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I'm a regular at this place for over ten years, should I be offended?


Another thread got me thinking about this. I'm a hardcore pool player. I've been frequenting this high end (nice food, micro brews) pool hall for 10+ years. I started going when I was a poor student. At that time I was going maybe 3 times a week, and spending about 80% of my very disposable income there. I know the owners there pretty well, have been to parties at their home. I have always tipped very well. I've introduced friends and family to the place. In all I've been a great customer, if not a friend to these people.

However, the last time I went there with friends, my buddy ordered a beer that he'd never tried before. It turns out that he didn't like. He returned it and asked for something else. At the end of the night we were settling the check and I see that we have been charged for the beer. I asked our server if she could take it off the bill. She goes to consult with the bartender (who has been working there almost as long as I've been going there). She returns and apologizes that she can't take it off the bill. So I asked the bartender about it and he told me that he would not refund us because there was nothing wrong with the product. Wow, I thought, is this how you show appreciation to a long time customer? I was so pissed off and actually a little hurt to be treated this way. It has soured my relationship with the place and I may never return.

So what do you think? Did I overeact? Or does a long time customer deserve special consideration?

  1. You over reacted ....you should have been treated better with regards to consideration for your past patronage....but really, all this angst over a beer? As the bartender noted, there was nothing wrong with it and it was ordered by your friend, not you, and I can only surmise your friend is not a regular from the details provided.

    Sounds to me like there is a untold story in the tipping department somewhere in this story.....if you want to make a statement, next time have the bartender run you a separate tab and voice your displeasure with him.....the server has no place in this argument to be punished in any way, as she was only doing her job.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fourunder

      Oh, I absolutely agree with you that the server has no place in the argument. She was brand new and had no idea who I was. Her tip was in no way affected by how I felt about the situation.

    2. It would have been nice for them to have not charges you but there is no reason for you to expect the refund. It's not like they can sell the unused portion to another customer but I think most sensible business people would not have charged a regular.

      I'm sure you've gotten your share of freebies and other considerations in the past. I'd just write this incident off and continue enjoying the place and not let this incident color your views too much.

      1. If the beer were "off" ie skunky, or flat then I could see taking it off the bill. Take a drink off the tab because someone decided he didn't like it? No.

        3 Replies
        1. re: maplesugar

          Well thats not how I would run a business. My friend ordered something else to replace the beer. I think the beer should have been written off as spillage as a sign of good faith. Thats what I did when I was a bartender.

          1. re: haggisdragon

            I agree with you haggis. At my restaurant we take things off the bill that people don't like. Obviously not if they drink or eat most of eat, but it is the cost of doing business to take it back if someone doesn't like it. Especially, if somone is giving you a lot of business.

            1. re: haggisdragon

              Did he get charged for the replacement? The vast majority of places seem to consider a replacement the same as a credit. A credit would be if you decided you didn't want anything else. Not saying I love it, but this seems to be standard practice at most places. They do not have a concept of a higher degree of service.

          2. I agree with the other posters.

            There was a better way to handle this though. You mentioned "...my buddy ordered a beer that he'd never tried before." I always ask if I could get a small taste before ordering a brew I've never tried. Most places are happy to offer up a small taste and it solves the problem of ordering something that doesn't suit your palate.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Dee S

              I alway offer customers a sample if they ask about a beer and "It's a pale ale from Chicago" or whatever isn't satisfying. An ounce or two of beer is well worth the hassle later - as long as people don't think they're at an ice cream parlor.

              1. re: corneygirl

                I've never heard of any bartender turning down a customer asking for a sample especially if it's not very busy. If it's slammed it may not be the best time to try something new.

              2. re: Dee S

                A nearby microbrewery / food joint, offers a sampler selection of all their beers, for cost. It's a nice way to try things out. However, even that aside, they do offer a single sample if you want to try before buying.

                1. re: im_nomad

                  thats fine if its on tap. If you order a bottle, expect to pay for it. if they don't charge you thats a nice gesture, but certainly not expected.

              3. Bartenders who comp drinks for friends and "good" customers create a significant loss in profits. This bartender made a business decision and if I were you I wouldn't take it personally. Like the server, he was only doing his job.

                1. H

                  Jfood is not being argumentative with this question and scenarios.

                  There is a difference between a regular and a good customer. Some people believe that a regular is a good customer by showing up and ordering. This may be the case for the owner (who invited you to a house party) but what about the bartender. If someone shows up all the time and orders from the bartender, but does not leave a decent tip, or has been comped in the past and the tip did not reflect that comp or a variety of other permutations, at some point the bartender places the comps to a different customer. If that bartender who said "no" had been adequately compensated by you over the years for buy-backs (jfood hopes he is using that term correctly) or comps then s/he is just a yutz. But if, over the years the bartender has been good to you and the quid-pro-quo did not go his/her way then the bartender was probably sending a message.

                  You may want to think back on the past and see if there may have been a reason for the bartender's actions in this case.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: jfood


                    I would have to give the benefit of doubt to haggisdragon on this one. He mentions upthread he did not let the situation affect his gratuity to the server and he mentions that he is a former bartender himself. He even offers how he would have handled the situation.

                    The only message I take from this is the bartender made a poor decision. In my opinion, hd is both a regular and good customer from his past patronage. Unless the bartender is the owner of the pool hall, I believe once (hd) brought his concern to the attention of the bartender personally, he should have corrected the action and given him a refund or offered him a beer for next time....

                    1. re: fourunder

                      That is why jfood started as he did, he is not making jusgement at all.

                      He apologizes if it came across that way...oh the problem of the written word on CH.

                      1. re: jfood

                        I see no need or reason to apologize....I alluded to the same thoughts in my initial post.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          jfood's sensitivities are a little elevated from other threads. Thanks for the post

                    2. re: jfood

                      jfood, given your scenarios, I'm going to have to say the bartender is just a yutz.

                      1. re: haggisdragon

                        both good and bad to know.

                        life is full of eye-opening experiences

                        1. re: jfood

                          "life is full of eye-opening experiences"

                          Perfectly put. That is exactly how I felt at the time. I believe I said "Thanks for the wake up call" just before I left.

