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Wine spill - what would you do??

  • b

So, we were out to dinner with Mom, in a city not our own. Nice little Italian place, menu looked great, one of those little family places, owner Apulian. Things were going swimmingly, were enjoying some lovely Barbera d'Asti pre. The server brought our appetizers & since one of the dishes was just out of the wood-burner, offered to serve. She did so successfully till she got to me, then, que disastro - knocked over my glass of Barbera, all over me. Not usually one to make a fuss, I didn't. Server was very apologetic. I took off my (favorite, rose-colored silk) sweater, she blotted with club soda, we blotted. She comped my glass of wine, and 3 glasses of limoncello at the end of dinner. We enjoyed the rest of our dinner, paid fully, & tipped 20%, left.

Favorite sweater is ruined. No amount of post-prandial maneuvers were successful, dry cleaner does not think they will be, either.

I'm asking you, fellow diners, other servers, what would you have done, or would you do now? Replace sweater & send bill to restaurant? Would you have asked to speak to the manager before leaving? Made a huge fuss? Comped all/part of my meal? In many years of dining out, this has never happened to me before.

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  1. I would have poured a white wine over the stain. It actually works.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chinon00

      then they would have just comped the white wine and not the limoncello

      seriously, if a server ruins your clothes, they should have comped your meal and wine at least, and paid for a new sweater.

    2. It sounds like the server did everything she could at the time, and probably had no idea the item was ruined. Once the dry cleaner has had a go at it, I would take the sweater to the manager and ask for a replacement, while still giving the server props for dealing with the situation well. Be "as nice as pie" and chances are they will do everything they can to make you happy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mojoeater

        At this point you can only ask for a replacement. But if lightning stikes twice, try salt. I had guests spill red wine on a white carpet. We poured salt on the wine, let it dry, and vacummed it up. No stain. It works on tablecloths, napkins, whatever. Another thing that works, is Zout. This is a product similar to Spray and Wash, only stronger and better. It took care of red wine on a white sweater.

        1. re: mojoeater

          I was going to make the exact same suggestions as mojo.
          The server most likely had no way of knowing if the sweater was ruined forever. I would discuss with the owner manager and would hope that they would be accomodating. I'm not sure as to how far away you live, but you could also take pictures of the stain and email to the manager/owner if going in person is not an option.

        2. I wouldn't give up on the stain yet. (I love red wine and have experienced plenty of spills -- every single one came out, even after dry cleaning.) Wine Away works. Ammonia, Woolite and water, followed by white vinegar, has worked. A Borax/water solution works well (check Haley's Hints.) A automotive product called Dri-Clean (pink liquid in a spray bottle) also works well I've heard. Try these. Go slow, step by step, keep dabbing away.

          At the resto, I would have consulted with the manager immediately, and am surprised the server wasn't taught to ask the manager for guidance in situations such as these.

          In any case, I'd call and cordially explain the situation to the manager and the steps you are taking to solve the problem. Without question the restaurant should pay for the dry cleaning and any cleaning supplies. If the stain isn't removed (but I think it will be) then the resto should pay for a replacement sweater, or the depreciated cost of the sweater.

          1 Reply
          1. re: maria lorraine

            >>>At the resto, I would have consulted with the manager immediately, and am surprised the server wasn't taught to ask the manager for guidance in situations such as these.

            Without question the restaurant should pay for the dry cleaning and any cleaning supplies.<<<

            Agree on both of these pieces of advice. If the restaurant is good, it will rise to the occasion.

          2. Another wine-removal method here: former S.O.'s mother showed me a neat trick: pour boiling water through the stain. That is, gently stretch the stained fabric over a bowl to hold the water, then pour boiling water directly from the kettle through the stain. Works like a charm, but sometimes requires quite a bit of water. No chemicals involved.

            Not sure if your sweater's beyond that now, but I suppose if you're thinking of replacing it anyhow...

            Since the server acted appropriately and comped your drinks, I'd probably leave it at that. I'm not one to make a big fuss, and why bother calling in the manager over an accident? Things happen. If you want to bill them for a new sweater, go for it. I pretty much agree with mojoeater above.

            1. The stain is probably already set but try soaking the sweater in milk overnight. Worked marvelously for me w/ a linen blouse.

              Phone the manager, explain the situation and commend the server and ask for a replacement. It's not uncommon... accidents happen. Try being nice first. :-) Sounds like you've been VERY reasonable... kudos to you!

              (It's kind of the rule that hot anything sets a stain - clothes dryer or water. Ms. Martha Stewart has always advocated using cold, cold water if it's a fresh stain).

              1. Thanks everyone for all the great ideas - I sort of gave up after club soda, salt, ivory snow soak didn't work; but it's not dry yet, so I see there are lots of other possibilities I will have to try ...

                1. Jfood thinks the easy part of the analysis is the resto should reimburse you for the cost of a new blouse since they ruined yours plus the cost of the failed dry cleaning.

                  the second part is a little more interesting and delicate. The server should have called the MOD over to handle the situation, that's what the MOD is there for. jfood thinks he should have comped the entire meal on behalf of the resto. If you felt really bad about the server you could always give him a few bucks, but jfood probably would not have and mrs jfood would have gone back and left him some money.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    Completely agree - when a server poured a boatload of red wine on my husband's back, the manager came right over and made us feel (a bit more) at ease. Paid for drycleaning, paid for shirt, paid for meal. Tipped well because it was handled appropriately just unfortunately slippery bottle, but never been back.

