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Eat the invisible oysters or complain?

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Need some advice. On Saturday my husband and I drove to the Ruths' Chris in Pikesville for our dinner reservation. When we arrived we were a bit stunned as the parking lot was virtually empty. We were immediately greeted by a gentleman from the restaurant who informed us that the place was closed as the transformer was out. He asked if we would like to go to the Water Street location or the Pier Five location. A shuttle bus was even available to transport us.

We selected the Water Street location and drove ourselves. We were given a lovely table.

Here's the point--I ordered the oysters Rockefeller. One of the oysters was the size of a nickel, the other three the size of a dime. The last oyster didn't even exist. So, $11.95 for five spoonsful of creamed spinach.

When I ate the first oyster, I did mention to our server that it was rather small. She just shrugged. Later on, another person (I don't know if he was an assistant manager or not) came by our table to ask if everything was allright. I showed him the missing oyster shell covered with spinach. He only apologized.

Now, we belong to Ruths' Chris and Blue Sea Grill's freuquent diner's program. We usually never have any issues with food or service at any of the restaurants. But, I do believe that my appetizer should have been removed and replaced with something else, or that the $11.95 should have been deducted from the bill. I opted to just not make an issue and helped my hubby eat his steak and salad, which was more then enough for both of us.

What would you have done under the circumstances? FoiGras

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  1. I would have asked them to replace the missing oyster.

    The manager dropped the ball by not immediately acknowledging that the oysters were small, and informing you that he was going to replace the plate with the biggest oysters the kitchen could find. If you accepted his offer, he should have had your new dish prepared 911, and then adjusted the timing of the rest of your meal accordingly. If you didn't want a replacement dish of oysters, then he should have offered a substitute appetizer. At the very least, they should have made an accommodation, especially since you brought it to their attention.

    1. I think the resto should have done something - either replacing the dish with more reasonably sized (and the correct number of) oysters, or with another dish. At the very least, they should have taken it off the bill.

      However, I think it's important that, when the resto doesn't offer a solution, *you* ask for one. The server shouldn't have just shrugged, but she did and you knew she wasn't going to take care of it. Why not ask her to replace the dish or whatever solution you want? When the other guy came by and you told him what was wrong, again, why didn't you ask him to do something specific?

      1. Yes, it seems harsh, but in this day of inadequately trained wait staff, you really do have to be specific about your expectations. I know my family rolls their eyes behind my back if something goes wrong at dinner, cause they know I am going to make my feelings known (in the nicest possible way, of course). But it does work when and if you are very clear and direct.

        "This is really a shame about the missing oyster(s), but if you take it off the bill, I will consider it over and not let it impact my tip or my chances of returning"...thisis accompanied by a BIG SMILE.

        It also really helps if you look like the waiter's Grandma, which, increasingly (sigh) I do...

        4 Replies
        1. re: LJS

          Wow. I've worked in the service industry and while I never would have handled the situation as the server in the original post did, if someone would say something to that effect I would consider it highly offensive.

          I see absolutely nothing wrong with voicing your displeasure over your dish and offering that you do not feel you should be charged for it, but the last part of your statement makes my stomach turn. To threaten the server in such a way is unjust and IMO quite rude, especially the BIG SMILE.

          1. re: pollymerase

            I disagree that the waiter would have done nothing wrong - the waiter's job is to (1) ensure that the food the diner orders is what is served, and (2) to respond to diner's complaints. If the waiter disagrees with the complaint or lacks authority to solve the problem, he/she should go to management and management should take care of it. By failing to do both of these things, the waiter, imo, has not performed his/her job up to snuff. If, on the other hand, the waiter does go to management and management refuses to fix the problem, then perhaps your argument that the waiter, having done all he/she can to fix the problem and should thus not be penalized in the tip, holds more weight with me.

            1. re: pollymerase

              I don't think a diner is being "unjust" or "offensive" to a server by suggesting that poor service is going to impact the amount of the tip or the chances of the diners' returning.

              And I don't think that showing you are a good sport by smiling is rude.

              As the diner, I am the one doing the tipping and making the decision about coming back. Surely, as a worker in the service industry, this is something you really NEED to know. Would you really rather get stiffed on the tip and lose the trade and never know why? I gather you are not a business owner, but I am and this is vital information.