                    3. Well, you haven't been going to parties at the bartender's house, but at the owner's house. The bartender is just doing his job. If all bartenders comped all regulars here and there, I would think that bars would be losing a lot of money. The judgment call on comping the beer IMO would have fallen to the owner, and since they weren't there and/or didn't see the situation to suggest different reaction from the bartender, not much you can do about it.

                      As has been said in many threads, there is a difference between ordering something where there is something wrong with the food/drink and ordering something that you didn't like. You either order something you know you like, or something you can try a little bit beforehand to know whether or not you like it, or you consume it (or leave it sit if you can't stomach it), but you still have to pay for it.

                      1. As a business owner(not a restaurant), If one of my employees had taken it upon themselves to piss off a customer of 10+ years, over a lousy pint of beer, I would have had "words" with said employee. It isn't the employees place to make such calls, even if the regular was a lousy tipper! The bartender works for the Owner, not the customer. If I were that Owner, Here is how I would handle the problem with the bartender(and this is really a problem with the tender...) "Look, I know you were on some level trying to protect MY bottom line....or at least I hope that was your intention. That being said, you need to look at the grand picture here. That customer has been spending literally THOUSANDS of dollars here for YEARS. Add in the fact that they are MY FRIEND(s) and you should be able to see how short sighted your refusal to pour them another beer, while comping the first one, really was. I hope this doesn't happen again."

                        Of course, this all goes out the window if this edict came down from the owner.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: nkeane

                          I agree, but I work at a place that is known for great customer service. Someone doesn't like something, we take it off the bill. People have ordered things, taken one look at it and said they don't want it before they even take a bite. Others order things that they have no idea what it is. People order extra well done filet mignon and then complain it's dry.

                          Yes, it definitely is a waste and raises food costs, but in the end, it helps build sales. People come in knowing they can try something new and that we stand behind our products.

                          It shouldn't be necessary for someone to lie and say, "This tastes stale" for them to not pay for something they hate. At the end of the day, it's a small number of people that send things back, and it's totally a different story when someone drinks 3/4 of something THEN says they don't like it.

                          1. re: Azizeh

                            Agreed and, as another posted mentioned, spillage is figured into the bottom line. Yes, its true it was the customers fault, not the house. However, sometimes you bend the rules for regulars or just because its good business. It's all situational and nothing is written in stone - unless its a corporate chain establishement. :)

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              Agreed but should you get all bent out of shape to the point of not returning over 1 drink over the span of 10 years?

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                Absolutely not. Hell, if it bothered him that badly he should've spoken w/ management who would've likely comped it.

                              2. re: lynnlato

                                If it were at a corporate chain establishment, the beer would have been removed from the bill by the manager without question.

                            2. re: nkeane

                              I guess my question would be whether or not you've made this policy clear with your staff. If you have, did you also provide some guidance in terms of which customers are considered regulars? And if an employee made a judgment call and comped someone who you didn't consider to be a regular, would you handle it in a kind, polite manner? Because in my experience working in customer service, employers with ideas like these did a pretty crappy job of articulating their vision to their employees.

                            3. My thought are the same as yours haggisdragon. It should not matter if there is something wrong with the product or not. It should not even matter if you are a regular customer or not (since you are, it looks even worse, I agree). The product should be removed from the bill regardless of the circumstances. This is basic business sense. The only reason for not issuing a refund would be if most of the beer was consumed. In these times, restaurants ect., should jump at the chance to make a customer happy. I would also be very upset if this happened to me. You should talk to the owners, you are their eyes and ears, they would like to know what happened I'm sure. They will probably want to talk to their bartender, or put a policy in place, if they don't already have one.

                              1. I;ve now read the 19 replies plus your post and found what I consider an important question unanswered,
                                Was this Tap or Bottled beer?

                                If Tap, it should have come off the bill.

                                If bottled, it might come out of the bartender's pocket if he took it off the bill.

                                More years aggo than I'd like to admit, I tended bar while in college, and we were allowed to comp a draft beer, tap soda or the last drink in the pottle, BUT never bottled beer. They were inventoried at the start and end of the shift and we were even responsible for breakage. If a server took the bottle from the bar, it had to be billed, if the server broke it or dropped/spilled it, the server had to but the replacement--owner's rules.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Is that legal in any of the states? I know in California we can't be charged for breakage, food costs (mistakes), or if a guest walks out on a check. Of course we will have to sacrifice the tip, but that's it.

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    It was tap. And a good question bagelman01. Where I bar tended bottles were inventoried nightly, and whomever was on shift was responsible. Where as draft was inventoried biweekly and as long as it balanced out in the end everybody was happy.

                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                      Tap? Should have been comp'd, no question - though with tap, there's even more reason (and a far better chance of success) to ask for a small taste before ordering if it's a beer you haven't tried before. You might not want to close the iron door until you've spoken to the owner, but based on the what you've described here, the bartender definitely mishandled this one.

                                      1. re: haggisdragon

                                        Jfood was sitting at the bar eatin some great food last Thursday when the guy next to him looked at the bartender said, "Maybe I'll try a glass of ABC" and pointed to the tap. The bartender (who was outstanding took two small glasses and gave the guy a little of tow brands making sure they were taking in the correct order. Jfood was very impressed by her actions. He tatsed both, chose one, smiled and said, "You know, I gotta bring my wife here for dinner next week."

                                        Lesson #2 learned. Your buddy should now know to ask for a taste if on tap as well the next time. If bartender refuses, well ehough said.

                                        1. re: haggisdragon

                                          That's the way it was those 35+ years ago when I tended bar in Philadelphia............

                                      2. A bar or restaurant has no obligation to pay for something that you don't like. This is especially true if the product is not made by them, such as beer. So legally and morally, it was the correct decision to charge for the beer.
                                        On the other hand, it seems a reasonable courtesy to make an exception for a long time customer.
                                        Finally, in my opinion, you are overreacting. They didn't treat you badly, and in the end, it's just one beer.

                                        1. it's all been said, but i'm going to say it too.

                                          everyone is a little wrong in this situation.

                                          you cannot expect them to not charge you. but they shouldn't have charged you.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: thew


                                            if it's all been said...and since you agree and have reiterated the same.......