                    1. re: laurendlewis

                      I'm curious...have you never been back because you didn't much like the food or because of the wine spill?

                    2. re: jfood

                      Jfood, you would really leave a $0 tip due to an accident?
                      I think I'm starting to rethink your posts as being the voice of reason?! :-(

                      1. re: SweetPea914

                        bad day at the office, sp.

                        jfood would take the whole service, including the MOD response, into account for the level of tip, not binary. wine on the clothes is a reduction, but zero is not the answer. If they did absolutely nothing for jfood then the zero would come into play, but if they told him that they would take care of the blouse in replacing then it would probably be in the 10-15%.

                        1. re: jfood

                          My faith is restored :-)

                          Hope you have a better weekend!

                    3. I hate to be the negative voice in the wilderness, but I will be to some extant.

                      I would not bill restaurant for the price of the sweater (I may for the dry cleaning, but only upon reflection). My reasoning would be 'accidents happen.' Others have mentioned that the server was solicitous in assisting with the cleanup, items were comped, etc. very nice on the part of the (little, family) place. Sometimes stains don't come out. sometimes things get spilled. Sometimes the clothes we are wearing - perhaps our favorites- get spots or stains. We can only do so much to prevent these sorts of mishaps.

                      There was a recent issue of the NY Times Mag. in which the "Ethicist" dealt with the following (synopsized) question: a women had shoes being resoled. Shoes were lost at shoe shop. Shoe shop paid women full retail for replacement price of shoes. Women replaced shoes. Original shoes were subsequently found by shoe shop. Shoe shop wants rmoney back. Question: were used (being resoled!) shoes worth the full retail amount paid to customer? Should customer refund some of the money, and get shoes back? Should cobbler have paid in the four figures a a few pair of used shoes?

                      I cite this because perhaps the restaurant should not pay a customer full replacement value for a stained article of clothing. The OP states that the sweater was a favorite - perhaps then not straight off the rack? (Sorry, OP, I have no beef with you; I'm just thinking out loud.) We should all think about all the times we've stained some article of clothing of our own accord, or in our own kitchens. "That's life" we say.

                      Cleaning is certainly something that one could negotiate. But wardrobe replacement seems a little out of line to me. A used sweater is not worth as much, no matter how much we love it. (Ooh, and I have some that are 15 years old that I love in the extreme - probably not worth more than $3.50 at the thrift store.) I feel for the OP - it stinks on ice to have a nice meal interrupted by impromptu laundry tasks. But the apology of the restaurant, the attention paid by the server, and the comping ex post facto, to me, would suffice. Pursue cleaning costs if that satisfies, but as to the replacement? A little Mom-n-Pop Apulian place probably doesn't need that. Remember the case of the lost pants resulting in a lawsuit?

                      Try the remedies other have suggested, of course - favorites are favorites, after all. But making more of the incident than just being an unfortunate accident, I'd have to vote no. Just my humble opinion.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cayjohan

                        I agree with you completely. Accidents happen. They are an unfortunate yet unavoidable fact of life.

                        If a stranger accidentally spilled something on you would you take down their information and bill them for a new sweater, or would you let it go? At least in this scenario you got a few comps out of it, had it been a clumsy family member or a person on the train you might not have been so lucky.

                        At the end of the day, the restaurant were as accommodating as they could have been at that particular time. If it's worth it to you to go out of your way and return to that city in hopes of getting more then by all means do so. To me personally, it wouldn't be worth the time or effort.

                        1. re: hrhboo

                          Good points. I would expect them to offer to pay for the drycleaning and would still tip the server 20%.

                      2. I generally think that we're too quick to expect a whole meal or whole table's check to be comped when something goes wrong. I think that would apply in this case.

                        It sounds to me like you handled it well in so far as what you did. The only other thing I would have done, if I felt it was important enough to pursue, would be to speak to the manager (in a family owned place, likely one of the family members) about whether they would cover cleaning costs. For a used article of clothing...I'm not sure how one could set a replacement cost. I tend to think that if asked, they'd have probably covered the cleaning costs because that seems a reasonable compromise to me and most restaurants that I've worked in or heard about such a thing happening have done so.

                        Good for you for not "docking" your server on the tip for an honest mistake.

                        1. Server did seem to do all possible at the time....which would have included informing the Manager. The server's mistake did cause to lose value, loss of sweater. They must make compnsation. The other comps you got at the time were for loss of dignity and interruption of service.

                          To me, given was you will pay to repair or replace this....and thank you for comps to try and make me feel better about the disaster you made of my dining experience.

                          1. While I do think the meal should have been comped I'm not so sure about payment for the sweater. It's an article of clothing that is subject to the abuse and risks of wear. Would you call the pen company if it bled on a blouse, or want a new sweater if a friend's cat snagged a yarn?
                            I think that clothing being damaged is just one of the inherent risks that we don't really think about when we put on a favorite outfitand step outside. Things happen and clothing is meant to be worn.