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What do you do when there's no answer?

I recently had two horrible experiences in local restaurants. I did what any self respecting Chowhound would do - I sent a letter and an email outlining my experience.

Having spent over 10 years of my working life in restaurant management, I've had plenty of experience in dealing with customer letters of both praise and complaint. It would never occur to me to not respond to a customer letter. In fact, it was our policy to send the guest a gift certificate if they were unhappy, but also if they wrote to tell us they were happy with their experience.

I'm having a quandry because of the lack of response from the restaurant management. WWYD? Should I call and speak to the owner, badmouth the restaurant to any one that will listen, send another letter or something else?

I welcome your suggestions.

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  1. I think you are going to have to let it go. If they cant be bothered to respond to you then they certainly arent worth your time.

    And yea, go ahead with a little bad mouthing...

    1. jfood would let it go. if you had a good meal and informed the mgt, yes it's improper not to acknowledge, but that's life sometime.

      Jfood would still return and injoy the meal. life's to short to sweat the small stuff.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jfood

        i agree about letting it go. however, the likelihood of a return visit would depend on how many previously favorable meals i'd had there. if it was visit one, i'd be in no rush to return. i'd also take into account management apathy about customer satisfaction.

      2. What's that expression: The fish stinks from the head? I doubt that the owners will care -- if they cared, it wouldn't have happened in the first place. Employees take their cues from the leaders of an organization.

        You don't say WHY these were horrible experiences. I hate it when the experience is bad because of service, but the food is good -- because I am torn about going back. Usually, but not always, I'll go back if I like the food.

        Only you can decide...

        I personally think that sending a letter for a bad experience is a big waste of time in the first place, though I know others will disagree.

        For me, I don't diss just to diss....

        1. This happened to me once - both food and service were ridiculously bad. I've never returned to the restaurant since sending them 'the letter', which was not acknowleged. It's tough since this restaurant is a popular place in my neighborhood - great patio, good beer selection but the food and service is terrible.

          Quigley's, Queen St. E (Beach) Toronto - you suck!

          1. Since they didn't bother to return your letter, or give any sign of life whatsoever, you should feel free to spread the news, detailing why they're bad, and mentioning that they don't care enough about their clients to answer letters.

            Perhaps natural selection will take its course, and their business will die a slow death.

            If you post your comments on CH, other Hounds might be able to give you more information on the places, or insight into what happened.

            In any case, I agree that recontacting the restaurant would be a waste of time.

            1. I was very upset about a visit to a local chain restaurant where we were ignored, the food was not up to par, and the manager had greeted every single table but ours, so I sent a note to them via email on the corporate site. I was shocked to get a phone call within an hour of sending it. She wanted to know exactly what had happened and I told her. I said I would never go back to that one again. She said that they were going to send me a certificate to make amends and I could go to one of the other locations. I agreed that I would try that, since this place used to be really good, but had been going downhill for the past year.

              6 months later and I still haven't received anything. Oh well, their loss because even though we were not happy we still tipped 20% and we do eat out quite a bit.

              1. If you sent it "snail mail" I'd give them a little more time. I've had (recently) horrible experiences sending things snail mail. A letter sent from the Bay Area to Oklahoma took 3 weeks. Now, if I need/have to send anything snail mail, I use express or priority mail.

                OTH, if you sent it more than a month ago, that's different altogether, I'd assume they received yoour letter, and no response would be forthcoming.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rednails

                  We ate in a restaurant a short time ago where they turned out the lights on us in the middle of the meal to suit a crew filming nearby, leaving us to grope for the food in the dark. I wrote them a polite e-mail, describing what had happened and saying that I thought some sort of compensation was in order.

                  They never even answered. That's it, the food was good (when I could find it), but I'll never go there again. While I am not going to stand outside the restaurant with a picket sign, I will mention this whenever something relevant comes up in a conversation.

                2. If I get no answer itmeans they don't give a damn about their customers, thus I never return. That's the story about Le Bec Fin, in my mind one of the worst service experiences on the East Coast.

                  1. It sounds like you've reached a point where you have to decide just how much of your life do you want to devote to getting some sort of satisfaction after one or two bad dinners. Really, how long do you want these jerks to own you?

                    I don't agree with bad mouthing anyone but, if the subject comes up, you should offer an honest opinion. And, you know, you will be surprised how often the subject will come up... if you really want it to.