                                            are you a little wrong too?


                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              i usually am.

                                              but i'm usually more right ;)

                                            2. re: thew

                                              Others may have said it before you, but nobody said it better.

                                            3. If I returned a drink to the bar and the bartender took it, then gave me a different one, I would assume it was returned product and I wouldn't be charged. (I've never done this before though.) If this wasn't the case, the bartender should have let your friend know they would be charged for the first beer before giving him the second. Maybe your friend would have been willing to drink the beer if he knew he had to pay for it, or another friend would want it, or whatever.

                                              1. Why the heck would you think that you not liking a bar should be grounds for getting it comped? You ordered it, and it was exactly what you ordered - it isn't as if they screwed it up somehow.

                                                People really astound me with the things they believe they should get comped on.

                                                1. I must confess to being torn on this one. I agree with some that throwing away a 10-year relationship with a bar based on the one experience seems extreme. I also wonder about this demand for comps that seems to have gone a bit mad in recent days. I guess I say so because regardless of the cost to the restaurant, there seems something so wasteful about ordering a full glass of anything just to throw it away if it is not to one's taste. There are sober people in India, for goodness sakes!

                                                  I think a replacement would have been a nice gesture, but better would have been, as others gave noted, the provision of a taste first. If something is on tap, or is a wine that is served by the glass, it seems perfectly reasonable to get a taste first (unlike food, it is harder to assess the taste of beer or wine when only seen on the menu). If I ordered something unknown without asking for a taste first, I'm not sure I'd feel right in refusing it and demanding a replacement free of charge-- even if a relationship suggested it were "due" me.

                                                  That said, I once had the experience of buying a set of coffee drinks from a café after which I spilled one of the drinks (I can't remember the exact situation, but no, I was not drunk). The barrista/owner, seeing this happen, could have provided me with a replacement free of charge but instead, seeing this go down, charged me for the replacement.

                                                  This struck me as a bad plan because anyone who spills a drink already feels bad enough about the whole thing making the gesture of a fresh drink very much appreciated. It's a kindness that is offered and recognised, producing the goodwill that brings repeat customers-- something that nickel and diming will never accomplish.

                                                  Hence my ambivalence, making Thew's observation and suggestion the best one. Not required, but a good idea.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Lizard

                                                    Many years ago I took my family to Disneyworld. At one point I bought a large soda for my 5 year old son, and within seconds after I handed it to him, it slipped from his hands and fell to the ground. The young woman working behind the stand saw this, immediately filled another large container and handed it to me, with a gracious smile - no charge. Clearly this was corporate policy (executed with grace and class by the employee), and even more clearly, it's the kind of level of service that makes lifelong customers of the Disney empire.

                                                    1. re: Striver

                                                      Disney can certainly afford it because they charge exorbitant prices for anything and everything. I have to go there every year, begrudgingly, for soccer tournaments and it seems every year they find new and inventive ways to take your hard-earned dollars. But you're right, every employee has a smile on their face.

                                                      1. re: lynnlato

                                                        Partly my point but slightly reversed - one of the reasons Disney can get away with charging the prices they do is because the customer gets treated well in return for his money. Treat the clients like kings, and they'll pay for the experience in the same coin.

                                                        To be sure, a neighborhood bar/resto is not playing in the same arena, but if you don't at least treat your regulars well, they won't be regulars for long.

                                                      2. re: Striver

                                                        The same experiance with Disney. We were at the Hardrock Cafe in Disney and we bought a glass after eating there. My 11 year old was swinging the bag as we waited for dad to come back from the restroom. It flew out of his hand, smashed on the floor and that was the end of that... except the hostess saw what happened, came over to us and offered a replacement glass, no problem. She didn't have to, but we all were thrilled with this focus on a positive outcome for the customer. The glass still sits on our shelf.

                                                    2. Wow I can’t believe some of the answers here. I would be pissed even if this was my first time at this establishment.

                                                      I would have asked to see the manager/owner, if none was present I would get a copy of the bill, the names of the bartender and server and then let the appropriate person know the next day. It would be there reaction and then subsequent action that would dictate if I ever returned. If they said sorry Charlie, I will vote with my pocket book. BTW, If this would have happened in my restaurant that bartender would have been unemployed and you would be invited back for complimentary drinks and pool on me.

                                                      This should be a lesson to any owner/manager or want to be. The cost of food or booze is minuscule to cost it will do to your business. Draft beer, even the uber exotic ones are cheap on a per glass basis. A comp on an un-drinked disliked glass of beer is such a non-issue I cannot actually believe there is a debate about this.

                                                      20 Replies
                                                      1. re: RetiredChef


                                                        Whoa.....calm down there pardner.......many of the responses were given before follow-up details were given.......btw.....what did the server do that was wrong? Also, policies are set in place for a reason for when owners and management are not available on premise......without actually knowing what those policies are regarding refunds and comps, you are being too extreme. If zero tolerance/absolute policies were not in place, what's to stop an employee from claiming an untrue event happened, thus affecting bottom line liquor inventory controls and costs. For all we know, the bartender acted in accordance with the owners demands. As (hd) has noted, this bartender has been there for 10 plus years, so the owner must have some confidence in him.

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          A concept that all businesses are familiar with is "good will." Good will keeps you in business. Hard to earn and easy to lose. The bartender had every right to refuse to comp the returned beer. Was it a good thing for him to do? In light of the good will concept I would have to say it was a terrible idea. Especially given the fact that he must have known who the friend was there with (that is; a 10 year regular). Just really poor judgment on the bartenders part.

                                                          1. re: Servorg


                                                            I'm in 100% agreement with your assessment....however, as they say, there are two sides to every story. In light of today's economy, many businesses must take a hard line stance. What if the owner had implemented such a position and policy......he tells the bartender this policy and position is absolute and if the bartender deviates....,he will be terminated. In such a case, the bartender only has one option to follow. I have a friend who works in a place that costs me a minimum $300 for my share of food and beverage every time I enter his place of employment. In general terms, you would expect the house to buy me a drink for such patronage, but the owner has never offered me a drink....however he has offered me good will food.....with regards to my bartender friend, I do not ask or expect him to give me any consideration....he does what he does and I do not expect him to do otherwise. I would not want him to jeopardize his job for a comp or buy back on my account, if such a policy existed in this restaurant.