              1. re: LJS

                LJS, with all due respect, my stomach also turned when I read your post above. I agree with pollymerase and, had I been your server that night and you had said that to me with a "BIG SMILE", I would immediately assume you were going to stiff me. We don't know if the server asked the manager to take the oysters off the bill (which is what should have happened), but I can tell you that the server does not have that authority. He cannot void anything off his checks without the manager.

          2. "excuse me but there is no oyster in one of the shells and the others are too small, please take it back or send over a manager."

            first person dropped the ball completely. who knows what position the second had.

            but you made a point twice and then you ate five of the six. Why? tough argument when all the oysters shells are empty.

            But since you are a member of the club, call customer service and explain the situation. see what they do. jfood had a similar situation at Mortons a few years ago and he only ate two bites of the steak. he has not been back since.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              I agree completely. The response from the service staff was less than ideal, certainly but once you eat what's there, there really isn't anything else you can do. Point out the problem with the dish and have it removed. If it was just a problem with that plate, they can replace it for you. If the problem is that all of the oysters they have are too small then you can move on to a different dish.

              While I think the service staff should have suggested either removing or replacing the dish, I also think the customer has to say something if the server doesn't offer an acceptable solution.

              1. re: ccbweb

                I DO AGREE. I was just being wimpy and didn't feel like making an issue over anything. I shouldhave firmly requested an alternative dish or have the dollar amount of the dish removed.

                For what's it's worth-my hubby didn't tip less then our usual 20 percent. Many times he tips much higher at the places where we dine and are serviced by our "regulars."

                We realize that waiters are hard working people and, unless the server is obnoxious (which is extremely rare), we tip generously.

                It was just one meal and I'm sure it could have been rectified if I'd made a stronger mention as to the issue of the disappearing oyster. BTW, the app only includes 5 oysters, not 6. FoiGras

            2. I make a big deal when my kids get shorted a chicken nugget in their chuckle meals, so at the very least, if my complaints weren't addressed at the time of the meal, I would have made a follow-up call or written a letter of concern. And if nothing came of it, I'd cancel my "frequent diner" membership and move on to another purveyor of fine consumables. And then I'd log into Chowhound and tell everyone else about it... ;)

              1. I would still make a call to the restaurant and complain to the general manager about the lack of concern for you're dish. Let them know that as someone who is part of the frequent diner progam you expect the concerns your raise about your food to be taken seriously.
                I think you'll receive some compensation. If not, I'd cancel my frequent dinner membership.

                1. I probably would have done what you did, drawn the staffs attention to the deficiencies of the meal but stopped short of demanding a replacement meal, deduction of cost etc. and then felt annoyed on the way home that they didn't do what I would have done in that situation which is rectify the problem!

                  I guess my problem is that when I'm at a nice restaurant and there is something wrong with my meal I don't want to make anything approaching a scene - but that can mean I'm too polite or subtle in my criticism and the staff don't intuit that I'm deeply disappointed/annoyed and want them to do something about it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: irisav

                    My DH is exactly the same way, as he never wants to draw attention to something. But when something is really irking him, he sends me in to do the dirty work. :-)

                    This is how I think about it; the restaurant would certainly make a fuss if I only left enough money to cover part of the bill. So, I make a fuss when then only partially meet their end of the deal. If a restaurant expects me to cover the bill in full, I expect the food to meet my expectations. I think of restaurants as a give/give relationship.

                  2. I've worked in the service industry for a while, and even at the restaurants that were nowhere NEAR Ruth's Chris in terms of quality, the issue would have been promptly addressed. The server should have offered to tell the manager right away, and the manager should have either replaced the appetizer, taken it off of the bill, or offered you a complimentary replacement appetizer or dessert. When a restaurant claims to be of such a high caliber, this type of incident is totally inexcusible.

                    You can still call or email customer service and explain what happened. And you should. They have a right to know if their stores are being mismanaged or if customers' needs and wants are essentially being ignored. Be nice about what happened, but be sure to convey how upsetting it was that your alternatives were essentially to eat a sub-par appetizer or choose not to eat it but to "eat" the $11.95. If they're like most companies, they'll probably do something to compensate you, like sending you a gift card, and they will certainly address the problem with the management.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Al_Pal

                      Agree 100%.