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Jul 13, 2008 11:06 AM

Do I belong on this site?

I have recently been put down rather fiercely by one or two chowhounds who have severely chided me for stating that, in a restaurant, service is a very important part of the overall dining experience. Although I rather strongly feel that poor service clearly can impact not only the overall enjoyment of a meal, but the actual quality of the food being served (think cold food, improperly executed orders due to poor listening and communication, improper garnishing, etc.). I have been told that I do not understand the "chowhound manifesto" which supposedly puts "deliciousness" in the "driver's seat", with service and ambiance somewhere far behind "hanging off the trailer" words, not those of my critic. It is interesting but, although I have had many supporters, the outspoken and very negative tone of the critics of my post, has really made me wonder if I belong. Of course I agree that there is no way that service can make up for poor food and that there is no substitute for great food, but even when the food is superb, poor treatment can seriously detract from the overall dining experience, at least in my opinion.

The rather stern criticism which I received followed my recommendation of a book written by NYC's preeminent restauranteur Danny Meyer ("Setting the Table"). Is my posting, a copy of which follows, so off the wall that I do not belong on this site? Some apparently think so!

"As I review the various postings regarding restaurants, it seems to me that service issues represent an extremely significant portion of restaurant-goers complaints. I have always thought that excellent and caring service, can make up for many problems which the restaurant kitchen may have.

I have always been extremely fond of Danny Meyer's restaurants in New York. Indeed, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe are almost always considered to be among the top five most popular restaurants in New York. Although they both serve great food, it is the service that makes these (and other Danny Meyer restaurants) special. I have just finished reading "Setting the Table" written by this amazing restauranteur. This is really a terrific book, not only for those of us who are interested in restaurants, but indeed for anyone working in a service industry. Danny's bottom line is that when hiring staff, he always places people skills way ahead of technical skills. The former can never be taught, whereas the latter can! This is one outstanding book!"

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  1. You just encountered the "strong opinion" that many CHers have on various topics. I read the thread you referred to and no one suggested that you don't belong on this site, they just voiced a strong opinion that happens to be counter to yours. That often happens here with a huge variety of topics, and it (differing opinions) is what makes this a great site. Don't take it personal, and continue posting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hannaone

      You are correct that no one suggested that I don't belong. It's my thinking that if I am so far away from the majority opinion that perhaps I don't belong. But maybe I'm not that far from the majority, and it's just the opposing view that "deliciousness" is everything, is the more outspoken view.

    2. You do. Listen, there are a lot of great people here. A lot of great information is here too. There are a few who just can't face the fact that this site has probably changed since they joined. They have a vested interest in the site being small, so they can appear large. Their opinions, there recommendations, their thoughts, their ideas, they are the important thing to them. Just pay no attention to them.

      I'm new to this site, but I'm paying attention. I see it, we all see it. There's been enough threads about this kind of thing recently to get a real good feel of who attacks, who welcomes, and who is open.

      Service, is absolutely essential. I don't care how good the food is, I'm not going back if the service is poor, or worse rude. Especially at a high-end place. I don't know about you, but I can't keep shelling out that kind of money to give second chances. That's not my style.

      Just keep your head up, and don't let those few spoilers keep you from what I think of as an essential site. If you cook, (a suggestion that was given to me) head on over the the home cooking board. People there are big time friendly and the information is great. And don't be shy about voicing you opinions elsewhere here either. There's a lot of people that agree with you also, though they may not always post.

      I think I know the thread you are referring to, the board you posted on has a lot of uptight people with clear-cut favorites, and not a lot of patience. It's one way, or the highway, for them. I can tell from the title of the post what restaurants will be recommended for each type of cuisine. It's frankly boring and so predictable. I discount anything I read there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JackieChiles

        I think it's important to emphasize that conveying opinions etc... using just text on this website makes it extremely difficult to read intent, body language etc... It's an inherent limitation of the medium. Thus, there may be plenty of instances where there is merely a straightforward difference in opinion rather than people trying to play "king of the hill." Not everyone is as adept at expressing themselves. I'm not saying that mean vindictive narcisistic people don't exist, but I do encourage giving benefits of doubts on all sides. Afterall, expressing a difference of opinion isn't an attack, nor is disliking a restaurant that someone else likes. It's an essential part of a diverse assembly of tastes and that's important to the overal quality of information here.

      2. If you shouldn't be here, then neither should I.

        I find service to be a large part of my dining equation. The money coming out of my wallet is from my daily toils at work and I am not going to part with it if some restaurant has a reputation for abysmal service. I don't care how good their beef stew or German Potato Salad is. If they can't provide me with an overall positive dining experience, I am not interested. Likewise, all the stellar service in the world is not going to provide cover from a poorly constructed slice of pizza.

