have been going on with that old menu, but generally speaking, acronyms are a very recent phenomenon, starting from the mid-20th C or so (e.g., "scuba" and "fugazi") If a word is older than a hundred years, it is almost certainly not an acronym (e.g., golf, which does not stand for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden."). and in this case, the usage of the word predates the American Constitution.

                                        1. re: dunstable

                                          Hi... An example of a MUCH earlier (and fairly well known, at least to alchemists and french freemasons) acronym is VITRIOL (sulfuric acid). 15th century alchemist Basilius Valentinus coined this Latin acronym/motto: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem ('Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (i.e. purifying) you will find the hidden/secret stone'). However, technically, VITRIOL is a form of acronym today known as a bacronym, since it began as an ordinary word (for sulfuric acid), which then was interpreted as an acronym for the above process in alchemical transmutations...

                                          1. re: silence9

                                            Interesting, I did not know that. But that doesn't really count either. The etymology of the word is not acronymic in nature; someone applied it after the fact...

                                            ...just as with "tips" and "golf." By now, the story behind the etymology of the F-word is also quite old too.

                                            1. re: silence9

                                              ... and interestingly has since become a word again. Vitriolic, as in "That was quite a vitriolic diatribe that the internet troll was laying down".

                                    2. Bad service is a pet peeve of mine...after all, we all have jobs and we all take a certain amount of pride in it. Moreover, we all have to interact with someone, be it colleagues or clients. The very worst thing you can do is bring an attitude to the interaction - it just closes all lines of communication, and waiting tables is no exception. If anything, it's more important

                                      For me, I know how hard the job is, so everyone starts out with a 20% tip. If it's average service, they still get a good tip. However, if there are real problems during the course of the meal, the tip gets lower (and of course it can go higher for excellent service).

                                      If the night really goes downhill, I have no problems finding the manager before I even see the bill to discuss things. I would in fact encourage talking with the manager if it's that bad, otherwise it just perpetuates itself. There's a little pizza place down near Easton, Massachusetts (and if you're from around there, you'll know which one I'm speaking of) - the service is so bad from the wait staff that people have come to expect it. I've asked people why they keep coming back, and their reply is they just love the pizza and they know what they're in for when they sit down. I know I'll never come back there again, even if they served everything with gold on it!

                                      1. Good idea to complain to the manager. If all you do is leave a bad tip, a bad waiter won't have the insight to think "Did I do a bad job?" All he'll think is that you are a cheapskate.

                                        1. My experience from working in the industry is that most servers know when they have given bad service, but there have been plenty of times when everything seemed perfect, yet the tip did not reflect that. The problem is, as shown by discussions on this board that a good tip is a different percentage for everyone (including the friend that my parents no longer dine with who always lies and says that it's his birthday, and then never leaves a tip). So, it's true that it is helpful to let someone know what's gone wrong.

                                          1. I find really bad services ruins the meal and experience-I do not tip then

                                            1. The last tables are always the best ones.. be nice to them! =)

                                              When I was a server.. I use to find other servers would get very irratated by people coming in late or within an hour of us closing..esp if it was a dead night.. I always opted out to take them, and I usually ended up laughing the night away and walked away with a hefty tip.. so what if it was 2 a.m.? I had fun..they had fun.

                                              1. I like your attitude andlulu, I used to the same thing when I worked my second job waitressing.
                                                But there is no excuse for that behavior and it does suck when it happens. We've all had to endure it. I don't like confrontations, and usually will not attempt to find out what there "deal" is while we're at the restaurant. Just skip the tip, they know.

                                                I've only had to do this a couple of times, but I find that we get the most satisfaction by taking it to the owner or the manager. There's no point in addressing rude people in public, it's their problem to deal with later.