                    1. I have never sent a letter, physically or electronically... so I've never had to worry about the event of a non-answer... maybe I just don't respect myself enough. Besides, life's too short to hold a grudge towards a restaurant for failing to answer a letter.

                      1. NO RESPONSE Never Went Back...
                        Dear Chef _____
                        I am writing to convey to you an upsetting experience that my husband and I experienced while dining in your restaurant last evening (October 17, 2006).
                        Our waiter was Julio and while taking our order he strongly recommended that we consider a bottle of Petite Syrah from Turley Vineyard. This is a wine with which we are familiar and enjoy. I reviewed the wine list and ordered the Turley.
                        The meal had a series of missteps which we were intending to overlook. The service through the appetizers was in fact quite good if a bit over solicitous. However after our entrees were served our wait team seemed to disappear and did not return to check to see if we were in need of anything. My beef entrée was listed on the menu to be served with four salts which never did appear and by the time Julio checked on us I was nearly finished with my meal so the addition of the promised salts would have been wasted and I did not request them. In addition, it took a considerable amount of time to have our entrée’s removed after we were finished, to the point that we needed to leave and declined dessert and simply requested the check.
                        When the check arrived the Turley wine (which we enjoyed very much) was charged at the rate of $150.00 per bottle. I specifically recalled that the wine list priced it at $85.00 per bottle. I called this to Julio’s attention and he affirmed that the $150.00 was the correct price and reluctantly offered to bring the wine list back to me so I could reaffirm. He then left the table for over 10 minutes (with the check and my credit card in hand). When he returned he remarked that “Yeah it’s listed at 85 but it’s really 150 so it’s their loss” and proceeded to hit me on the shoulder in a very casual and crass manner as though I was one of the boys. Well I am not one of the boys. I am a 56 year old professional woman who does not appreciate his rude manner, lack of apology and particularly the fact that he would presume to touch me in such a crude manner. The entire episode was surreal and left both my Husband and I speechless.
                        The tip reflected my disdain (at slightly less than 15%) and in retrospect I regret that I left even that amount considering his behavior.
                        We have always enjoyed your innovative food, however; this experience will cause us to think twice before reserving a table in the future. I have attached a copy of the corrected bill for your review.
                        Respectfully,

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: capeanne

                          Sounds like easy grounds for filing a dispute with your credit card company.

                          Also, does your local newspaper (or city magazine) have a food section (well, a food section that's more than puffery)? Write them your sad story - sometimes it really will get out to the readership. Here's a condensed excerpt from today's Washington Post widely-read weekly online restaurant chat:

                          "Can you help me with a restaurant etiquette question? A couple weeks ago after a walk ... my wife and I stopped by [well-known local restaurant] and asked to be seated. There must have been 30-40 empty tables on the patio (Tues. afternoon) but ...the maitre d' refused to seat us. We quietly went away but I feel as if this was a rather rude dismissive thing to do, as there was a great deal of available seating, but I'd be interested in your take on it."

                          "Tom Sietsema [Post Restaurant Critic]: Your reception doesn't surprise me at all ... [link to already-published very critical review]"

                          And even more a few posts down, from a onetime server: "the overall demeanor there has always gruff and they've never cottoned to folks coming from [a hike on the nearby] C&O Canal. You may recall the incident where a Supreme Court justice and several Senators were refused entry. They had just completed a hike from Georgetown and I guess it showed in their appearance. The owner called them a "bunch of bums" and told them to vamoose."

                          Response: "Sounds like [the place] has been ungracious for ... decades! At least it's consistent, right?"

                        2. Unfortunately many places just plain don't care and have no understanding of relationship building. Your dollar is a vote. If you aren't happy with how you were treated don't spend it there.

                          Had a similar situation at a place I would have frequented alot. No response to my letter. When I was reconciling my charge account that month I realized how much they didn't get from me, copied the info & sent it to the offending place. That put it in perspective for them & they actually called. They had already left a bad taste in my mouth, but I think the (pretty green ) manager finally understood the long term ramifications of the lack of customer responsiveness.

                          No need to bad mouth, just make your point politely & find the places that appreciate your business.

                          1. Stating the facts about an experience at a resto that didn't live up to your expectations is not "badmouthing" and is not something to feel bad about. Not warning others and letting them suffer the same fate as you is akin to a sin of omission.

                            You wouldn't hesitate to name a good resto, there's no reason to protect the bad.