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Do you think I should have been comped?

Situation: Lunch today with my 8-month pregnant friend at a chain BBQ place that's adjacent to a large shopping mall.

We picked the spot for it's atmosphere (air conditioning and kinda dark). We placed our orders and 10 minutes later, the smoke alarms started going off. It was an extremely loud, intermittent beeping with flashing lights.

Our server was extremely kind and apologetic and said it usually take a few minutes for the fire dept. to come turn off the alarms. Understandable and we were going to wait it out (the fire station is a block away and we figured it shouldn't take them very long)

The loud beeps from the alarm was at a painful decibel and we both had to cover our ears. About 5 minutes later, our food arrived. I tried to eat my salad - but the noise was just too much. All the while, the restaurant was being to get quite smoky to uncomfortable levels and I was concerned about my pregnant friend inhaling all that smoke. We decided to take our plates and head to the patio outside - but there were no shaded tables and it was a hot afternoon (easily in the 90's today). So, we stood by the open door to get fresh air and asked for containers to go - figuring we'd take our food and eat in the food court at adjacent mall.

Since it was so unpleasant that we had no choice but to leave, I was surprised that our meal was not comped. But, not wanting to stay in the noise or smoke, opted to not bother to wait around and discuss it.

So - as we tried to salvage the meal (which was basically impossible - there's something about a wilted salad that's been sitting in styrofoam for 15 minutes that's just unappetizing..). I got to thinking that I should go back and talk to manger about it - but I didn't and now I'm annoyed at myself for not doing so.

Do you think management should have taken a more proactive approach (it's not like they weren't aware what was occurring) or do you think I'm out of line for thinking the meal should have been comped?

What would you have done?

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  1. The key is the fact that the waiter said "it usually takes a few minutes for the fire department" meaning It Has Happened Before.

    I probably would have gotten up and left immediately, not waiting for food. And once they realized you were obviously uncomfortable (YOU took your food outside - they didn't offer to do it for you?); Yes, you should have been comped.

    1. I agree with Carrie218. They should've comped you and your friend. That would've been the best way for the restaurant to ensure your continued patronage, in my opinion. I can't imagine you'll want to return to that place, given how they handled it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: homecook1

        I totally agree with whs and you too homecook1. I'm an eastecoaster and I would have been brawling all over the place. And it's not too late. Listen, 'Oracle' you need to call them and go off. That is ridiculous and over-annoying. Hey, if you want I'll make the call for you.

      2. I thought fire alrams meant that you need to evacuate quickly and safely...and come back at a non fire alarm moment for your meal at your convenience, on the house I would suspect, for your inconvenience. Also, as the server indicated it has happenned before, you would think that they would have preprinted coupons.

        1. Absolutely you should have been comped. It's a chain...write to the head office and explain. I am sure they will mail you at least some sort of coupon.

          1 Reply
          1. re: shopgirl

            Shopgirl: "It's a chain...write to the head office...they will mail you at least some sort of coupon."
            Why is that o.k. because it's a CHAIN???? Why,chain or not, call the restaurant and speak with a manager directly. I know chains get bashed a lot on CH. I am guilty at times. But, I don't hate chains, nor would I treat a "bad" situation different at a chain restaurant then a neighborhood restaurant.
            I think it is very disappointing that a lot of people take advantage of the "chain" restaurant trying to get food comped. A lot of times after the fact, and not giving the restaurant the opportunity to redeem themselves. I realize this also is the case with privately owned restaurants as well, but then again usually people aren't going around saying oh complain! I'm sure they comp you something.

          2. What I would have done with a fire alarm and a smoke filled room would be to leave.

            What interests me is the fact that the alarm was going off, and I know how loud they can be, and you decided to stay. The place starts to fill up with smoke and decide, because your friend was pregnant, to simply move to the patio and continue with your meal. What would you have done if the sprinklers had gone off?

            Yes in a perfect world the restaurant world have comped you something. But despite everything you made the decision to stick around and eat.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Withnail42

              I'll go one further and say that you should have left, period, and the restaurant didn't owe you a thing. The restaurant didn't set off the alarm on purpose, so it was either a misfire or a real fire, in any case they didn't "owe" you jack if you decided to stay and complain about the noise. Your attitude is one of entitlement and it's far too rampant in restaurantgoers.

