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"That's What You Ordered!"

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Does anyone have a graceful way of handling situations where a server mis-hears an order and (with attitude) insists you asked for it as they brought it?

It's such a crazy reaction (why would I order something I didn't want?)....and one which often reduces me to sputtering aggravation....which I'm always afraid might make me sound like an imperious "don't-you-dare-contradict-me-you-insolent-servant" sort of customer. It's not that I resent being contradicted, of course....it's just the whole wrong craziness of the situation.

There's got to be a graceful way to handle it that clears the air. Last time it happened, I kinda discombobulated: ("Yes, come to think of it, you're right! Y'know, I have trouble controlling what comes out of my mouth! La-la-la-bla-bla-fwa-fwa-fwa......see? Anything can come out at any time! I'm out of control!! Wheeee!!! Even right now, I don't know WHAT I'M SAYING! I hear words coming out, but they're, like, all random! Steam shovel chartreuse my water glass, please!").

Help me do better. There's got to be The Perfect Way To Handle It.

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  1. "Actually, it isn't what I ordered. I'm sorry you misunderstood."

    10 Replies
    1. re: bayoucook

      .....to which, of course, the reply would be "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'll bring your corrected order right away!", correct?

      Nyuh-uh.

      In case I didn't make it clear , I'm not talking about innocent-eyed waiters saying "Oh, but I thought I heard you say...". I'm talking about servers who flash anger with their eyes, snarl their mouths and seem to dig in for a fight (I did say, "with attitude"!). 'Cuz that's how this sort of situation plays 9 times out of 10, regardless of how friendly and politely the error's pointed out, with the sort of waiter who uses this response....at least in my eating out experience (which is pretty extensive).

      Good servers don't say "that's what you ordered!", period (no good can come of it, after all). So those who do take that approach are pretty much pre-filtered for a stark lack of grace and accommodation.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Jim - I've been lucky - never encountered that kind of server, thank God.
        I'd probably call the manager since the server was out of hand.
        Or maybe just leave!

        1. re: bayoucook

          If this happens to you a lot, you might be speaking in a way that's hard for the server to understand. You don't want to overenunicate either; that drives servers crazy. But I think the first step is to figure out if there's a legitimate reason they misheard you, or if they are blaming you for something that was entirely their mistake. If it is indeed the latter, and it's happened to me or my party a few times, I've just said, "Nope, I didn't order this and I wouldn't have ordered this." That takes care of it. If it didn't, I would call the manager. If I thought they really heard wrong, I'd say, sorry I wasn't clear and ask for the dish to be replaced. But again, if this happened to me chronically I would make a big effort to speak more clearly AND verify the order. Avoids a big waste of time and food.

          1. re: bibi rose

            Doesn't happen a lot. It's just a question of odds. If you eat out a ton, then things that only happen .1% of the time happen to you.

            If the server's reaction indicated to even a slight degree an even-keeled consideration of the possibility of misunderstanding, I'd of course reply politely and directly, per bayoucook's suggestion. But i'm not talking about servers who are unclear....I mean ones who are SURE you said something you didn't. So that sort of rules out mumbling ambiguity on my end as a factor.

        2. re: Jim Leff

          I am with Bayoucook. When they then dig in for a fight, ask to speak with the owner or manager. Tell them about the server and ask for a new server and the correct dish. If THEY give attitude, walk. It happens. it usually involves drugs or alcohol if it is the owner acting so strangely. Or an owner who desperately wants to fail.

          1. re: Sal Vanilla

            "it usually involves drugs or alcohol if it is the owner acting so strangely. "

            WHAT? What makes you say that?

            1. re: LindaWhit

              I say that because a manager can just walk away, but for an owner it can be the loss of life's fortune if your restaurant kicks the bucket. There is a greater incentive to be solicitous to patrons - and more leeway. A person who owns would have to have serious mental defect (organic or thru some intervention like drugs or alcohol) to act in a way that would drive patrons from your place.

              I have seen it with my own eyes. You would be surprised at the amount of drug and/ or alc problems in that industry. When we would hear someone's restaurant was tanking, there were rumors well before that someone was snorting the money up their nose and acting nutso in the dining room or was sucking at the scotch bottle all night long and acting strangely with customers.

              Normal owners do not quibble who was right and who was wrong and dig in their heels in order to protect their egos.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                Sorry - I just cannot believe it's "usually" attributed to drugs or alcohol." And yes, "normal" owners can dig in their heels if they think they're being taken advantage of.

                With the number of restaurants that open and close in any given year, your "usually" attribution would mean that 90% of those restaurants are being managed by drug addicts or alcoholics.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Restaurants close for a number of reasons. Mostly, they do not manage their food costs well. That is not so much an abuse problem.

                  And yes, there are just strange raging loons that are self defeating freaks bent on self destruction. Just giving my personal experience... not necessarily universal.

                  But I adore you, so I bow out gracefully and back out to the exit.

        3. re: bayoucook

          I've only happen once and it was just a chain restaurant so I didn't care. I didn't have time to redo.

          The other time it was something I don't enjoy eating much so I complained, he politely re did the order. But he sneared too, I did make a point of bringing it to the managers attention, but didn't say anything else.

          However, depending on the situation with a group where everyone else is eating ... if it was something I didn't mind I may just eat what he brought. But I would of pulled him aside or gone to manager and explained the situation so they were aware of the mix up.

        4. Jim, this has never happened to me in an English-speaking country.
          Sure I've gotten the wrong thing, but never have I gotten any kind of attitude or argument.
          Funny thing, since I've heard you interviewed and didn't find you difficult to understand...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Leonardo

            Yeah, I have a long background in radio and even (as a kid) acting. I'm not Orson Welles, but neither am I Charlie Mumbles.

            And, anyway, I'm not talking about situations of ambiguity (which would be easy for me to handle gracefully). I'm talking about situations where the server is POSITIVE you ordered something you insist you didn't. Which, just in itself, is just such a crazy tack to take on the server's part that my head kind of explodes. I mean...if I order something I don't want, that means 1. I'm stark raving nuts (in which case you should probably humor me) or 2. I'm needlessly torturing you (which may, in fact happen sometimes...working "'retail", as I did here on Chowhound for years, shows you that any behavior you could imagine - and lots you couldn't - indeed will be seen if you deal with the public long enough).

            But I don't know how to disprove either. So this is like having a ball in my court I don't know how to pass back!

          2. Yes, it happens occasionally, and it is likely to be someone with language difficulties of some kind. Yes, they really do believe that is what you ordered, and they are tired of people always telling them that they got the order wrong (hey, there's a clue). And no, you are not going to get anywhere by arguing with them. All you can do is tell them you are sorry that you weren't more specific about your order (oh, im sorry, when I said I want a number 36, i should have specified that I wanted the Fho with rare beef, tendon, and tripe, just like it says on the menu.") Ok, ok, that was a little bit snarky, but the sarcasm will probably be lost on them. Or you could try to foist it off on the kithcen, siding with the waitstaff (Oh, I'm sorry, I know you put the order in right, don't you hate it when the kitchen can't take the time to read what you actually wrote, but you and I both know I didn't order anchovies on my mashed potatoes.)

            11 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              "Yes, they really do believe that is what you ordered, and they are tired of people always telling them that they got the order wrong (hey, there's a clue). "

              Indeed. Great point. Strangers reacting bizarrely to normal interaction is, it's true, an indication that some button has been pushed which has nothing to do with you and everything to do with some chronic issue on the part of the button-holder.

              That's a good bit of wisdom. But I'm not totally satisfied with your suggestions. On the other hand, that may indeed be the best I can do. But I'm hoping to use the Hive Mind here to see if anyone's crafted the perfect response....

              1. re: Jim Leff

                If your waiter is looking at you with fire in their eyes, don't fuel the fire by bantering back and forth.

                Be direct, but polite. Say you are sorry about the misunderstanding once.
                Tell them that you ordered what you chose and that you would like to be
                served that particular order. And if the waiter wants to argue about who got it correct, then ask to see the manager. Unreasonable behavior is not tolerated long in customer service and the manager will not argue with you. He/she will correct your
                order quickly.

                1. re: mcel215

                  In my experience, any pushing back (i.e. saying I ordered what I chose and would like to be served it), no matter how politely, will be pushed back harder.

                  i dispute the notion that the manager won't argue. There are nasty, stubborn managers just as there are nasty, stubborn servers. I think the manager's inclination to take the server's side depends mostly on the manager's relationship with that server. Unless, that is, we're talking about, like, a high end place devoted to good customer service where some lone clueless server is screwing up. In which case I agree with all you've said. But in such places, I'd have trouble imagining my encountering this particular situation in the first place.