                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                              While that may be the case, most bartenders have some latitude when it comes to making these sorts of judgment calls. So, hypothetical situations aside for the moment, how much would it have cost the place to comp the beer vs. how much it may cost it if the regular (and his friends) decide not to return? The scale seems very unbalanced. Not to mention how easily we can be put off of some place that we've been going to for a long time. I don't think the OP is the only one who would question their future patronage if they are made to feel "unwelcome" in a case like this.

                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                >>>I have a friend who works in a place that costs me a minimum $300 for my share of food and beverage every time I enter his place of employment.

                                                                Try an experiment order something new, take a bit or one sip and then ask to see the owner, tell him you tried it but you don’t like it and see what he does. I would be shocked if he said tough luck buddy, I bet he will remove it, comp it and ask if you want something else.

                                                                That is the issue at hand, no one is asking for a free drink.

                                                                1. re: RetiredChef


                                                                  my tale had nothing to do about a free drink....but what liberties the bartender was able to take on his own. I don't know what they are and I have no need to ask what they are. That was the issue at hand.

                                                                  .........and why would I fabricate a scenario in a place where there is no problem to see his reaction?

                                                            2. re: fourunder


                                                              >>>what did the server do that was wrong?

                                                              Nothing I never mentioned the server

                                                              >>>Also, policies are set in place for a reason for when owners and management are not available on premise......without actually knowing what those policies are regarding refunds and comps, you are being too extreme.

                                                              Read my post, I stated very clearly that he should contact the manager/owner and then assess their reaction. If it was their policy I would never return. Bad business person - no bone.

                                                              >>>If zero tolerance/absolute policies were not in place,

                                                              Zero tolerance is great for drugs and handling nuclear weapons, but we are all humans, corporations that don’t embrace their employees and give them some autonomy are failing left and right. It is the creativity and the ability of people to work problems out that makes a good corporation a stellar one.

                                                              >>>As (hd) has noted, this bartender has been there for 10 plus years, so the owner must have some confidence in him.

                                                              True could have been a one-time event, but unless this was the owner’s policy this is a terrible way to treat any customer and needs to be addressed.

                                                              1. re: RetiredChef


                                                                Thanks for that thoughtful and restrained reply.....only two inconsistencies I see


                                                                Nothing I never mentioned the server


                                                                I would have asked to see the manager/owner, if none was present I would get a copy of the bill, the names of the bartender and server.........


                                                                Also, why mention terminate without knowing all the facts.

                                                                peace :::000))))

                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                  >>>Also, why mention terminate without knowing all the facts

                                                                  Context of my post:

                                                                  " BTW, If this would have happened in MY restaurant that bartender would have been unemployed and you would be invited back for complimentary drinks and pool on me."

                                                                  My policies are the exact opposite, heck even Taco Bell has the same policy, don't like it - don't pay for it.

                                                                  I can tell you truthfully I have never lost a customer with this policy and have made quite a few very happy. Those in turn have told others, best advertising money I could buy. However I have seen similar reactions like to OP and people will refuse to return, and guess what those people tell a whole lot more than the ones you made happy.

                                                              2. re: fourunder

                                                                After reading everybody's post I'd like to add a couple of things in clarification and response. First, I've reconsidered my position re: not returning over this incident. I think that is certainly an overeaction as I enjoy this place. I don't think a disagreement over one pint merits never returning.

                                                                I also want to clarify that I'm 100% certain that the bartender was acting in accordance with the owners wishes when he refused to refund us for the beer. He is close friends with the owners, was more than likely the default manager that night, and would not make decisions contrary to the owners wishes.

                                                                I think that this must be an implicit policy of theirs. I think it is a wrong headed policy. Perhaps they are under pressure to keep costs down. Maybe they are having trouble paying their bills. I don't know. But they made me feel like a rube.

                                                                1. re: haggisdragon


                                                                  you are the better man for your decision.....

                                                                  1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                    You should go to the owner and tell him that and let him know that it nearly cost him your business.

                                                                    Ask him if that was the goal of the policy - to upset a long-time customer who has never returned a drink before?

                                                                    To tell his customers that they are liars?

                                                                    To force his patrons to imbibe upon items they don't like?

                                                                    What is the goal?

                                                                    As customers leave because of this short-sighted policy, fixed costs and labor will increase - so cost control isn't it.

                                                                    It seems the only goal of this policy is to upset a customer who didn't like something, embarrass them and make them feel uncomfortable. Wow that's an effective policy.

                                                                    I truly would talk to him and let him know how you feel, think about what a new patron would do, would they ever come back, you are thinking of because you have history, how many new customers has he turned away from being regulars because of such short-sighted policies.

                                                                    1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                      i would consider this overreacting. as others have said i would let it go and move on which is the the op has indicated he is doing.

                                                                2. re: RetiredChef

                                                                  So you think it is the bar's responsibility for you choosing poorly? How about you order something that you'd like? It isn't as if they screwed up the order, the person plain didn't like the beer. That's the *customer's* fault, not the bar's. People need to take some freaking personal responsibility.

                                                                  You know what I do when I order a beer I don't like? I drink it ... and if I absolutely can't stomach it, I chalk it up as an experience and order something elose.

                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                    The err on the bartender's part was not mentioning this at the time of the return. The guy could have passed the beer off to another willing person in the group instead of trashing the beer. We call that a drinking penalty, and a fine of a free beer would definitely be a remedy.

                                                                    1. re: DallasDude

                                                                      I agree with both of you. I always just drink the beer (assuming the beer was fine and it wasn't a dirty tap line, stale keg, etc).

                                                                      The bartender should have said he would still be charged for the beer whether he drank it or not. Just like if I told a waiter I don't like my steak after a bite and he takes it away, I'd expect it to not be charged for it. If they were going to charge me for it, they better leave it and let me decide what to do with it since I paid for it.