            2. jfood once spent four hours in a hospital sucking on an oxygen tank after CO1 poisoning. After a full recovery three days later the last thought on his mind was "What's in it for me?"

              The alarm goes off, the place starts to fill with smoke and you stuck around. The salad is served and you stay to eat it. And then you think it's uncomfortable for both the ears and the lungs and pick up your food and look for a table on the patio.OMG are you kidding? At that point it was all on you. And you were "concerned" about your pregnant friend. then you take the food away and now you want a comp?

              OMG, this is the craziest thing jfood has ever heard of. And to the poster commenting on east coaster, jfood is in CT and the last thought on the punchline on this was for a comp.

              Gimme a break.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Thanks, jfood. This post is a primary example of why I think so many things on CH are just set ups to start a discussion.

                1. re: Cathy

                  i agree with you cathy. like the sjh incident, food terrorism, when your fav restaurant ignores you, and some of the weird wait-staff stories. This one is great material for a below-avg IQ test-

                  1) You are in a restaurant with a pregnant woman and the restaurant fire alarm goes off. Soon afterwards the restaurant fills with smoke. Your waitress assures you the fire department will be there any minute. You:
                  a) wait for your food
                  b) begin to get anxious that the pregnant friend is inhaling smoke and annoyed at the sound of the fire alarm
                  c) try taking your food outside of the restaurant, then wait for the waitstaff to wrap it up for you when you realize it's too hot outside
                  d) pay for your food
                  e) all of the above

                  If you answered yes to any of the above you are certainly below normal IQ or are just trying to start a funny thread.

                2. re: jfood

                  Exactly. I'd have left, I wouldn't have paid, I wouldn't have taken any food...I'd have been gone when the alarms started. Who sits around when a fire alarm goes off?

                  1. I would have left asap! If time permitted, I would have told the server or manager that next time I come in I know that lunch will be on the house but right now I'm leaving! But, the last thing I would want is to eat the food, comped or otherwise. The health and safety of your and your pregnant friend are paramount.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bite Me

                      Am I missing something? There's a fire(?) or something to trigger the alarm...room filling with smoke...and you stayed?

                    2. No, you should have left when the alarm went off, not stay in a smoke filled place with a pregnant woman. Its your own fault, you stayed, ate, and actually paid for the meal. Move on.

                      1. I'm a bit flaggergasted. A smoke alarm goes off, and you would choose to stay with that screeching alarm going off? And when smoke filled the room? I would have left immediately. Why take chances with your health and safety?

                        1. I cannot for the life of me understand how a rational person would have stayed. I've tried. But I can't get there.

                          I would not ever eat again - even for free - in an establishment that did not evacuate its patrons in the circumstances you describe. It should be condemned.

                          1. Count me among those who can't believe that you stayed in a place where smoke alarms were ringing, and the place was filling with smoke, and all you're worrying about is whether you deserve a free meal.

                            1. No. There were many points in the meal where you could have (Should have!) gotten up and walked away but yet you stayed to eat your meal and asked for nothing more than a to-go box.
                              While they should have a better system in place for situations like this (evacuations and comp tickets for everyone) it seems like you chose to grin and bear it.

                              1. What were you thinking? "I've suffered enough...give me a free meal?" I would have left LONG before the food arrived...I just can't imagine sitting in a restaurant holding my ears for FIVE MINUTES while a fire alarm is sounding and the room is filling with smoke.

                                1. I will never understand folks who ignore smoke alarms, tornado sirens, etc but most americans do all the time. I have no idea if it's an adolescent sense of invincibility or what. I will never forget being a child (so 20 years ago now) and having the smoke alarm go off in an LA hotel. My parents took my brother and I down like 13 flights of steps in our pjs only to have everyone in the hotel stare at us like we were out of our minds. Eventually a few more people came down later, dressed, and the people still partying all dressed up never did anything. It didn't turn out to be a real fire but you don't know that in your room and who wants to risk being dead. Really people would you rather be dead than seen in your pajamas?
                                  I follow signals even if people think I over-react. Better safe than sorry.