                  This sort of thing is found more in little places....the sorts of places that have decided the customer's always an idiot (I don't blame them...as I said, earlier in the thread, dealing with the public can easily wear you down into such a jaundiced mindset...you have to really work against it). It's easy to say that such places ought to be avoided, but sometimes that's where the best food is. It takes a certain brash stubbornness to create and maintain quality.

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    A lot of times the servers are nasty BECAUSE the management is! Both of my daughters worked as servers in the past, but if the manager was truly foul, they (although they are by nature very nice) found it hard to be nice to the customers. Of course that is when you pack up and find another place to work!

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      "This sort of thing is found more in little places"

                      Boy do I ever disagree with that. The little guy in my experience is far more likely to bend over back wards in an effort to make sure every thing you order is served to the best of their ability. If not they usually don't survive very long.
                      IMO this is far more likely to occur at the latest greatest yuppified trough featured on some food network show or the uber snooty's with their mediocre over priced crud that they are intent on believing is THE best that can be had.
                      I can think of a few situations over the years where I had an indignant server and he/she received a just tip and a follow up letter/email to the manager/owner.
                      If I had a server as obtuse as you suggest and a manager of the same disposition I would remedy that by leaving. Case closed.
                      You suggest the places with 'tude" often have "the best" food. Why would I care if it's the "best" if it's not what I ordered? If it is the best and it's that good then close yer pie hole and CHOW! LOL

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        I have to disagree with you about rudeness being the dominion of the small eatery. They are the ones that will bend over backwards to keep you happy and loyal. if they are not, they won't last long and then it will not matter.

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          I agree SalV, I think the smaller places are much more willing to accommodate. They rely on the locals and the tourists. They do anything they can do work with the customer

                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                            I never said - and never would - that rudeness is the dominion of the small eatery. I think you didn't read me very carefully.

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              I should have ref'ed it: "This sort of thing is found more in little places".

                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                Yes, I understood the ref. But reread my entire posting to see what I mean by "this sort of thing".

                      2. re: Jim Leff

                        OK, if the server is being that irrational, the perfect response is the one that limits your exposure the most. You repeat your order once and if that doesn't work, you ask for the manager.

                        Dealing with strangers who get irrationally angry like that is weird and it leaves one feeling, "Surely I could have done something better to prevent it/handle it/whatever." Doesn't matter if you do the perfect thing, you will feel like that anyway. IMO, best thing to do is refuse to engage. Once you see they are acting that way, ask to talk to someone else and if that doesn't work, leave.

                    2. Two suggestions here:

                      1) You reply "You brought this to the wrong table, because I didn't order that."
                      2) Then the snarky attitude from the waiter comes in, so you ask to see the paper where he wrote your order on it. If he doesn't have one - get the manager. As far as the "That's what you ordered" . . . well prove it jerk!

                      I prefer that they read my order back to me before they leave the table, especially those that don't bother writing things down. I haven't actually ever gotten the wrong order, but there have been times that I have been very specific about how I want it (like dressing on the side, bring extra gravy, etc.) Then someone else delivers my food, not the one who took my order, and there's the dressing on the salad and no extra gravy! They always look baffled when I send it back, but too bad. I want what I want.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: danhole

                        Exactly! I just cannot imagine such horrible servers - they'd last about 3 seconds down here.

                        1. re: danhole

                          although I believe it's kinda bad etiquette to write things down in fine dining, especially for a small table...

                          1. re: hungryungry

                            Even in fine dining some servers write things down. regardless of that fact, in fine dining they always repeat you order back to you , or at the very least make sure they have gotten your order correct, by clarifying what you have asked for. We were in a very nice place tonight and our server was very sure to ask more (than the usual "not in a so fine dining place". ) questions to make sure we were satisfied.. And another point is that in fine dining they would not let a server EVER be surly, argumentative, or seem threatening to the customer. Do that once and you are GONE! Snarling is not an option.

                            Side note - we live in Houston, Tx, so maybe our manners are diffrent from up north. Just saying, and I have never been to NYC, so . . .

                        2. uh. . . is the server grinding her/his jaw at all while flashing the anger, snarling the mouth, digging for the fight? pupils dilated unnaturally at all?

                          1. It's gonna happen no matter what we are probably in our third or fourth generation in this country where people have to "argue every point", "It's not my fault" etc. Graciousness and class went out the door years ago.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                              A very good observation.

                              Guess I've been lucky in that I've never encountered this particular argument in a restaurant. If they did me an argument about what I ordered I would probably leave. There's no excuse for that.

                              I have encountered some snarky waiters/waitresses though and agree that many do lack basic communication skills and some are just downright devoid of any personality or people skills in general. I always try to remain pleasant and turn them around the sourpuss ones with some gentle humor.
                              Unfortunately, some people just really do lack any class or grace and seemingly just enjoy being contrary or defensive 24/7.

                            2. Interesting situation. And it has happened to me a few times, I pronounce clearly and don't have an accent...

                              The only problem is, the server is already pissed off that you think he/she is wrong. They probably have had a long night, maybe it's not their first mistake, maybe the chef will lose it if this particular server says "chef may I?" one more time.
                              I don't think there is anything you can do to appease them at this point, unless you actually take the dish (maybe it's better than what you ordered?)

                              On the other hand, I once knew a sweet old lady who invariable said "Oh! is that what I ordered?" so i guess some people forget...

                              1. You're setting up an impossible situation - "In my experience, any pushing back (i.e. saying I ordered what I chose and would like to be served it), no matter how politely, will be pushed back harder." If that's the case, and it's also the case that the manager will also be nasty to you and they've already "decided the customer's always an idiot", your choices are limited:

                                (1) refuse to eat the meal and try to leave without paying for it (not advised), or
                                (2) pay for the wrong meal and either (a) eat it and try to make the best of it, or (b) order what you want, eat the correct one and have them take the wrong meal away, or (c) order what you want, eat the correct meal and wrap up the wrong meal to go.

                                It's possible that these servers are just clueless, but it's also possible that they get a lot of people who change their minds and order something else or try to get their meal comped. Imagine it from their perspective - they've been doing this a while and while they do sometimes make mistakes, more often it's someone trying to pull a fast one on the server and the restaurant to scam some free food or who just ordered the wrong thing and decided when they saw what they'd ordered, to get something else (but don't want to pay for the first order).

                                In your situation, I'd tell the person - sorry if there has been some miscommunication, but this is not what I ordered and not what I want to eat. I would like X. I would be happy to pay for both dishes, if you would box this one up for me to take home.

                                What could they possibly say to that other than ok? By offering to pay for the mistake, you've given them less reason to suspect you're trying to scam some free food, and you are minimizing the unpleasantness of the encounter. It's possible, having offered to pay for the wrong dish, they may decide to comp it anyway. Otherwise, just pay for it and de-escalate.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: akq

                                  you lost me on this:

                                  "given them less reason to suspect you're trying to scam some free food"

                                  Why would they suspect I'm trying to scam free food?

                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                    Its a variation of the old cockroach in the salad routine. They already served it. If they can comp it or a portion of it, you end up with a discounted or free meal, and they end up with no hassles - especially effective on hectic nights.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      We went to a specialty pizza place a few weeks ago. We ordered the "Gouda" pizza. Server repeated it back to us so we knew we were heard correctly. Forty-five minutes later (!) something entirely different appears at the table. There wasn't a single thing on that pie that I would eat. Since two pies came out at once I was sure they were delivered to the wrong tables. Nope. When Spouse returns the pie to the counter he gets, "That's what you ordered, the Buddha." Not hardly, Charlie. "So, uh, I'll remake that for you?" Heck, yeah. Ten minutes later the server walks by the table, sees the untouched Buddha pie still sitting there and says, "Oh, you're not going to eat that one?" NO! If I wanted that pie, I would have ordered that pie. The server was clearly hoping we'd be so hungry after the long wait that we'd just shut up, eat what we were served and go away. I don't belieive I will ever be hungry enough to eat feta and olives. We eventually got the right pie and the server got a very small tip.

                                      1. re: rockycat

                                        um, the buddha pie had feta and olives? was that from the buddha's sojourns to the middle east and greece? ;-).

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          My thought, exactly.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            I have no clue. My only guess is that the name has to do with it being a vegetarian pie. It had feta, olives, zucchini, white cheddar, unintentionally unripe tomatoes and maybe something else. I do blame the restaurant, however, for naming two very different pies "Gouda" and "Buddha." It's a screw-up waiting to happen.