        I have read the Chowhound manifesto many times and I don't see where the idea of expecting decent service is at odds with the mission of this site. I find it hard to believe that there are more than a handful (and that's being generous) of people who wouldn't care if their server threw the most delicious calzone in front of them directly on the table and then told them to hurry it up because he or she wanted to go home early.

        Please do not leave and please keep posting. We need your input to help with this database and keep it fresh and enticing. The more information we have, the better off we are.

        1. I haven't actually read the thread, but I remember seeing your enthusiastic endorsement of this book and making a mental note of this book (so first, thank you for that recommendation). I haven't read the thread after you posted it, so I don't know the nature of the dissent, but please don't leave.

          I enjoy dissenting opinions, so long as they are written respectfully. I just started a thread in which I'd say 70-80 percent of the people were supportive, and another 15 percent gently disagreed or pointed out another viewpoint, but the remaining posts were utterly vindictive, to the point that I almost wrote back an incendiary post, and then decided that I had more productive ways to use my time. The thread got deleted (and perhaps rightfully so), but my point is that it pretty much summarized the constituency of this board. The majority are nice people. Sometime you find a poster who you really click with. Some people are just gracious all around, and you respect their opinions regardless of what they say. Then you get the 10-15 percent who don't have class about expressing disagreement. That leaves 1-2 percent of true jerks, but just don't bother with their posts.

          As in real life, some people are more adept/graceful at expressing disagreement than others. I'm still working on this myself.

          Couple that with the anonymity of the internet/quasi-anonymous handles, and you can get a toxic environment, b/c people feel like they don't have to take responsibility for their words. Fortunately, this is less common than the respectful, community-fostering type posts, but you will occasionally get that.

          I wish people would write posts the way they were replying to a friend (or the way you'd act in front of a stranger the first time you were face to face w/ them), but some don't, and perhaps this is one of the beauties and annoyances of an open forum.

          I also tend to have thin skin, so maybe I'm offended easily and try to take that into account when I read something I'm initially taken aback by.

          I'm not sure if this answers your question or made any sense, but it would be a great loss if you left b/c a few people leave a bad taste in your mouth.

          But I think these people are in the minority, no?

          6 Replies
          1. re: anzu

            >> it would be a great loss if you left b/c a few people leave a bad taste in your mouth. But I think these people are in the minority, no?

            As joseph (who of course "belongs" here) said in his original post, they numbered "one or two." And as he added later, the insulting comments were deleted by the moderators. So this looks like one of those situations where the system worked.

            One question he didn't address was whether he reported the offensive comments. I'd ask the same of meatn3, who mentioned such posts earlier in this thread and added: "If it gets deleted fast, ok, I can understand that message of moderating. But if it has been allowed to continue, then why?"

            Best answer to that has come from the moderators and others working with the site, who are far outnumbered by posters and just can't spot every problem on the boards.

            Here's how the "Chowhound Team" put it in another thread last month ( "Our moderating team is mainly volunteers, and we don't have the resources to review every post that's made on the site and thus rely heavily on reports from posters. If you see something off-topic, click on the 'Report' link and we'll have a look."

            1. re: squid kun

              Yes, I did report the grossly offensive comments, and they were deleted very promptly. They were abusive and used bad language and it was these comments that made me question whether or not I wanted to remain a participant on the chow forums. Since they were handled properly and promptly, I guess I will stay.

              Certainly I agree that differing opinions are what make this (or any forum) interesting. But when participants get so worked up that they become abusive, it becomes a significant least for me.

              1. re: squid kun

                Ah, I was referring to the entire thread that Anzu initiated being on the board for several days, not to just a post or two within the thread. Since it was out there for a number of days I have a harder time figuring out why it was removed than if it had been removed the first day.

                I do notice some deletions made by the mods & try to understand why. I have learned much by doing this - even after reading through the guidelines many times there are situations which just don't strike me in the same way that the mods see it. So it is a continual learning experience!

                1. re: meatn3

                  > it is a continual learning experience!

                  Yes! I see it that way, too.

                  Sometimes there are over-the-line obnoxious posts that contribute nothing but bile and shouldn't be here, but maybe no one has spotted them so they linger on the board for a few days. That's where we can help out by reporting them.

                  And to joseph, I'm glad you did report those posts. I've gotten in the habit of doing the same. I was on this site for some time before I felt comfortable doing so, but I've gotten over it. Now it's easier, with the "Report" button under every post.

                  The mods are totally cool about this, in my experience. And if they have time (not always the case), they might explain their call if they disagree. Very helpful in getting my standards on the same page as theirs, on a site where I want to hang around over the long haul to get and give information.

