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Jul 19, 2008 10:29 AM

Chowhounds Don't Bribe!

I was looking through the Chow tips videos which are mildly amusing and sometimes oddly Informative, when I came across one from a Chow staffer that suggests greasing the palm of the Maitre D in order to get a table at a busy restaurant.

We were really taken aback as this to us is the antithesis of what chowhounds believe. To Quote the manifesto " Chowhounds blaze trails.. while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can't be fooled by flash" To Bribe a Maitre D is to be fooled by the flash, further, my Miss Manners loving partner just finds the whole suggestion tacky.

So before we sent an angry letter, we wanted to know what the consensus was....

Take Care

- P.

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  1. I don't actually think it has anything to do with being a Chowhound and it seems to me that rather than being fooled by the flash its sidestepping the flash entirely to get down to the food. So, in fact, it could be seen as a very Chowhound-ish sort of thing to do in terms of taking the shortest distance between point A and good food. Not sure how that fits into the definition of Chowhound.

    That said, I couldn't possibly agree more that it's tacky, it's rude, it's presumptive, it's self-entitled and it shouldn't be done and is, therefore, a bad suggestion.

    1. A little grease goes a long way toward a better seat/table for a Vegas show, which can really enhance the experience.
      Joe's Stone Crab in Miami may be among the notorious; urban myth has it that the Maitre D's there earn beefy 6 figures. So if you go greaseless, go early and be patient...

      5 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        I'm pretty sure the Vegas show experience has not much to do with good food.

        Re: Joe's and Maitre D's, I wonder if the results of a little grease in a lesser place that doesn't have Maitre D's, only self-important "hostesses," wouldn't be even more worthwhile.

        1. re: yayadave

          1st point: you are mostly right; but dinner theater, while endangered, is not yet extinct.
          2nd point: I completely agree with your hypothesis that a lot of grease is misdirected, or even worse, gains nothing from whoever pockets it.

        2. re: Veggo

          That actually adds to the seediness of an LV show, and detracts from the overall experience. I detest the practice.

          And you'll have to pay me to get me to go to Joe's Stone Crap, I mean Crab.

          1. re: PeterL

            Or just get take-out next door, sit on a bench and enjoy the delicious stone crabs overlooking the ocean without paying the bribe and no wait. I know Joe's gets some bad press on the FL board, but I thought they were pretty tasty.

            I remember many years ago I forgot my ID at home and was trying to get into a bar with my date (I was definitely over 21). The bouncer refused to let me in because I didn't have ID. I said fine -- that we'll go someplace else. My date asked the bouncer to just let me in, that I was definitely over 21. The bouncer asked me my age and DOB. I answered without skipping a beat. Bouncer let me in, and my date gave him a $20 bill while he passed through the velvet rope. I was shocked that he did that, especially as that action implied that I was indeed underage. He just said that that's how it's done and the bribe was expected.

            I haven't read all the responses to this thing but the whole bribing thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth -- doesn't matter if this is how the world goes. Just because it is an "accepted" part of society doesn't make it right. And I do find there's a difference between bribing and tipping for service. Tipping is done after service. Greasing a palm to get a table is generally done before the act.

            There's an interesting statement by Phoebe Damrosch (author of Service Included) on "palming" :

            "Guests tip out of a sense of duty and appreciation and most leave the same percentage everywhere they go, unless the service is miraculous or really, really terrible. Palming is about power. It is a way for someone who just relinquished control - to the maitre d who told him where to sit; to the sommelier who chose a wine; to the waiter who handled his food; to the bellhop who disappeared with his luggage - to then reestablish his hierarchy. This is why women palm less. Our sense of power comes less directly from money and more from our appearance and sexuality. Women are more likely to bat their eyelashes at a maitre d or complement their waiter than slip him a fifty."

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Yeah, but that's Power with a capital "P". Us guys only have cash...:)

        3. The original comment has been removed
          1. I don't know about the morality or tackiness, but it appears that it often works. There is a funny, well-written article about the author's experience trying the practice of greasing palms in Gourmet several years ago:


            If nothing else I think you'll find it entertaining.

            4 Replies
            1. re: nosh

              Great story. I do think it's still done more than we care to think. I've never done it, but it might be fun to try and see what the results would be and then post about it. Thanks, nosh.

              1. re: Servorg

                Back at you, Servorg. The guy is a good writer and knows how to tell a funny anecdote. If you search for bruce feiler + gourmet you will find a number of articles he wrote. I can understand the sentiment that greasing palms is elitist and unfair, but alas, so much in today's society depends on who you know and how much you are willing to spend. The gist of the article, to me, is that greasing the hand of the maitre d' isn't just a bribe but establishes one as a customer willing to spend, eager to make an evening special, and therefor the type of patron and hopefully regular that the restaurant wants to cultivate and please.

                1. re: nosh

                  I also enjoyed the article, and yes, Bruce Feiler is a good writer. However, given that he notes that something of a generational gap in attitudes, and that restaurants tended to side with the younger than 40 set who found palm-greasing to be 'distasteful, degrading and showy', I'd be interested in seeing if the results would be the same if he repeated his experiment today (the original article was published almost 8 years ago.)

              2. re: nosh

                My 80-yo gahdmother's boyfriend is an artist when greasing that gear. If you didn't know what was happening, you'd never "see" the exchange between him and the maître d’. He can walk in to almost ever restaurant and be seated quickly, simply considering it a necessary part of the dining experience.

              3. I don't care how much I want to eat at a particular restaurant, I absolutely refuse to bribe them so I can get a table. 'nuff said.

                1 Reply
                1. re: danhole

                  But how would one be sure said bribe was enough? Or would get that table? Or would not just result in the bribee just pocketing said bribe and going about their business, seating the three people behind me?

                  Ewww. Bribing? No, thanks, I have enough trouble with the above board stuff.