                                      2. re: KaimukiMan

                                        Still not getting it, sorry. You set a plate down. I say it's wrong, please bring me what I ordered. You, being sane, pick it up and take it back to the kitchen and bring me the other dish. Or you, being insane, refuse, and I'm stuck with dish #1.

                                        At worst, you lose a little, but how, in any scenario, do I gain extra free food?

                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                          At least twice in 44 years, a side that was wrong or an incorrectly cooked dish has been left on the table for us, if we wanted it, along with bringing us the correct food. Perhaps they are suggesting such a scenario.

                                      3. re: Jim Leff

                                        The customer orders X, and when it's delivered says it's wrong. The restaurant will often, as KM says, comp the dish or part of it, but leave it for the diner, and may also give them the correct order as well (comped or not). Clearly that's not what you're up to, but it does happen, so likely the waiter and manager are on guard for that kind of scam and push back saying there's nothing wrong with the order (i.e. there's no reason for us to comp the dish or to give you another dish for free).

                                        1. re: akq

                                          Ok, if that's the dynamic, then maybe it would help if I picked up the dish and handed it back to the server, along with the phrase "I don't want this".

                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                            That's what I would do. If I order X and they bring me Y, I don't want it anyway so I wouldn't be munching on it in the first place. I would tell them to take it away.

                                            I had no idea that there were scams about this type of situation. I would have assumed that if you order something and they bring you the wrong thing, they would automatically take the wrong one back. Interesting that people take advantage of that.

                                    2. The last three times I ate at a particular restaurant, they got my orders wrong. Don't ask why we keep going back.

                                      The first time I asked for the steak and then changed my order before the server left our table of two and ordered the fish (which I didn't see right away). She definitely knew I ordered it because she commented on the dish. But, I ended up getting the steak regardless. The server said "my mistake" and offered to get the fish. I kept the steak and ate it because I didn't want to wait. The steak was comped. The next time I ordered something that was described as having tapenade. It came without the tapenade and the waiter said this is what it is now. When I showed him the menu, he brought us a bowl of tapenade (not comped). The last time it happened, I asked for rosemary fries. The fries came, sans rosemary. The server said, "they ARE rosemary fries". I said they weren't and couldn't find the rosemary. He argued back, but then walked away. He came back with a little bowl of chopped rosemary (not comped).

                                      In each of these situations, I was NOT looking for a free meal, but for the exact item I wanted. I could imagine someone trying to "get over" in these circumstances, but I doubt that is the norm. How the situation plays out depends on the server, and most likely the response they get from the kitchen when they explain their problem (ie: bringing little bowls of ingredients to make the dish right). Granted, the last two mistakes were made by the kitchen.

                                      Depends on who's the bigger bully and how much you are willing to take. Each time, we just took what they gave us (because of time.... two people order, but one sends food back, they both end up eating alone), but we certainly didn't have to. Nasty servers would have definitely made the situation more frustrating.

                                      1. >>>>Even right now, I don't know WHAT I'M SAYING! I hear words coming out, but they're, like, all random! Steam shovel chartreuse my water glass, please!").<<<<

                                        very funny!

                                        this is PERHAPS an idea to help -- maybe not. but...here goes: i have a client who "hears things funny" -- which is, if you speak too quickly or not exactly clearly, or you're not close-by, she "hears" something that *sounds* similar, but in the context "makes no sense". her name is mary, and she urges me to remember that she has "mary ears". if she hears something that doesn't make sense, she'll often repeat what she "heard" and it is indeed absurd. then she asks me to repeat what i said.

                                        she knows this about herself. if a server doesn't know this, or refuses to admit it, then there is not much you can do except, maybe -- slow down when you order and clearly enunciate (over-enunciate, perhaps). maybe you already do this.

                                        1. So, your friends don't call you "Mumbles Leff"?

                                          Anyway, I've had to order in various languages other than English over the last 35 years. I always (nicely) ask the server to repeat what I've ordered. It may help.

                                          And here's one. Filipino languages have to spoken with type-writer precision or meanings get changed. Filipinos learn English the same way and always think that all Americans mumble. Was your server filipino? Smart (ass) Americans go to the Philippines for a bit and start speaking English like typewriters. Too much.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            I have to note one important thing right here. I do NOT argue when brought the wrong dish in ethnic "bastion" restaurants...places where gringos are neither marketed to nor particularly warmly welcomed. My strategy in such places is to make as small a wake as possible, otherwise I could risk decreasing whatever gringo friendliness they currently have, and that could impact on the NGITD (next gringo in the door).

                                            I'm not talking about encountering anything like hatred or xenophobia, just the exasperated angst of low-paid workers who don't speak much English when they face an outsider who it is to be assumed will require hand-holding and extra accommodation. I understand it, and, as a chowhound, I feel it's my duty to show them that gringos are not always high-maintenance. I know some staunchly authentic places where the waiters have come to totally respect their hip gringos (NYC's Sripraphai is one; I was the first GITD there, they looked at me sideways, but I helped break that particular bronco).

                                            I explained the dynamic in the intro to my first book:

                                            -----------
                                            Many ethnic restaurants take incredible pains to guide outsiders and put them at ease, but some of the most authentic are less service-oriented, more no-nonsense. They cook serious undiluted fare for freshly-arrived compatriots at prices new immigrants can afford, and forgo the niceties. While such places don't go out of their way to attract non-native business, they don't mind serving self-sufficient outsiders, so long as we don't expect them to act as tour guides to their cuisines. There's work to be done and mouths to feed; taking time to extract orders from confused strangers breaks up the rhythm, especially when--as is often the case--the staff is insecure about English skills.

                                            Seasoned chowhounds learn to fit smoothly into the groove and relish the chameleonic pleasures of cross-cultural consumption, but novices are advised to start out with more user-friendly places (as reflected by the "friendliness" ratings). If you do find yourself warily received in unfamiliar eateries, bear in mind that the frosty reception invariably stems not from hostility but from the hesitancy of overworked waiters to endure those linguistic and cultural struggles from which their restaurants otherwise stand as refuge.

                                            1. re: Jim Leff

                                              You might have taken my message in a way unintended. Just meant to have a bit of a laugh with you.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                No, no, sorry....I enjoyed your post, and wasn't replying to you so much as to the accumulation within the thread of the issue of culture and language (which you, incidentally, happened to hit on). So I was responding, generally, to that (since I started the thread!). Sorry, Sam!

                                              2. re: Jim Leff

                                                Just happened to me the other night. My wife likes CPK. I order the BBQ chicken pizza (after looking at the "new" Buffalo Wing chicken pizza and deciding against it after seeing it had uncooked celery on it). Waitress brings BW chicken pizza. I say "That isn't what I ordered" and she (to somehow confirm it is TOO what I ordered looks at our hand written check). I said (as nicely as I could muster) "Looking at what you incorrectly wrote down isn't going to prove me wrong" and she then proceeded to ask me if I wanted her to put in a "new" order with the BBQ chicken pizza and I said "Yes please" and that was that. Still very aggravating. But the saving grace here is my wife eats verrrrrrrrrry slowly and I inhale my food like a record free diver gasps air on resurfacing - so we ended up finishing at about the same time for once.

                                                So, long story long. No help with your query but I share your pain. ;-D>

                                            2. In this situation, there may not be a graceful way of dealing with it, unless you consider just allowing them to be "right" after you hit this wall of resistance. I and my SO are the types that do not usually want to get into a confrontational mode that might well spoil the evening, if not the meal. Where do you go with it when the manager sides with the waiter? Even if you win, do you really want to be served by a person you have had to bypass to get satisfaction? Kinda like talking back to a cop. They can make your life miserable, if they choose to. Hey, they're probably going to get a lousy tip anyway. So, if you pursue it and lose with the manager, I see that being a no-win situation and I might think of paying, for what little I could get away with, and leaving.
                                              You can't argue with an irrational person, anyway. Acting crazy or irrational is a tactic used by people to gain the upper hand or get their way. Anger, hostility, crying, etc. can be played to get you to accept something that was their mistake. Again, even if you win a round, do you want them serving you?
                                              I tend to rationalize these into an acceptable outcome on the few occasions they have occurred. We just had the meal at Cavey's where I clearly heard SO say she wanted just appetizers and that there would be disparity since she was only ordering appetizers and I was ordering three courses. Yet she didn't received one appetizer, but was served the similar food, as a full-blown entree. At first, she was like, "wow, I got the bargain here", then we realized what had happened. Realizing we could eat it later, we said nothing. On the other hand, when I saw my monkfish and proclaimed it to be "overcooked sea bass", I felt I had lost all credibility when I realized that I had ordered monkfish. I was rendered momentarily speechless and later I was reluctant to complain that it was still a little dry and overcooked. I felt discombobulated and on the defensive.
                                              I think I can empathize, but I doubt there is a silver bullet for the hard-headed waiter.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                I totally agree with your first paragraph.