                                  1. What part of the smoke alarm did you not understand? The alarm is going off; smoke is filling the room - and you stayed in a smoke-filled room with an 8-month pregnant friend because you wanted your meal?

                                    Smoke alarm = smoke. Get out. And go to another restaurant in the "large shopping mall" you were near.

                                    No - you shouldn't have been comped. Because you and your pregnant friend should not have remained in the restaurant - the *entire* restaurant should have been evacuated by the restaurant management.

                                    1. So, basically, you were the barbecue. Always leave immediately when you sense something is wrong. Anywhere. Period. In this case, 'sense' isn't really the right word. Sirens were screeching in your ear. You mistrusted your good instinct to leave. It's not a question of being comped anymore.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: foiehaha

                                        Sorry, Oracle, but I have to believe that you are (pick one answer, please):

                                        a) Extremely tolerant of loud noises blaring in your ears while dining
                                        b) Extremely tolerant of smoke while dining
                                        c) Guilty of very poor judgment
                                        d) Ignorant of the meaning of smoke alarms
                                        e) Greedy
                                        f) All of the above

                                        Incidentally, could someone explain why so many people say that an alarm "went off" when it actually went ON?

                                      2. ".......it was a hot afternoon (easily in the 90's today)....."
                                        Do you have any idea of the temperature of a fully-involved kitchen grease fire?

                                        That you got out with your lives is wonderful.
                                        That you did this with a pregnant woman is irresponsible.
                                        That you wonder if you deserve free food is appalling.

                                        To answer your questions:
                                        "Do you think I should have been comped?" No, I think you should have been clonked to knock some sense into your noggin.
                                        "What would you have done?" I would have gotten the hell out of a smoke-filled restaurant as fast as my legs would carry me and so would anyone else who has no desire to be in a fire.

                                        If this is a joke, you win.
                                        If this is for real, I fear for your common sense.

                                        1. Yeouch, rough crowd. It sounded to me that the server made it seem as though this happens now & then and that there was nothing to worry about. While I don't think sticking around was a great idea I can see why the OP might have thought the problem was going to be quickly cleared up. Granted, things went from bad to worse but sometimes we find ourselves in a situation we think we understand only to have it spin out of control. Actually, I'm surprised the mgr didn't clear the place. Failure to do so put patrons and staff at risk and led customers to believe all would be well momentarily.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: xena

                                            right - and if it was a chain they would have been open to litigation. which is why id on't really believe this.

                                          2. Just a thought:
                                            1. Fire alarm is going off
                                            2. You stay
                                            3. Smoke billows into restaurant
                                            4. You stay, get uncomfortable, move outside (too hot), pack food up
                                            5. PAY, leave then think it should have been comped
                                            I think the manager was probably busy trying to control whatever the problem in the kitchen was in the first place, and I'm shocked not clearing the restaurant. Whatever, the case if there is a fire alarm, and no one is saying that it's just a TEST I'm out of there. Especially, in a restaurant there is a lot of oil and grease just waiting to go up in flames if given the chance.

                                            Just curious, were other diners leaving??? Or, were they staying in the smoke filling restaurant?

                                            1. OK, What we have here, is a Judgement Call ?
                                              How much Smoke was coming at you, versus / How much Food was on your plate??
                                              I reccomend eating 3/4 of the good stuff = Lots of Chicken and Ribs and no bread... Then, to show your consern for the well-being of the Preggo Damsell... Hand her two glasses of water and make a B Line for the car. Oh, and dont forget to come back eight weeks later and let the entire staff know, so they can comp your bar tab and impress your new first date. You might want to bring the doggy bag to the hospital where your poor girlfriend now is. Because it is time...
                                              Beacuse this is all about food, All I can say is what a "Crock"

                                              1. I would have left when I found out it had happened before. You chose to stay and make the best of it. I would voice my displeasure by not going back.