              2. re: anzu

                Anzu, when you said "I wish people would write posts the way they were replying to a friend..." Thank you! That's the best way I've heard it said. I keep wondering why I've gotten so sensitive, and thinking, "most people don't talk to me like this". I really haven't cared if anyone disagrees with anything I post out here. However, the way they disagree... I've seen it cross the line, and I know a lot of posts get deleted. But, a lot of posts don't quite cross that line and those people just sound angry, sanctimonious, mean-spirited, but still within the limits. Anyway, I can't recall the last time a real-life conversation has sounded so hostile as some of these threads here have. Nonetheless, I keep reading and posting because I do find good info here.

                josephnl... stay. And one of these days, one of the people who argued most vehemently about your service topic will post something about bad service in one of their local restaurants, and you'll silently get to laugh at them for being such a hypocrite. Or, not so silently, you can call them out on their flip flopping.

                1. re: stephanieh

                  It's worth remembering that the way people talk to you and the way they write can be the same but still come across differently. A broad wink or a giggle while they're talking can make it clear that's something a joke, when the same joking tone doesn't come across in text. Similarly, writing in complete sentences and fully thought out paragraphs is just colder than the way we talk in back and forth in snippets and phrases.

                  Some people on the site are definitely snippier than they need to be, but a lot of people don't mean to be snippy at all -- it just comes across that way because text is kind of a snippy sounding medium. We encourage everyone to read things in the nicest possible tone -- there's a good chance that's how it was meant.

              3. Ok, I just skimmed the thread. Please don't take this the wrong way, b/c I appreciated your opinion expressed in that thread (even though I'm on the I prefer-good-food-to-stellar-service camp; however, I do see your point), but to a detached observer, it just looked like two sides arguing passionately about their points of view. Strong opinions expressed on both sides, but no insults flying around. I'm not trying to attack you, but I felt like you sounded slightly defensive in some of your posts (e.g. several times, you say "you're missing my point" or something to that effect. And lest you think I'm judging, I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes get defensive too, if a dissenting opinion is being strongly expressed), so could it be that you might be taking things personally, because the opinions being expressed are opposing and strongly expressed?

                I wouldn't say people were necessarily disrespectful or putting you down. You should've read some of the responses to the now-deleted thread I started. Granted, my first post was very ranty, so I realized I was probably asking for it, but people called me classless, tacky, passive aggressive, etc. That is an attack, but I didn't see that level of disrespect in this particular thread.

                But either way, dissenting opinions (again, I stress respectfully stated, and also, the other part of "respectful" is that when one expresses an opinion, one should also be willing to accept dissenting opinions) are welcome, so I still express my original sentiment that you shouldn't leave.

                4 Replies
                1. re: anzu

                  I was going to "cut and paste" to show you some of the rather bad language and insulting comments that were directed towards me and others on the thread. These have unfortunately...actually fortunately...been removed as they should have been by a moderator. There clearly was "disrespect" for different opinions shown, and thus I was prompted to post the question as to whether or not I should remain a participant on this forum. Differing opinions, I think, should be welcomed and respected and not responded to with a "holier than thou" attitude, and certainly not with either bad language or rudeness requiring a moderator's deletion.

                  I personally find it interesting that there are people out there who will put up with terrible service and/or rudeness in restaurants in order to get what they consider to be great food. Perhaps it's because I am a pretty good cook myself, or that there are so many restaurants where one can both be treated well and get good food, that I am unwilling to pay money to be treated badly.

                  Bottom line...I think that differing opinions is what makes any forum interesting and fun...disrespect and rudeness does not.

                  Thanks for your comments anzu, I think we are "pretty much" on the same page!

                  1. re: anzu

                    I had not notice that the thread was deleted. I find it confusing when that happens. If it gets deleted fast, ok, I can understand that message of moderating. But if it has been allowed to continue, then why? Maybe certain topics just get to be a pain to moderate? Mods: I do know/understand that not every thread stays forever...

                    I have had a few personal attacks, but they have been a very small percent. Once in awhile one really pushes a button, but after the first few times they don't sting in the same way. It is interesting how many different ways there are to look at a topic. The following is a thread I started just out of curiosity. Do you remember the first time you spent a night at a friends home and realized that not all families did things the same way? Every once in awhile I'll experience something which triggers that sort of "oh yah.." realization in me, and I'll find it intriguing to examine it a bit. This thread began from that sort of moment:


                    Some people got what my focus was, others thought I was self absorbed and operating from an expectation of entitlement.

                    To the OP: Don't let them get to you - you have a valid point of view!
                    There are many who will appreciate it and find your posts worthwhile.
                    But think of how many posts you read that you find helpful, but don't have a need to comment on. Keep that in mind and remember that most of the voices that are finding you helpful on a particular post are just being quiet for the moment.

                    1. re: meatn3

                      I can't help but laugh, I mean how many times did you have to say in your thread that you didn't feel you were entitled.

                      Pet peeve of mine: People who don't read through the whole thread first before questioning your intent, with daggers drawn!

                      1. re: livetocook

                        Yes, that is a pet peeve of mine too. So many misunderstandings and redundancy could be avoided if people would read through the entirety first!