                                                But as for the person being irrational, that's way too strong IMO. It's totally possible that the person misheard, but is sure they didn't mishear. Nothing intrinsically wrong with that. My only issue is that when they handle it ungracefully, it leaves me with no graceful moves, other than to either butt heads or to go all Korean-prisoner-of-war by confessing my error and plaintively requesting benevolent treatment.

                                                Thing is, I'm actually pretty error tolerant. If a waiter (or anyone else) comes to me and says, "Woops, I screwed up, is this acceptable?", I'd almost always eat the problem (literally, or figuratively, in terms of paying a little extra). I'm just not that picky, really.

                                                So....maybe I have to acknowledge that this is purely an interpersonal issue. It's not about the dish. It angers me when an erring party pushes back hard at me. That's normal, I guess for folks of an accommodative bent.....if we didn't have our "limits", we'd get taken advantage of, and wind up more wimpish than mensch-like.

                                                So I guess that what's needed isn't a graceful come-back. It's that I need to decide what I actually want/need in a situation, and do whatever's necessary to achieve that. And to sort of forget about the fantasy of making nice with a waiter who insists that his ears know better than my mouth.

                                                Hey, actually, that's not a bad retort right there! I could adopt a little old jewish man accent (not much of a stretch at my advancing age) and ask "So, sonny boy, your ears know better than my mouth?"

                                              2. Just to play devil's advocate here (and I'm not saying this is what happened) but there are times when people order something other than what they think they ordered. Luckily most of those times, I have had their partner say "but that is what you ordered.", On the other hand, it doesn't matter where the mistake is, as a server, you just say "I'm sorry" and get them the thing they want. That's why I always repeat back what people order, although I have been caught up by those who change their mind as you walk away from the table.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Missmoo

                                                  So true!

                                                  I love when the DW/DH corrects him/her and hands out a slice of humble pie.

                                                  1. re: Missmoo

                                                    Great to get the other side of the issue. Thanks.

                                                    So...can you go one step further and suggest a way to dispel this situation when a waiter fails to say sorry and bring the other dish?

                                                    Since it's clearly impossible in this situation to prove to the server that the mistake is theirs, we may as well assume, from the waiter's perspective, that I DID mis-order. So my rightness/wrongness is moot. So if the waiter fights back, do I do the passive-aggressive fake confession thing and ask for the other item?

                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                      When someone is so obviously rude, the best approach is difficult. If you argue back everyone needs to be right. I guess the best approach is to say, "I'm sorry, but we have miscommunicated somehow....etc." I mean it's the same in any exchange. As a waiter when I am right, the worst thing I can do is try to prove it. Just drop it and get the thing the person wants (sometimes it's hard to let go of it, however) I wouldn't call that passive-aggressive, I would call it trying to be nice about the situation.

                                                    2. re: Missmoo

                                                      Repeating back is an excellent practice Missmoo!... As is simply apologizing and whisking the plate away. Sorry does seem to be the hardest word.

                                                    3. *laugh* i'd be shocked if your discombobulated response didn't result in immediate reassessment on the server's part and a correct order. if i were the server, i'd give you anything you wanted after that! :)

                                                      i've also had this happen to me on several occasions, with native english speakers as well as non-, i have "no accent" (actually, it's midwestern, 'standard' u.s.) and enunciate like the broadcaster i used to be -- so i feel your pain. in my experience, this dialogue has worked pretty well:

                                                      me: "oops, this doesn't look like X, which is what i ordered"
                                                      server: "oh, really? i thought you said you said you wanted Y!"
                                                      me: "nope, but no biggie. do you mind putting in my order for X right away? i don't mind waiting while the rest of the table eats, but i do have to get out of here in Z minutes. do you think you could have it out to me in time?"

                                                      the server then says "yes" or "no" and i either wait patiently if i have time or, if i don't, cancel the order or have it wrapped to go.

                                                      fairly drama free.

                                                      on the other hand, i like your response so well, i might have to adopt it...

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                        It's coming late in the thread, but I need to add that this happens at least as often, or maybe more often, with service counter type service. Bakeries, bars, etc. Places where quick bits of instruction get relayed fast amid chaotic circumstances.

                                                        Such circumstances mean there's no time or cost gap issues, which simplify things for a customer caught in this scenario. But it also unrestrains the server's ire, because they're either not getting tipped or stand to be tipped a lot less than a restaurant waiter.

                                                        So when I've just calmly asked them to bring what I want (rather than discombobulate) I usually get my way, but with a bone-chilling bad vibe, and an inevitable restatement, ala "I'll be happy to redo it, but that IS what you asked for."

                                                        From a customer service standpoint, there's nothing dumber than going to a bit more trouble/work/expense to please a customer and ALSO pissing him off. It's lose/lose for you. But it happens. Human nature....

                                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                                          yeh, this is definitely a more common issue at chaotic / very busy / very loud places... the same kinds of places where servers come back (sometimes more than once) and ask me to repeat the order. (i much prefer that someone ask me to repeat an order than put it in incorrectly, though!)

                                                          >> So when I've just calmly asked them to bring what I want (rather than discombobulate) I usually get my way, but with a bone-chilling bad vibe, and an inevitable restatement, ala "I'll be happy to redo it, but that IS what you asked for."

                                                          yikes, i've never encountered such intense resistance where a server actually insists repeatedly that i'd been in the wrong. i guess under those circumstances, i'd just let her know that i wasn't interested in pinning blame, was sorry for any mutual misunderstandings... and that i just wanted meal X, please, ASAP... (dammit).

                                                          1. re: cimui

                                                            Just to clarify, Jim said, " service counter type service" as being the more common scenario. Perhaps that has no impact on your statement, but it does on the perception that you might have a personal waiter at your table, taking your order, who is (somewhat at least), dependent on your tip.

                                                      2. The PERFECT way to handle it, in my pea-brain, is to be kind. Obviously you are not being rude, and more obviously... kindness doesn't usually work on someone who arrives at your table (or anyplace) with an attitude. It may knock a little bit of mean outta 'em, but more than likely not. In my vast years of customer service, mirroring the customer NEVER works. I wouldn't shout if shouted at. In fact I don't often raise my voice when I'm angry. My speech get's low, calm, and clipped.

                                                        Anyway!! When faced with a skitzo person, I am willing to bet nothing you say will change their mind that you are correct. But in a crazy day dream I can see you giving them attitude right back... Do like Oprah says- ask why 5 times. By the 5th Why? You'll have the real answer...

                                                        "This isn't what I ordered, could you please check my ticket and make sure I'm supposed to be getting the veal saltimbucca?"
                                                        "That IS what you ordered. You ordered snail eggs."
                                                        "Actually no, I'm sorry you seem confused. I don't eat snail eggs."
                                                        "This is what you ordered."
                                                        "Are you sure?"
                                                        "Yes sir;"
                                                        "Why?"
                                                        "Huh wha?"
                                                        "Why? Why do you think I ordered snail eggs?"
                                                        "I know you did. You are wrong. I'm not leaving until you take this plate that you ordered."
                                                        "Why? Why did I order snail eggs?"
                                                        "Why do you keep asking why?"
                                                        "Why would you ask me that? What happened to the veal? Why did you bring me snail?"
                                                        "You ordered it. I think."
                                                        "You think? You think I did? Who orders snails, really, anyway... Have you ever had the veal here?"
                                                        "No I don't eat meat."
                                                        "Do you eat snails?"
                                                        "No- who eats snail?"
                                                        ----------------------------------------

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                                          Idunno. To me, that's just icky (but then again, I find much of Oprah Life a bit icky). Rather than go that route, I think I'd stick with my Dada response, per my original posting!

                                                          But there is a nice nuance there. "I don't even LIKE x!". I feel like that might be useful somehow....

                                                        2. Ok, thanks, guys. I think I've cobbled together a strategy here. Any improvements to suggest?

                                                          ----------
                                                          Server: Here's your egg salad pizza, sir! Bon appetit!