                                                1. I'm not going to read through everyone's replies so not sure if somewhere someone said this already but...I have been the waitress on the other side of this before and i am alwasy astounded that people will sit through the noise and the potential hazard. Regardless of whether this has happened before or not, when a fire alarm sounds, you leave. You leave right away and you get your meal comped. The fact that you chose to stay, IMO, negates the compted meal (although the server's comments perhaps lead you to believe it would be over and done w/ momentarily). The server was in the wrong and you should have left w/ a comped meal. The server was in the wrong, you chose to stay, thus negating your comped meal.
                                                  I would certainly call and complain and make management aware of the fact that it is not ok for this to be routine. In the event there really is a fire what happens then. And quite honestly, smoke filled restaurant is just as hazardous as a fire. It's one thing for the alarm to sound with no fire AND no smoke, but still you should leave the premises until it gets the all-clear.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: aussiewonder

                                                    Aussie - the OP didn't get their meal until sitting there for FIVE minutes while the alarm was going off - they hadn't received their food, why would they expect to be comped? I think that's what most of us are astounded at.

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      No, no...

                                                      the sentence "all the while, the restaurant was being to get quite smoky to uncomfortable levels and I was concernd about my pregnant friend inhaling all that smoke"

                                                      That's the astounding part...

                                                      with the entire implication that the kitchen was still putting out food, waitresses still waiting, no patrons up and leaving and someone manning the cash register.

                                                      ...an entire building full of Darwin Award nominees...

                                                      1. re: Cathy

                                                        That sentence jumped out at me too, because I can't fathom why the pregnant friend didn't say anything (or maybe she did and it wasn't mentioned). Can she not make decisions for herself? Was she rendered mute by the alarm and smoke? I'm more concerned for her judgment level and common sense than I am her smoke inhalation.

                                                  2. Wow... the 'hounds are harsh this weekend....

                                                    Let me clarify some things.

                                                    First - there was no fire. The beeping alarm went off because there was excess smoke in the kitchen (not the restaurant, when it went off). It's one of those gigantic restaurants that has an open kitchen as part of the room - in the very back section. It's a BBQ place, so smoke comes up from the grills, and their giant fans suction it up.

                                                    The preggo's husband is a firefighter and she kind of laughed it off when it happened, saying it should take them a couple minutes to come and turn off the alarm. Since the fire station is literally in the same parking lot as the mall - we figured 3-5 minutes - no problem. And, when the waitress came buy saying basically the same thing - I had no reason to believe otherwise.

                                                    We started to get alarmed (and acted) when:
                                                    1. The fire department did not show up
                                                    2. The smoke amounts started to increase. I don't know how to quantify smoke, but I can imagine the picture I've painted in some of your minds. The place was not completely filled up with smoke (i,e.: hard to see, difficult breathe, smoke billowing out of open windows). There was no health threat to the preggo. The restaurant is very large with high ceilings - and there was a lot of space for the smoke to dissipate. Our table was the closest to the incoming smoke, so we (and the tables around us) were the most affected. When the alarm first went off, there really wasn't abnormal amounts of smoke. But, as time went on - the smoke situation got worse (as the kitchen continued to cook without the use of their fans).

                                                    When our food was served, we thought the resolution to the issue would be momentary - but when it wasn't and we noticed the smoke getting worse - we decided to leave. It wasn't a situation for panic to break out - and since we were told it was a 'false' alarm, we had no reason to believe otherwise.

                                                    And for those who can't comprehend why we took the food in the first place -- have you ever been with a pregnant woman who really wants something in particular?! but, beyond that - our lives/health were not in jeopardy - it was just a huge inconvenience - and I felt we got misinformation about the situation at the time from the staff.

                                                    My question about being comped was if the inconvenience of the alarms going off, the situation being worse than what was reported, and consequently having to leave was a 'to be comped' issue - because it was not the 'dining' experience I was anticipating. Which, I suppose, leads to a question of if you are paying for the food or the experience - and, IMO, in this situation, I was paying for both and certainly didn't get the experience. I never ask to be comped for anything, and was feeling annoyed about the situation when I got back to work - which is what prompted the post.

                                                    While this was not a fake post and I do not appreciate the insults, thank you all for your varied feedback.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: The Oracle

                                                      Thank you for your clarification. But for me it does not change my opinion stated in my original post.

                                                      I am sure the your dinning experience was not what you anticipated. I sure that went out the window when the alarm went off. Beside how many times have any of us gone to a restaurant and it not lived up 'expectations' whatever they may have been.