                                                                      1. re: DallasDude

                                                                        fair enough, but IMO the initial fault still lies with the customer. Why on earth would he have thought that "i don't like my beer" was a valid reason to return it to the bartender (assuming there was nothing actually *wrong* with it)?

                                                                        Again, it isn't like a steak that was cooked wrong, or a crappy manhattan made to modern martini proportions on the vermouth or something. This is a beer - it isn't the bartender's fault (usually) if one doesn't like it.

                                                                      2. re: jgg13

                                                                        We've got a local long-time successful (both in terms of finances and reputation) restuaranteur who writes a column for the free bi-weekly fishwrapper. Here's his take on how the customer is not always right:


                                                                        1. re: beachmouse

                                                                          Great read and thanks for the link to the site for the story. My views are the same and I have never bought into the notion the customer is always right.......especially in the restaurant and Country Club businesses where entitlement perceptions are often made by many.

                                                                      3. Maybe someone else in the party should have enjoyed the beer?

                                                                        It isn't up to the business to subsidize the tastes of the customer. The product was acceptable, it was the correct product, it can't be sold to another customer. If your friend can't afford to try new brands of suds they shoulds stick to what they know they like.

                                                                        17 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Brandon Nelson

                                                                          Well dragon, I hate to say this but I think you're being to sensitive. At least, bringing it this far.

                                                                          First off, as has been mentioned, it was a beer requested and delivered in good faith. If your buddy didn't like it, maybe it could've been given to someone else. If I order something I'm not sure of, I don't expect it will be refunded if I'm not happy.

                                                                          Also, keep in mind your buddy ordered this. Not you.

                                                                          You'll have to foregive me for being so blunt about this but sometimes things in life just don't go the way you want them to. You can't start condemning every one and everything for that. Get over it.

                                                                          Other things to consider. Perhaps the bartender has a problem with your buddy.
                                                                          He may also have been put in a position where if he'd comp'd it, it was gonna open up another can of worms. Like maybe he'd been warned of excess "Spillage" on his shifts.

                                                                          The bottom line is, 10 years of happiness isn't worth throwing away over one small incident.


                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                            Good thoughts DT. I am a sensitive fella.

                                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                                              seems like everyone wants to slam the bartender here, even when the customer (friend of op) could have been less of a doofus. whenever customer doofusery occurs, especially wrt to alcohol imbibing. . . i tend to give the establishment employees the benefit of the doubt and just forget about the whole situation if possible. if it were me, i'd probably go back without the doofus, check in with the bartender, tip a little heavy and make sure we're cool.

                                                                              wrt the bartender: i'd like to point out that the op has stated that this is a trusted 10 yr employee of the establishment that represents the owners' policies/wishes. along with the fact that the owner was not present, and the bt would be the presumed stand-in for the owner and responsible for enforcing all of the owners rules, implicit and explicit-- another important detail to factor in is that the op mentioned that the server for his party was "brand new" and did not know who the op was. if the bt was responsible for training in a new server, he would be doubly or triply responsible for training her that the employees are responsible for their tickets and receipts, and for *not* training her that the norm in this establishment (or the norm when the owner is away) is that it's a good idea to throw out free pints and shots all loosy-goosy to customers or parties of folks that claim to be regulars or friends of the owners.

                                                                              the situation with the doofus friend, the new server, the bt's responsibility in the absence of the owner, and the op's "regular and friend of owner" status all would seem to put the *bartender* in the tough place in the situation-- he's wrong no matter what he decides to do. the bartender probably assumed that the op, being friends with the owner and all, & being a regular and long-time patron of the establishment-- would understand the situation, not ask for special treatment, and not power-trip about the situation. or the bt could just be a jerk who doesn't like the op andor the op's friend. but maybe the op should consider this. it didn't go the op's way this time, but it's one event and one beer. i wouldn't sweat it, unless there is reason to think the staff at this place hates you. then yes, sweat it-- and play pool somewhere else.

                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                Please explain how I "Slammed" the bartender.


                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                  not you, DT-- but many of the posts above. i was agreeing with a couple of points you made, particularly your last 3 paras in the above post-- that's why i responded here and not above. sorry for any confusion-- in short, i believe we agree.

                                                                                2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                  You've made some astute points soupkitten. I did not consider the possibility that there might have been a training situation. But there's an argument to be made over whether it is good training to refuse refund over a returned product. It wasn't really a loosey goosey free shots sort of situation. In the end its a question of whether that is the policy of this establishment or not. If it is, then the bartender was not at fault. I just think its a poor policy. Especially since I've been a 10+ years regular.

                                                                                  1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                    Your friend didn't like his beer, but because you're a regular, it should be taken off the check? Those two things seem completely unrelated to me. I don't think special priviledges jump from guest to guest.

                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                      I was thinking along the same lines.

                                                                                      Also, could be that they like you just fine, but your buddy is not someone they'd care to have as a regular.

                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                        It's related if haggisdragon paid the bill for the group or if he was a member of the group and there was only one check presented.... the latter being the case in this instance.

                                                                                        At the end of the night we were settling the check and I see that we have been charged for the beer

                                                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                                                          Eh, maybe. I just think they're two separate issues.

                                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde


                                                                                            would your opinion be swayed if it were a bowl of soup instead of a beer....in the context of you dining out with friends in a group with one check and the soup was returned?


                                                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                                                              Not really.

                                                                                              I think it's kind of douchey to experiment on the restaurant's dime. If I order something I've never had and it's well-prepared, I intend to pay for it, whether I enjoyed it or not. I would never dream of asking the restaurant to remove items from my bill because I took a gamble and lost, and I definitely wouldn't argue the point.

                                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                Fair enough......I too, rarely send back anything. For food, only if it is prepared too salty or overcooked....never because it's not how my Grandmother made it or how some say it's supposed to be or made. For beer.....I would make an argument it's appropriate to return a beef if it's warm, but I would simply ask for a glass of ice and unless the bar was will to throw some bpttles on ice.....I would order something else and assume all the beer was warm and not take another chance on any selection.

                                                                                        2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                          " I don't think special priviledges jump from guest to guest."

                                                                                          Except that in actual practice, they do! It just is the way the world works for the most part.