                                                          Me: Oops....I ordered sausage pizza!

                                                          Server: No, sir, you asked for egg salad pizza.

                                                          Me: I did? Wow...that's weird...but, hmmm...thing is, I don't LIKE egg salad! So why would I order a pizza I don't like?

                                                          Server: I don't know, sir, but that's what you ordered.

                                                          Me: [smiling] No, no...but seriously! Which is more likely: that I ordered an item I hate, or that you innocently misheard me, with all the noise in here and everything? Well, anyway, would you mind if I give this back to you to swap for a sausage pizza? I can't eat egg salad, I seriously can't stand it!

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                                            perfect, but leave out the logical reasoning and socratic method... it just increases the amount of time and effort it takes to unite you with your desired meal! and someone who doesn't take you at your word that you ordered X isn't going to be any more likely to believe that you don't enjoy eating Y.

                                                            i don't know if you'll ever change a server's mind... nor is the server likely to convince you -- but really, why is it important to come to a conclusion on the historical narrative as long as you receive Desired Meal X in the end? i know it's supremely frustrating to know (or believe) with complete certainty that you're right and have someone else have such a completely incompatible viewpoint... but keep your priorities straight! you want Desired Meal X. your mission is to receive Desired Meal X. don't even bring up issues of fault or blame. if it's a common problem at a specific place, maybe write down the order for the server.

                                                            good luck! i think i'd like egg salad pizza, by the way.

                                                            1. re: Jim Leff

                                                              agree with Cimui-- just delete the whole "Which is more likely: that I ordered an item I hate, or that you innocently misheard me, with all the noise in here and everything?" line, which could be misinterpreted as a passive-aggressive insult-- you calling the server a crappy server or something-- after all, if they can't hear orders correctly over all the noise, all day, every day, shouldn't all of their orders be screwed up all day, every day?-- not me thinking this, the server thinking this (in their own internal socratic method)! everyone knows screwups happen and if you just brush it off w/o assigning blame then chances are the server will happily skip off and correct the problem.

                                                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                Jim, I really like the idea of giving the server a graceful out. In this case, the noise level. This happened about a year ago to John and I and we wimped out and just ate the food, it was our regular hangout at the time, and the waitress was a bit psycho, we knew this from past experiences. Empathy works well for me in a lot of situations. It may be that the chef or manager is a real jerk, and the server will get in lots of trouble if she or he takes that dish back. Next time this happens to me, as I'm sure it will, I think I will make sheepish eye contact and say something like "excuse me but there's been a mix-up somehow, would it be a big deal to take this back and get me the (whatever) I could have sworn I ordered? I'm sorry to be a pain." My body language will be apologetic and humble. I'll let you know how it works out. I know once John was upset when his burger was undercooked and he had to send it back, and I got him to try the sincerely apologetic routine. Worked like a charm, the waitress practically kissed him on the forehead when she brought the burger back. I know it's not the same thing, but wow did that go smoothly.

                                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                  I should mention that John is a natural for this technique. He is a master of the "puppy dog eyes". :)

                                                                2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                  You pizza example reminds me of a mixup that happened to me a couple of years ago. I had ordered a hamburger and anchovy pizza to go, and left the restaurant without opening the box first (never again!). The waitress had apparently abbreviated my order on the slip and the cook misinterpreted it - I got home all psyched for meaty, fishy goodness and opened the box to find a pizza made with ham and artichokes!

                                                                3. Very surprised at the number of posters who claim this has NEVER happened to them...while I wouldn't say it is a common thing for me, is happens (and I don't mumble, have an accent or EVER make mistakes about what I want to eat).

                                                                  Most recently, I was served a dish that was liberally laced with balsamic vinegar. I knew that it wasn't what I ordered as I am allergic to vinegar (don't ask!)

                                                                  So I said: "I am sorry (I am Canadian: we start all sentences this way) this isn't what I ordered.

                                                                  Waiter: (also a Canadian) I'm sorry, it is what you ordered.

                                                                  Me: No, I'm sorry, I ordered the veal with lemon, not this beef with balsamic.

                                                                  Waiter: (starting to resemble JL's waiter, teeth showing, upper lip curling...): Thats not what you said...

                                                                  (MY GOD:HE DIDN'T SAY HE'S SORRY: EITHER HE IS NOT CANADIAN OR IT'S TIME TO BRING IN THE BIG FINISH...)

                                                                  Me: I am sorry but if I eat this I will a) have a very unattractive and public allergic reaction and b) tip you in a very diminished way

                                                                  Waiter: I am sorry, I will bring the veal: please have a complimentary glass of wine while you wait.

                                                                  Lesson: there is a reason God gave us allergies...

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: LJS

                                                                    so long as you really do have an allergy, it works great.

                                                                    If you have questions on the issue of the allergy defense, there are about a dozen threads dealing with food allergies, people who claim to have food allergies, people who might have food allergies, and people who wish they had food allergies.

                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                      You are exactly right my man! I can tell you years of stories about people with "perceived" or "ubsunstantuated(sp)" food allergies" just because they don't like something and the problems they have caused. "Don't you have any meatloaf without onions?" If ya know what I mean!

                                                                      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                                                        You know, I'm so bummed out by the person who thought egg salad pizza "sounds good", that I'm having trouble absorbing anything further. Will return tomorrow, hopefully refreshed.

                                                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                          =P

                                                                    2. re: LJS

                                                                      LJS: I don't believe that many of us were saying we had never been served what we had not ordered. We just had not encountered a server's attitude or insistence on having the last word.

                                                                      1. re: Leonardo

                                                                        I agree with Leonardo.... this happens from time to time (but rarely) but has never been an issue as it has been corrected easily

                                                                    3. I wan't posing some abstract defense, I was telling you about an actual episode...you gotta figure out your own strategies to defeat the wacko waiter. As someone who lives with nasty reactions and the parent of a Celiac, I would be the last person to "play the allergy card" without the right! Jeesh,guys, get a sense of proportion!

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: LJS

                                                                        sorry, didn't mean to hit a button, was just clarifying. mea culpa.

                                                                        1. re: LJS

                                                                          "you gotta figure out your own strategies to defeat the wacko waiter"

                                                                          Can I download an App for that?

                                                                        2. What about the related situation where you order something and they bring you a dish that in no way resembles what you expected, but they swear that's how they make this particular dish? I recall a few years ago ordering prime rib in a local (now thankfully defunct) establishment and getting a piece of tough, overcooked non-rib steak. When I tried to tell the waiter that this was not only not prime rib, it wasn't rib at all, he insisted that that's their version of prime rib. End of discussion.

                                                                          Or the time just a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I were at a local, highly rated Szechuan place and she ordered the special okra dish. What she got was a plate of boiled, peeled cucumber spears. We called the waiter over - "excuse me, she ordered okra." "Yes, this okra." What can you say? Is there some exotic version of Chinese okra that looks and tastes like cucumber? I don't think so, but again, what more could we say after the waiter insisted that yes, this was okra?

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                            Chinese okra is a ridged gourd - so they may have been correct.

                                                                            1. re: Peg

                                                                              Thanks, I didn't know that. I just googled Chinese okra and yes, that what we got. I wonder why it's called okra when it's so unlike what we know as okra.

                                                                            2. re: BobB

                                                                              Your first situation, BobB? Been there, done that, not returned to the restaurant again. At a highly recommended local Italian restaurant Spouse ordered Veal Saltimbocca, I ordered Chicken Scapriello. Spouse got what amounted to Veal Marsala with buckets of rosemary and I got some kind of chicken cutlet with a light wine sauce. Neither comes close to the original. We just wrote off that restaurant and never went back.

                                                                              1. re: BobB

                                                                                Went to a local beer garden for their Oktoberfest last year and order Sauerbraten. What came out was slices of almost raw pot roast, soaked in vinegar. When I complained to the waiter, he informed me that their sauerbraten was "always served rare." I explained to the little snot that having living in Germany and eaten more than my fair share of it, as well having made it myself on numerous occasions, I was certain that like all pot roasts, sauerbraten was NEVER served rare. As he continued to argue, we got up and left.

                                                                                What had obviously happened was that they were completely unprepared for the large number of diners who had shown up earlier in the evening and had run out of cooked meat. Why they couldn't simply say that, instead of serving their guests pig swill, I have no idea.

                                                                              2. A smart server would shut his mouth,apologize for the error and take it back for the desired thing, on the fly.

                                                                                I once had a server try to insist that I had ordered some meat combination pizza at an Italian restaurant.