                                                      In the end you chose to stay and eat despite everything.


                                                      1. re: Withnail42

                                                        Oracle, thanks for clarifying the situation.

                                                        My opinion, however, is this (and I apologize for the extreme reference, but it is truly how I feel) - in the post 9/11 world we live in...when you hear an alarm...NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE, whether or not you feel you're in any danger....you just get out. Even if others around you are shaking it off like no big deal.
                                                        False alarm or not - at least for the sake of your friend & baby.

                                                        1. re: amanda3571

                                                          How about a historical reference that relates slightly to this situation?

                                                          When the Titanic struck that infamous iceberg, many passengers were told that there was nothing to worry about, and that the lifeboats were simply being lowered as a "drill". As a result, many of the lifeboats that were first lowered had very few passengers on them. Later, there were insufficient spaces in the remaining lifeboats.

                                                          The employees who falsely reassured the Titanic passengers were not greatly different from the employees in that restaurant. Do you really want to assume that the person giving the reassurance is correct? They could be correct, or they could be wrong--and you could be dead in short order.

                                                          As was previously stated, when an alarm sounds (or as some people like to say, when an alarm goes "OFF" [????] ), it is always a good idea to assume that it is a real warning and to evacuate quickly and calmly. To do otherwise is foolish in the extreme. There is always another restaurant to go to, but there may not be a second chance to evacuate.

                                                      2. re: The Oracle

                                                        Thanks for the feedback Oracle. This is sorta like the cobbler's kids have no shoes as you describe Mr Preggo being a fireman. But most important is that everyone is safe.

                                                        The management should have cleared the place immediately and your sticking around is still troubling especially with Preggo (and yes jfood experienced this twice with mrs jfood). But at eight months you gotta grab her by the ear lobe and say "Hey you, there's a l;ittle life in you that does not need any smoke at all. We're outta here."

                                                        As for the comp, it would be a cold day before jfood would go back to a resto where you had that many issues.

                                                        1. re: The Oracle

                                                          I am shocked and horrified by the level of vitriol heaped upon you. You definitely deserve a comp, and some people on this board need to chill out.

                                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                                            I agree.... the comments are, in my opinion, unduly harsh in their criticism and oversimplification. I am surprised. A comp should have been offered, and I am not surprised that you didn't think of it at the time, you were distracted by the unpleasant situation.

                                                        2. Personally, I cannot see myself running out of a restaurant in a panicked frenzy while the employees and other patrons continue on as if nothing is amiss. I worked as a chef until I was 7 months pregnant, inhaling all the smoke, rease, etc from the kitchen. Thank god my child does not have 2 heads. Other people live in NYC for their whole pregnancies...the car exhaust! The urine stench on the subway! egads!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: chrissytine

                                                            May I ask why opting to leave a restaurant with unpleasant alarms and a growing presence of smoke (fire or no) is somehow indicative of a 'panicked frenzy'? And where is the medical report that smoke inhalation leads to two heads? Silly me, I thought it was reduced birthweight and impaired functionality.

                                                            As for the story itself, I think the restaurant could have handled it better with regards to damage control. I also think that there is a an unpleasant and growing sense of entitlement that now leads diners to demand comps whereever and whenever, whether to accomodate their choice to eat below ringing fire alarms (at a painful decibel? For five minutes?) or to make up for a fruitfly in a glass of wine on the patio. This sort of thing leads to resistance on the boards to almost any post that asks 'should I have been comped?'

                                                            That said, since this is a big chain restaurant, why not write a letter to management detailing your experience and asking that they develop protocol beneficial to the health and enjoyment of their patrons? I reckon the letter will yield not the comp, but the freebies that sooth the disappointed diner. More importantly, if this is a thing that happens regularly, it will limit future disappointments. People shouldn't be punished for going to a mall restaurant-- being at a mall is punishment enough.

                                                          2. More than likely there wasn't a fire, but perhaps the smoke vent/fan stopped working. I'm sure that any restaurant would evacuate if there was a fire, but they're used to the fan not working and they don't think anyone is in danger, which of course is incorrect.

                                                            They also probably thought that anyone dumb enough to sit through such discomfort (if not harm) should pay for their meal if they care more about the food than their health/experience.