                                                                                  2. re: Brandon Nelson

                                                                                    You know, I would have drank it but my buddy took off right away with the beer and came back with another drink. It tasted fine to me!

                                                                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                      I really hate to say this but it sounds like the problem is your buddy. I can't tell you the number of times friends have inadvertently ruined things for me because I get angry in their behalf. I tend to be very loyal and stick up for others more than myself. Has your buddy caused other problems? Just a pattern to look out for but it is probably my issue and not yours haggisdragon. I would let the whole thing go this time. I have had more problems with businesses in general because a manager was not available and the acting manager just basically quoted the rules are the rules over and over again where a real manager might have had the judgement, experience and discretion to work with me a little. I understand that managers and owners work long hours and need some time off, but being availabe for a quick phone call might make a lot of these problems less painful for all.

                                                                                  3. The bartender is an employee. Does this bother you enough to discuss this with the owners?

                                                                                    1. I am a restaurateur. We serve micro-brews on tap. Often, we're asked by a customer what the different beers taste like -- we offer samples in response. If the OP's friend hadn't tried the brand he later disliked, perhaps he should've asked to taste it, first. Had the bartender refused to sample your friend, then by all means if your friend *ordered* the beer and disliked it, he should've been comped the beer. But that didn't happen. The beer was ordered, without sampling, from the waitress.

                                                                                      I respectfully submit that although many businesses do offer unconditional refunds, it's a business' right not to have to take the financial hit for a customer who does not know what he or she is ordering.

                                                                                      Ten years is a long, long time to have patronized a business. The OP, originally visiting three times weekly, is indeed a regular customer.

                                                                                      We have regular customers and we have good customers. Do not think that all "regular" customers are by default "good" customers. Is the OP not only a regular customer but a good customer? Only the OP can answer this. Like jfood in his first post hereinabove, I get this inkling, this feeling, that perhaps the server and bartender responded to the OP's request "by the book" because the OP's gratuities have been "by the book," or worse, less-than-appropriate, over the years.

                                                                                      Some of my regulars are notoriously needy or cheap. Inappropriately so. It's my choice to continue serving them because, after all, they're paying customers. Some I wait on myself because they consistently stiff my servers. Some will (for the fiftieth time) taste all four house red wines -- in four separate clean glasses -- before settling on what they always order anyway. I could go on and on but I think I've made my point. One evening, one of these "wine tasters" pulled me aside after I comped after-dinner drinks for a table of four. The man wanted to know why I never comp *his* table after-dinner drinks. I made it clear to him that every time he comes into the restaurant, he (and sometimes his dining companions) drink up their "comp" privileges at the beginning of the meal, sampling by-the-glass wines, and tap beers. The truth hurt this guy -- I could see it on his face -- so I didn't add the part about the table I just comped having spent *five times* what he just did on the same number of people (believe me, I was tempted to). But don't you know that, hurt or no, he was back at our restaurant the following week. Did he learn his lesson? Nope. For the first thing he did to the server was start asking to sample the house wines...

                                                                                      Out of respect for the OP, the bartender might have been stingy with the comp for an honest mistake because the bartender's been way too loose with other comps -- for his/her friends, etc. I had frequented a bar in NYC for quite some time, visiting 3-5 times a week for at least a drink or two. Never once in a couple of years did I receive a complimentary beverage of any sort, except at private holiday/sports parties. One day I came in and there were new bartenders and servers. The owner told me that the old staff had been alienating the good customers that were the backbone of the place, and meanwhile giving away all manner of expensive alcohol to their friends and super-big-tippers (read: drug dealers) in the hour or two before closing, long after the regulars had departed.

                                                                                      At one point haggisdragon, the OP, notes that his response to the bartender's refusal was profound because he's sensitive. So am I. Personally, if I had been visiting a place for ten years and they refused my guest the way they did yours, I'd have been plenty angry.

                                                                                      I am eager to know what kind of gratuities this server and this bartender have been receiving over the years. If indeed the OP has been more than generous, then the OP should let the owners know what happened, why he's angry, and the OP should contemplate whether or not he should find a new place to play pool.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: shaogo

                                                                                        Well, I live in a place where the accepted tip rate is 15%. Being a former bartender, and having experienced customers very similar to the ones you've described, I tend to tip above that. I'd say my average tip is between 20-25%. At this place there's an hourly charge on the pool tables of $14. I calculate my tip on the grand total of the bill including pool and tax. Does that seem fairly generous to you? (Honest question)

                                                                                        1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                          Wow. 20-25% of beverages *and* pool is more than enough.

                                                                                          What on earth got into the bartender and your server?!

                                                                                          I would consider you in the top 20% of tippers: "good to extraordinary tippers." Most people wouldn't tip on the pool table rental at all. I wonder if the server who receives that tip must share a percentage of it with the staff that cleans up/maintains the pool tables.

                                                                                          1. re: shaogo

                                                                                            As to the server, I'd like to point out that in some establishments the server pays the bartender for the drinks up front and keeps what s/he collects at the table, including tips. (My daughter works in a place like this and apparently it's not uncommon.) If this were the case, the comp would come out of the server's pocket. The server might be making a few dollars an hour and pooling tips with the hostess, busser, disher, etc. An inexperienced server might not consider the comp vs. the tips and potential loss of business.

                                                                                      2. I didn't read all of the responses here, but I have to say that if you're interested in trying something you've never had before, there's a chance you may not like it.

                                                                                        As a sommelier, when a guest chooses a bottle of wine and doesn't like it, is the house really supposed to eat the profits if it's an unflawed bottle? In my opinion, it works the same way with beer (or anything else, really). When you order it, you know you're taking a risk. Why should the restaurant have to pay for a perfectly fine product you just don't care for?

                                                                                        That said, I've schmudged things to get a better tip, but this isn't what it's about.

                                                                                        17 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                          Umm. So what's all that first little tasting sip about then, when you order a bottle of wine. What if you really hate it? I'm not saying there's cork in it, or there's something wrong with it. But when you take that first taste the sommelier pours for you, and you really, really dislike it... you're supposed to suck it up and keep the bottle? That's kinda ridiculous.

                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                            You're not checking to see if you *like* the bottle, you're checking for flaws, such as cork taint, oxidation, improper temperature, brett, etc. A taste isn't poured to determine if you like the wine or not.