                                                                                I assured him that it was highly unlikely as I was a vegetarian.

                                                                                We waited a long time for the wrong pizza, then twice that for the right pizza with no form of compensation. Never returned to that restaurant again.

                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                1. re: salsailsa

                                                                                  Gotta agree. I work as a server and even when I know the person is wrong (we write everything down in very specific shorthand) I still blame it on ME misunderstanding and I apologize. A couple of times it was clear that the other person said what they didn't mean and their dining companions agreed that they had ordered wrong and I brought the right thing. Even then, I assure them it's no big deal to get what they really want ASAP.

                                                                                  Most recently I waited on 2 guys. The first ordered a steak and so did the second. When the food runner went to drop it off, they said second guy had ordered Salmon. I thought he said "same," and despite the fact that I asked him how he wanted it prepared and the discussion then went to me explaining that the meat is Prime and he can have it as rare as he wants, that didn't ring a bell for him that I was talking steak. I didn't bother trying to make him feel stupid for not realizing there's no such thing as a Prime salmon and fish isn't called meat, so he should've realized there was a miscommunication. Some people would do that, to show it's not their fault, but it was my fault, I apologized, and he tipped me 20%.

                                                                                  1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                    You sound like a good server, wanting to help the customer to feel good and want to return, and knowing that you'd rather be tipped well than to prove how "right " you were and how "wrong" or stupid the customer was. Had a server gotten argumentative with me over this issue, tip would automatically go form 20% to 10%. And you're right in that it was your fault: you should have read the order back to them.

                                                                                    1. re: Leonardo

                                                                                      Eh. I was a server for a looooong time. I think there's a time and a place to admit fault. If you (the server) admit to making a mistake, many people ding the tip for it or think you're an idiot. I never admitted to mistakes that weren't mine, yet I was the first person to apologize if the mistake was mine.

                                                                                      It doesn't matter who was right and who was wrong. I've had tables where everyone agreed with me that one guest ordered X when he was insisting he ordered Y. No one wins in those situations. As I stated, I would never admit guilt if I thought I was correct, so a simple "Sir, there must have been a misunderstanding. I'll have Y for you in just a few moments" always worked nicely and is blamelss.

                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                        No objection at all to that. A mistake was made. Who cares how? The important thing is fixing the situation and getting on with the eating part. I don't need waiters to fall on their swords (bic pens?) with mea culpas. I just don't want blame thrown in my face when a server mis-hears.

                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                          How about just "I am very sorry sir. Let me take this away and get you what you want." and then expo it in the kitchen and see to it that "Mr. No Plate In Front of Him" has something to nosh or sip on while he waits.

                                                                                          Tinkering with words so you can remain blameless is trifling and - for the waiter - is far more likely to get your patron miffed than a simple sorry and quick fix. WHO CARES if your feelings ans sensibilities are bruised. Serve well, take your tips home.

                                                                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                            "How about just "I am very sorry sir."

                                                                                            I'm not sorry the customer misordered, let alone very sorry.

                                                                                            I see no reason to appease adults and treat them like children. A mistake was made and rectified as quickly as possible. The only important part is getting the guest what he wants as quickly as possible. I'm not sorry the dude ordered the wrong dinner.

                                                                                            I don't use that verbiage to avoid "hurting my feelings", I do it to remain professional and keep it fairly impersonal and low key. When I dine, I don't care if my waiter is sorry something goes wrong; I simply want the problem fixed quickly and with minimal drama. "Sorry" is meaningless.

                                                                                            When, for example, the kitchen overcooks/salts/etc. my meal, and the waiter apologizes, I know he/she is placating me. He didn't make the mistake, the kitchen did. He has nothing to be sorry about. He upheld his end of the bargain.

                                                                                            We're taught as children that saying sorry makes everything better. I think that's B.S. Adults don't need to be coddled.

                                                                                            Professionally, do you frequently take the blame for mistakes that have nothing to do with you? If so, my side of the conversation is over, as I'll never understand your point of view.

                                                                                  2. What do you do when it IS what you ordered, but it is revolting anyway?

                                                                                    A few months ago, in Asian Legend on Yonge, I ordered a pork dish whose name I forget (something like "Twice cooked pork") and it turned out to have large chunks of fat attached to the meat.

                                                                                    I complained to the maitre d' who just said "That's the style". Well, maybe it is, there must be some people who like large chunks of fat, but I'm not one. I told him that he coud at least put a description on the menu, so that uneducated jerks like me could know what they are going to get.

                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ekammin

                                                                                      If you'd like to become less of an "uneducated jerk", and learn about other cuisines, the way to do it is via an open mind and eagerness to learn. This means forcing yourself to eat things which sometimes turn out to be challenging for you (or gracefully asking for the dish to be wrapped to go and writing off the loss). Consider for a moment that 95% of the restaurants around you are completely devoted to suiting your taste. Why go into those few places explicitly devoted to suiting OTHER tastes...and indignantly expect them to suit YOUR taste? It's crazy! Would you skip the shopping malls and chain stores to seek out an Indian sari shop....and then complain bitterly that they don't stock miniskirts or sweater vests?

                                                                                      Gringos huffily insisting that ethnic restaurants cook to please their gringo palates rather than do what they obviously are there to do (i.e. cook their authentic styles) are the reason so many such restaurants water down and pander their cooking when outsiders come in. That's why I can't, for the life of me, get most Thai restaurants to properly spice my food. Too many huffy gringos have been all in their faces.

                                                                                      Thai food is spicy. Sichuan food is fatty. If people don't want to experience authentic Otherness, what are they doing there in the first place? Leave these places to natives and to hip chowhoundish outsiders. Or come in humbly and learn.

                                                                                      1. re: ekammin

                                                                                        hah, i can't tell you how many times i've ordered items that sound great on the menu, but weren't to my taste at all. i'm pretty sure that the proper response is just to suck it up and deal, and not order that dish on your next visit!

                                                                                        for whatever it's worth, that pork dish (probably pork belly) sounds wonderful to me. a lot of folks eat fatty pork belly, esp. braised, for the very tender texture, as well as for the flavor. i agree that it's an acquired taste. i don't think i started liking it until my early 20s.

                                                                                        1. re: ekammin

                                                                                          And to follow up on what Jim is saying, it's like trying to send a bottle of wine back when there's nothing wrong with it, other than it doesn't taste like what you expected or are used to.
                                                                                          Other than issues of improperly cooked food, you ordered it you pay for it. Work around the fat?
                                                                                          Jim, having said that, I can understand these kinds of reactions being commonplace. We all have to break out of our rut occasionally or start somewhere. Perhaps ekammin falls into the category of a new, emerging Chowhounder who is trying to learn and broaden their horizons. OTOH, Asian Legend doesn't seem to be one of those high-end places people rave about (as much as they complain about it), so it might be a stretch that they were just doing authentic Sichuan.

                                                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                                                            "Jim, having said that, I can understand these kinds of reactions being commonplace. "We all have to break out of our rut occasionally or start somewhere. Perhaps ekammin falls into the category of a new, emerging Chowhounder who is trying to learn and broaden their horizons. OTOH, Asian Legend doesn't seem to be one of those high-end places people rave about (as much as they complain about it), so it might be a stretch that they were just doing authentic Sichuan."

                                                                                            Scargod, I agree there is a "new emerging CHer" category. We all have to start somewhere in our quest for knowledge and good food. But inexperience and ignorance should not be an excuse for boorish behavior.

                                                                                            If you order something, and it is exactly what you ordered but not to your taste, well, I feel you need to suck it up and pay for what you ordered. It is your right to never order it again, or perhaps never go to the resto in question again but at that moment, you got what you ordered, and so you should pay. New CHers should chalk this up to experience and learn from their mistake, instead of blaming the resto for not explaining the item well enough, or for not anticipating their particular preference in a dish.

                                                                                            Despite our expectations, servers are not mind readers. For some, pork refers to fatless tenderloin. For others, pork means bacon and fatty pork belly. After reading so many threads where people argue about the best way to prepare Dish X or Y, or what people hate or love, it is clear that there are as many ways to think about food as there are grains of sand on a beach. Why do we expect every resto to get it exactly right for every customer? If that is the way they serve it, so be it. Pay and move on.