                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                              Thanks for the clarification. I guess that's why I generally order wines I am familiar with, and know that I will like (taints aside).

                                                                                            2. re: linguafood

                                                                                              Onecan't return food or drink because you simply "dislike it". A restaurant should not have to pay for you experimenting on your palatte. If food is off or prepared incorrectly, whether not to description or specifications you can return it. But if you simply don't like then pay for it and consider it a lesson learned.

                                                                                              "Oh, I've never tried caviar before, let's go down to the restaurant and test it out. Yuck it's too fishy. I guess I won't have to pay for it. Tough luck suckers."

                                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                Really. My husband (not something I'd ever do) ordered lobster for my son when he was about 7. My son didn't like it. I would never expect the restaurant to eat the $35 cost, no matter how long I'd been going to the restaurant. It never occurred to me that we wouldn't pay for it.

                                                                                            3. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                              >>>As a sommelier, when a guest chooses a bottle of wine and doesn't like it, is the house really supposed to eat the profits if it's an unflawed bottle?

                                                                                              This is what is called a false conundrum fallacy.

                                                                                              In my restaurant the bottle would be immediately removed the wine list present back to the patron and the sommelier would find out his likes and dislikes and what he was looking for. If the customer was unfamiliar we could offer wine samplings of wine’s that we serve by the glass.

                                                                                              What about the returned bottle???????

                                                                                              Hook it up to the cruvinet and sell it as a wine by the glass special, in each and every case that this is happened I have MADE more profit than I would on just a sale of the bottle. Everyone knows that wine by the glass is more profitable than a whole bottle.

                                                                                              So who wins????

                                                                                              The customer learned about a wine they did not like, the also learned that we care about them and that we then got him he ultimately enjoyed. He brags about us to other people and friends and we absolutely the best free advertising around.

                                                                                              We also win by making a new customer, or making a regular very happy, we increase our profits by a) selling him a bottle of wine, and b) selling a bottle of wine as a special we don’t normally offer. We also entice a few people with this new special selection of wine by the glass and they then order a bottle of it later on.

                                                                                              Now if we didn’t act that way and forced him to be unhappy think of all the negative consequences.

                                                                                              This whole discussion is flabbergasting to me, it seems that most people expect a tremendously low level of customer service, I wonder why we call this the hospitality industry then?

                                                                                              1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                What if you don't have a Cruvinet?


                                                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                  I cannot recall every being in a restaurant that employs a sommelier and them not having some sort of cruvinet system to protect their wine’s they serve by the glass.

                                                                                                  So if it’s just a regular restaurant with no sommelier than I would guess three things:

                                                                                                  #1 You have some other way to prevent the wine from oxidizing or you don’t serve wine by the glass (I would hope not at least.)
                                                                                                  #2 If you don’t serve wine by the glass, chances are you are only serving just a few bottles of some rather cheap generic wine. (That could be the reason he sent it back.)
                                                                                                  #3 You could then give that cheap bottle of wine to the chef in the back and he would have it used up by tomorrow. (Or the cooks would drink it and you would have happy workers – just kidding ;)

                                                                                                  In any case the customer didn’t like it – you have a choice make him happy or not. If you decide to screw him chances are you will lose him as a customer, he will tell 10-12 people that your place sucks and these people may not try you restaurant in the future.

                                                                                                  Or you can make him happy, let him repeat this story to a 3-4 people and one of them may now try your restaurant.

                                                                                                  Cheap advertising if you ask me.

                                                                                                2. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                  You make a great point! Invino should realize that you can make a hell of a higher profit by selling the returned bottle by the glass.

                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                    That's DEFINITELY not the case frequently. Read my post to RetiredChef below.

                                                                                                  2. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                    That's cool that you'd remove the bottle, but I believe the onus is on the customer. If the bottle isn't flawed, it's his. Now, if I'd recommended it and the guest didn't care for it, that's a different story. Those bottles turn into btg specials. Sometimes they're sold, sometimes they're not, as we promote selling our guests bottles, not glasses.

                                                                                                    Also, what if the guest doesn't like the second bottle they try? The third, etc. My wine list isn't a bingo card. What if they're sending back expensive bottles that aren't flawed? The restaurant won't be reimbursed through the distributor, and, I don't know about you, but we don't often sell $75 glasses.

                                                                                                    I think you're stretching the positives of this scenario a bit. Most guests who would even think of returning a bottle of wine simply because they don't like it are kind of crass and boorish. They're not the guests we frequently see, nor the ones we want to continue to see. Not every customer and every restaurant are a good fit.

                                                                                                    Hospitality is one thing, expecting comps is another.

                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                      Well said. What we are talking about, really, is the "reasonable person standard". What would a reasonable person do or expect in a given situation. In all my years in the resto biz, I never had a guest who wanted a comp for a bottle of wine simply because they didn't like it.

                                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                        >>>That's cool that you'd remove the bottle, but I believe the onus is on the customer. If the bottle isn't flawed, it's his.

                                                                                                        We have a different philosophy, mine is to keep this customer happy and coming back. I love to educate customers and allow them the latitude to try new things, to be a partner with them in their dining experience. I will never scold someone for their personal tastes nor will I hold it against them that don’t like shrimp, pork, scallops, lamb or a bottle of Romanée Conti.

                                                                                                        I have a different philosophy and I seem to be in the minority here.

                                                                                                        >>>Also, what if the guest doesn't like the second bottle they try? The third, etc.

                                                                                                        In my 40+ years of experience - owning and operating a multitude of restaurants I can only think of ONE occasion where a person sent back two bottles for no reason. It wasn’t just the wine that he sent back, throughout the evening he had problems with his food, nothing tasted good while his wife had no problems. In the end he didn’t enjoy a single dish we served him and we tried multiple times. My manger was flustered, he knew my policy but he also knew that the wine was fine, and the food was perfect, so he did the smart thing, he handed over the problem to me.

                                                                                                        What would you have done?????????