                                                                                            Of course, if you ordered chicken and they bring you venison, then you have a leg to stand on. Especially if there is no language issue. But I was amused by the Chinese Okra example brought up earlier in the thread. Poster thought they were served cucumber instead of regular okra. Server brought them what they thought the customer asked for, Chinese okra. There is a basic misunderstanding about the meaning of the word okra. For this, should you blame and punish the resto? What part of the blame should be laid on the customer, who has entered a Chinese resto, and has not informed him/herself about the differences in names of produce? If they order something they are not familiar with, and it does not please them, why should they get off scot free and not pay for what they ordered?

                                                                                            This situation is not limited to businesses where there may be a language issue, such as Asian restos. There are plenty of times when I am in my own culture and language, and my expectations are not met. For example, I might order a bowl of chili, and get a bowl without any beans because that is the style of chili traditionally served in that part of the States. If I had my heart set on beans in my chili, I am out of luck, but I am still going to pay for my meal.

                                                                                            I might order a hot dog in different part of the country, and in each place I will receive a different item, some with no ketchup and only mustard, some with sauekraut, some with fried peppers and onions, etc. If I am particularly fussy about what goes on my hot dog, then It is my responsibility to convey my preferences to the person serving me the hot dog (eg. please, no ketchup, only mustard). I can't assume the server is going to guess exactly how I like my hot dog. If I make no attempt to communicate my preference, and I get what I ordered, I pay. I don't have a hissy fit (What kind of a place puts ketchup on a hot dog?? This is outrageous! I am not paying, this is not what I wanted!!). I chalk it up to experience, and pay. If the resto makes an effort to fix the situation, well that is a bonus. But if I ordered it, I pay.

                                                                                            (BTW I like ketchup on my hot dog. Just an example.)

                                                                                            1. re: moh

                                                                                              Agreed. Only once have I ever ordered something that, although properly prepared, was totally inedible, and it was my fault. I was at lunch in Paris with a colleague and ordered the "saucisson andouille." My friend tried to warn me that it was an acquired taste, but I had Louisiana-style andouille sausages in my mind and insisted I wanted it. Big mistake! French andouille (or at least the regional variation served at this establishment) is a tripe sausage, and the way this was made was such that when I sliced it open, out poured a mess of gristly lumps that looked (and smelled!) exactly like vomit.

                                                                                              I tried to eat it - I really did - but couldn't get through more than a couple of bites. I gave up and ordered something else, but still took responsibility (and paid for) both dishes.

                                                                                              1. re: BobB

                                                                                                LOL andouilette is the only food I've ever had to spit out.

                                                                                                I bought it at the grocery store not knowing what it was while I was living in France.

                                                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                                                  I'm no newcomer to world cuisines, but this has happened more than once to me, and even recently (I'm not an "adventure" eater; while I'm very open-minded and willing to try stuff, I'm not looking for the thrill of a challenge).

                                                                                                  When it happens, I'm extremely careful to hide the issue. I ask for the plate to go, I surreptitiously scrape it into a napkin, I do whatever I can so the house doesn't know. My reasons:

                                                                                                  1. Don't want to insult their culture.

                                                                                                  2. Don't want to feed the assumption that gringos won't appreciate their food (which will make it harder for those who come after me to get the real, authentic stuff)

                                                                                                  3. Sheer pride of hoping to be accepted as a hip paisano and hating to come off as a tourist.

                                                                                                  Of course, the subtler issue (and, my, we're getting far afield!) is when a place does a seriously bad job with a dish, and you're hip enough to the cuisine to know it. When that happens and I say something and find myself being treated as an imperious gringo who simply doesn't know the cuisine...that really infuriates me. If, say, a Korean restaurant refries a pre-made Hae mool Pajun to heat it for serving (an absolutely disgusting practice that's becoming ubiquitous), and I complain, and they allude to my non-Korean-ness, I'm likely to turn green, bust out of my clothing and flex my lats like Lou Ferrigno.

                                                                                                  But you'd better be damned sure you know your stuff before you complain under such circumstances. When in doubt, my first impulse is shame re: my own limitations.

                                                                                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                    Premade haemul pajon??? ACKK! Sacrilege!!

                                                                                                  2. re: BobB

                                                                                                    A Chowhound classic: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/261442

                                                                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                                                                      Great story BobB! There is no shame in trying and not liking... And thanks for the tip - I'll be well-prepared for my next trip to France. I suspect I may not be the biggest fan of French andouille, and advance knowledge is a good way to prepare. I have this feeling if I ever encounter this stuff, your very vivd description might just pop into my mind.

                                                                                                    2. re: moh

                                                                                                      I agree for the most part. If you order lasagna and then you take a bite and decide you don't like cheese, pasta, and meat all together, that's on you.

                                                                                                      I've rarely sent food back. Overcooked steak or a fish that's funky are the exceptions. Most recently I ordered a chicken dish that had an apple glaze on it. It literally tasted like caramel. I sent it back because I knew that the problem was with the execution, not my personal tastes. I'm not a picky eater and the other person in our party agreed that it tasted like dessert chicken. In that case, I think they'd rather know that something's amiss than for us to quietly suck it up and never return.

                                                                                                      1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                                        well this whole section struck a chord with me as a diner and a former restaurant worker.... thanks you all for agreeing that you can't (or certainly, SHOULDN'T) send back food or wine solely because you don't like it - price you pay for trying something interesting, I say.

                                                                                                2. It happened on an intercontinental flight in a crowded wide-body plane many years ago. The attendant took our dinner orders.

                                                                                                  Later, when she passed the tray to me, I said "Pardon me, this is someone else's dinner. I had the beef." (Passing the tray back.)

                                                                                                  "You ordered the chicken. I have you down for chicken" (looking very annoyed.)

                                                                                                  "No, I ordered the beef."

                                                                                                  "I heard her order the beef" said someone a couple of seats down. (Bless you, my planemate.)

                                                                                                  "We're out of beef, so you'll have to keep this one."

                                                                                                  This immediately set off my BS detector. I HATE being beee-esssed. I really really resent it. That's a thing with me. I said "So bring me anything else. I don't eat chicken breast."

                                                                                                  I was pleasantly surprised when I later got served the beef. I fully expected to be stiffed by my miffed stewardess. Maybe because I had witnesses and a supporter, they made things right.

                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                    >>>"We're out of beef, so you'll have to keep this one."

                                                                                                    This immediately set off my BS detector. I HATE being beee-esssed. I really really resent it. That's a thing with me. I said "So bring me anything else. I don't eat chicken breast."<<<<

                                                                                                    good girl, sharuf!!! i too have a keen b.s. detector. i know how you feel about the "convenient" lie the stewardess told you -- treating you with such disrespect as a customer.

                                                                                                    BUT i MUST know: what did she and you say when she served you the beef? or did another attendant bring it? did she have the 'tude for the entire flight after that?

                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                      You know, I've been reading this thread, and something strikes me...what if the servers are trying to BS you into thinking you ordered something you didn't because THEY are the ones that will pay...

                                                                                                      Someone mentioned recently on one of the boards being docked by their boss (restaurant owner) for returned food, dropped food, etc...

                                                                                                      What if it is common practice in certain restaurants to dock server's pay for messing up the orders?? If you knew it was going to cost you money, maybe you would argue too......

                                                                                                      1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                        It is illegal to make servers pay for mistakes whether it be an incorrect order or a broken glass etc... If your owner docks you REPORT THEM.

                                                                                                        1. re: trask

                                                                                                          is that federal employment law?

                                                                                                          1. re: trask

                                                                                                            No it's not necessarily "illegal".
                                                                                                            Nearly all such laws are local.
                                                                                                            Such a blanket general statement holds no water.

                                                                                                            1. re: Leonardo

                                                                                                              It is according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. I have written a long post on another thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/627388# that goes into detail including court cases and specific sections in the FLSA and other DOL docs.

                                                                                                        2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                          Another attendant brought the replacement.

                                                                                                          As for the rest of the flight, the plane was so full, and the middle row so large (maybe seven seats wide) and the attendants so busy that I had no further dealings with her.

                                                                                                          1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                            well, i'm glad they found you your beef.

                                                                                                            i guess it would've been a little risky (and rude) to pipe up "where's the beef?!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug75di...

                                                                                                        3. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                          I wonder if I was that person on your flight or if such things are more common than I had imagined. I am afraid to complain on flights anymore. I do not want a surprise rousting from my seat by the federales when we land.

                                                                                                          Were you sitting First Class, U.S. Air Philly to somewhere in Western Euro? Maybe Paris... a few years back??

                                                                                                        4. Fortunately for a fellow sailor several years ago, he was NOT brought what he ordered.

                                                                                                          We were in the Navy and had pulled into a port in Morocco. A bunch of us went out to dinner at a fairly nice place, where we new the menu would be bilingual...we just didn't know it would be Arabic...and French. Not to worry. Several of us had enough high school French to decipher the menu and safely order...in English. One in our party thought he would impress the rest of us by ordering in French. To his embarrassment, the waiter replied, " I am sorry, sir, but do you realize you have requested I bring you a medium rare broiled tractor?" I'm not sure what he thought he was ordering, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't it.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                                            Tracteur grillé?

                                                                                                          2. I would very politely state that the dish they had brought was distasteful to me as I have a food allergy to one or more of the components of the dish and that I would never have ordered it. Especially if you know with 100% certainty that you did not order this dish. If the server still refused, I would request to speak to manager. Luckily I have never been in this situation before, as I may have gotten up to leave if they insisted I ordered something I did not and refused to exchange the dish.

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: ScarlettNola

                                                                                                              Please don't tell people you have a food allergy when you don't. This is the sort of thing that leads to people with real allergies not being taken seriously. Saying that you can't stand the food in question works just the same. Maybe say it makes you vomit copiously and offer to take a bite and show them.

                                                                                                              1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                Very true. My oldest daughter does have a food allergy so we must be very cautious, but my husband has sent a dish back that was made with feta that he specifically asked them to 86 the feta as it literally makes him nauseous, so I suppose that works just as well. Obviously, I have not been in a situation where a server insists that I ordered something that I did not, I was just trying to find a way to send the dish back without a problem. I certainly do NOT advocate lying as scabgod suggested below. If you read the statement I made, I said I would do whatever necessary "especially if i know you 100 percent certainty that I did not order it.". I would never lie in order to receive a new dish, knowing that I ordered something else. Not sure where the misunderstanding is coming into play. I know too much about the back kitchen in restaurants to pursue an active argument with a server about the state of my food. I just don't see this happening in a fine dining establishment without the server being chastised by a manager. I do, however, see this happening in a chain restaurant with more frequency.

                                                                                                                1. re: ScarlettNola

                                                                                                                  ScarletNose, I did suggest (with “sounds like”), that you were advocating lying, but I added that it was supposition (you say you haven’t used this tactic and you might never personally do it). I haven't called you a liar, just an advocate.

                                                                                                                  You first stated, “I would very politely state that the dish they had brought was distasteful to me as I have a food allergy to one or more of the components of the dish and that I would never have ordered it.”*
                                                                                                                  Then you add (as if to legitimize the first sentence), “Especially if you know with 100% certainty that you did not order this dish.”

                                                                                                                  You said later, after my comment, “My oldest daughter does have a food allergy so we must be very cautious”, but you don't claim any allergies.
                                                                                                                  “I was just trying to find a way to send the dish back without a problem.”
                                                                                                                  Whatever works for you, I guess.

                                                                                                                  *Your first statement was “a generality”. "Especially" (in the follow-up sentence), speaks to "particular or specific", thus “100% certainty” is “specific”. That’s how I read it and I don't think the ploy in your suggested "generality" should be condoned.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                    I thought this particular post was about what one would do in the event a server argued with them about ordering a dish, not what you would condone.I was assuming that if all tactics failed a claimed food allergy could make them return the dish. I have been properly chastised and see the error of my sinful ways.

                                                                                                              2. re: ScarlettNola

                                                                                                                "Especially if you know with 100% certainty that you did not order it..."

                                                                                                                Sounds like you are advocating lying, even if you are not 100% positive. But then, you've never been in this situation and all this is supposition.

                                                                                                              3. If you don't get what you think you ordered send it back politely, but stand your ground you can refuse delivery on food just like anything else. I would lose my job if I refused to replace a meal for any reason, it's not the servers job to say no, it's the mgmt's. There also have been many times that costumer is actually wrong and did order incorrectly, but even in that situation you have to be gracious. Someone who has to be right, even if they are, will never last as a server. Costumers will sometimes only read the first few words on the menu and then insist they were brought the wrong thing. ( Can't tell you how many people have been angry that the beefsteak tomato salad didn't include a beef steak).

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: trask

                                                                                                                  heh. how about "lobster mushroom risotto"-- with full description of lobster mushroooms. . .that it's a vegetarian dish. . . it costs $7. . . customer says: "there's no lobster in this." well, duh.

                                                                                                                  1. re: trask

                                                                                                                    At first read I found this hysterical, but on second thought I realized that the only reason I know the term beefsteak tomato is because I grow them. I can't recall ever seeing it in a non-gardening context.

                                                                                                                    I'm not saying the customer shouldn't have read the menu more carefully, just that I can see how it would be easy to make that kind of mistake.

                                                                                                                  2. Maybe open up the menu when you order and point at the same time as you verbalize what you want? I usually do that, I eat out a lot and I've never had an abusive server insist I ordered something I didn't.

                                                                                                                    If that did happen, I'd just say "it's impossible that I would have ordered X, I don't care for it, you must have mis-heard me. Please take it away and bring me Y that I ordered". If they gave me attitude and I don't mind it, it's just not what I ordered, I'd probably eat it, pay for it and think hard about whether I'd ever go back. If I really didn't care for it and they refused to replace it I'd probably just leave, only paying for what I'd had.

                                                                                                                    1. I have only encountered one server that was unwilling to bend to what she brought out to our table and what we ordered. Since my wife has a few food-based allergies that could end up with the business end of an EPI pen in her leg, she is VERY specific as to what she orders. Prefacing this reasoning during the order phase has mostly helped prevent any misunderstandings during delivery. The one time a waitress chose to go off on her a simple, "Get your manager. Now." was enough. We weren't the first table that night but we were her last.

                                                                                                                      If the manager isn't willing to work with you, then the suggestion of leaving then-and-there is often the trump card necessary to get your point across. It is totally inconvenient but so is that restaurant losing your business.

                                                                                                                      1. A late reply, my bad.

                                                                                                                        I'm employed by domino's (hence the name) and i have actually had a similar situation. Except in this case, I personally took the order and repeated it back to the customer to ensure that I didn't make a mistake. Got the all good from the customer and proceeded.
                                                                                                                        (From that point on, my butt was safe from any other issues.)
                                                                                                                        The customer received their order then called back and decided to tell me they ordered something else, to which I promptly informed them of what they ordered, and that they confirmed it. After that they said "oh alright, i must have mistaken myself".

                                                                                                                        The best thing you can do, in any food (or other related) shop, is to ask for the server to repeat the order back before they go. So this way, you can be sure you order what you wanted. If it comes out as what you didn't order, that's fair. Ask for a replacement. :)

                                                                                                                        1. This happened to us years ago in a small Indian restaurant on a visit where i recognized our server as the manager (and possibly owner). It was only my third Indian meal so I was still in the wading pool and ordered chicken tikka masala. I received chicken tikka saag. I was looking at him when I spoke, and while I understand that the "sa" sound was the reason he misheard, he should have seen that I was speaking three syllables, not one. I am not a mumbler, nor is my voice particularly soft. He was a graying gentleman, so perhaps his hearing was not the best. He insisted, rather unpleasantly, that I had ordered chicken tikka saag. I told him that I would eat it, but it was not what I wanted or ordered. It was okay, but ctm would have been better. We did not tip. If I were a server, I think it would occur to me that if I copped an attitude with a customer, I would likely be forfeiting the tip, but in going through these posts, I only noticed one mention of ramifications for the gratuity.

                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                            if he took it back he probably would have had the price of the dish docked from his pay, far more than the tip you were going to leave. something i just learned about recently.

                                                                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                              ....which is also why waiters don't like to bring outsiders spicy food even if you beg. If it's too spicy, and you send it back, they get docked.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                hello jim leff! nice to see you on the boards. thank you so much for creating chowhound! it consumes way too much of my time! ;-).

                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                  Strange....people keep welcoming me back...but I never left! See my profile page! Glad you like Chowhound, though!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                    LOL! Well, we don't often see you on the topical boards (at least I don't), so it's always nice to see a thread revived. :-)

                                                                                                                                    But at least people are remembering your name is not Jeff, as I recall one thread commenter always referring to you. :-)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                      lindaW, that's for the blackberry --- "jeff" saves texting time! LOL.

                                                                                                                                      and jim, i did look at your profile page when i saw your name pop up. i was surprised that you *have* indeed been on the boards, but i've just missed them. i am usually on home cooking; i find this NAF board to often be very treacherous!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                        but thats what makes it worthwhile, isn't it? I think they need a specially trained moderator for this board and one for general chowhounding, but aside from that......