                                                                                                        He tried over $100 worth of food, had two bottles of wine worth over $80, didn’t even like the coffee that we served him. He nibbled off of each plate while his wife liked the food. If it matters this person had never been in our restaurant that we knew of, I didn’t know him, the managers or staff didn’t know him so he was not a regular.

                                                                                                        According to most everyone here this guy is the problem – it’s tough luck on him, he ordered the wine and food he just has to lump it and pay for stuff he hasn’t eaten or dunk.

                                                                                                        Knowing just as much as I did at that time think about what you would have done, then keep reading.

                                                                                                        It didn’t matter to me one bit that he was first time guest I treat everyone the same. In this case I comped the entire meal including his wife’s, gave her a whole chocolate mint cheesecake to go (she loved that dessert) and then gave them a gift card for $100 for their return visit to any of my restaurants that they choose.

                                                                                                        I guess this guy really got me huh, free food, free dinks, free cheesecake and even worse $100 dollars of more free food. I’m a sucker and a bad business man.

                                                                                                        Oh, I almost forgot “And now the rest of the story.”

                                                                                                        It was about 2 months later that I received a letter at my corporate office, the writer identified himself as this gentleman, and he started by apologizing for that evening but explained that he had been prescribed some drugs earlier and took them for the first time that afternoon. One of the side effects was during the first couple of days food tastes very strange, many times unappetizing and he had not been told of this. We were the first place he visited after this medication took effect. He stated that after his taste-buds got back on track he re-visited my restaurant and enjoyed the food immensely. He also said that he thought it was particularly gracious and professional of me to comp the meal and then to go the extra mile with the free cheesecake and offer the gift cards. He said a few other really nice things, and mentioned that he has become a very vocal zealot of my restaurantsts. He signed his name John Smith, Vice-President (one of the big three network news organizations.)

                                                                                                        Kind of cool huh, oh yeah there was a PS.

                                                                                                        He decided that all of my restaurants were going to be featured throughout the year in their “hot dining” segments on TV. Hmmm, talk about advertising that can never be bought – now you know why I keep saying that in these posts.

                                                                                                        I admit that this example was the most extreme that has ever happened to me, but it also was the only time a person ever sent two bottles of wine back. Most people don’t go into a restaurant trying to figure out how to screw them. 99% of people simply want a good meal, nice drinks, good service and if they are unhappy there is usually reason. I have found that if you take care of problems way above and beyond peoples expectations they usually become loyal patrons and you receive you initial investment back 10X’s.

                                                                                                        Are some people going to screw me – YUP without a doubt! But I’m not going to piss off the 99% so I can get back at the 1%. The odds are simply not in favor.

                                                                                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                          Great story. We completely, fundamentally disagree, which is cool.

                                                                                                          I have never worked anywhere that was so lax with their food/alcohol policies. My owners would have my head if I was even remotely as lenient, especially in today's economy, where dollars are a precious commodity. And that's fine with me, as I agree with 'em.

                                                                                                          1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                            What a sensible, logical and intelligent way to handle customers.
                                                                                                            It's fascinating how so many don't understand the importance of running a restaurant the way you've described.
                                                                                                            A customer oriented operation, like a restaurant, depends on stellar management in order to succeed....you've described how it's done.
                                                                                                            Love your story.

                                                                                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                                              Today's restaurants are too competitive and work on very volatile, small margins.

                                                                                                              It would be nice if I could offer the same level of customer satisfaction assurance that RetiredChef offered his customers. I cannot afford to comp a meal and then also give away a dessert and a $100 gift card.

                                                                                                              I hate to inform RetiredChef also that, at least in my market segment, it's more like 10% --not 1% -- of the public who *just cannot be happy* regardless how far over backward one will bend for them. And they have friends. If one of them figures out a way to profit from a restaurant's customer service policies, they're going to tell their friends and you'll be swamped with people who think your restaurant's an all-you-can-eat buffet. I know, it happened to me.

                                                                                                              1. re: shaogo

                                                                                                                >>> Today's restaurants are too competitive and work on very volatile, small margins.

                                                                                                                Every generation of restaurateur says the exact same thing. Margins were razor thin in 1909 just as they are razor thin in 2009. Ahhhh I can hear you say but we are in a recession, I went through the early 80’s with double digit employment PLUS high interest rates, we all remember gas lines.

                                                                                                                >>>I hate to inform RetiredChef also that, at least in my market segment, it's more like 10% --not 1% -- of the public who *just cannot be happy* regardless how far over backward one will bend for them.

                                                                                                                WOW, I would move.

                                                                                                                Also it’s pretty easy to tell the person who is trying to screw you over.

                                                                                                                A person takes one bite and pushes the plate away vs someone who leaves one bit on the plate and complains.

                                                                                                                In this situation a long time customer who never complained before had a friend who did NOT drink a beer because he didn’t like it. Are you suggesting that 10% of your clientele would go this restaurant order a beer, NOT drink it, complain and think they are actually getting something out of this? Try as I might I just can’t imagine groups of people flocking to this place to do this.

                                                                                                      2. I just wanted to add that I'd never expected, requested, nor received any comps before this happened.

                                                                                                        27 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                          You've never gotten a buyback in 10 years?! That would be unheard of in my area.

                                                                                                          1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                            If you have truly received no, or even very few comps during the 10 years you've been frequenting the bar (especially if you're a friend of the owner) I think it's pretty clear they have a very strict no free drinks policy and you pay for what you order.

                                                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                Agree with the others; no more callers, we have a winner. It would be different if they'd been throwing you a drink here and there over the years and THEN did what they did, but if you never got one drink comp'd in 10 years of regular, well-tipping service, they clearly have a no free drinks policy.

                                                                                                                I too cannot imagine going to a place regularly for 10 years and never getting a comp. Wow.

                                                                                                            1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                              I think this is the most telling statement you've posted in this whole thread. If you've been going there for 10 years and had no free drinks, that establishment sucks.

                                                                                                              1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                That's too broad a statement. Whether or not free drinks are customary depends on local culture and local laws. Some places, you can expect a buyback every 3 or 4 drinks. Other places, they're less frequent. In some places they aren't expected or given. And in others, giving away drinks can cost an owner his liquor license.

                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                  How/where could a buyback cost an owner the liquor license? That sounds crazy. If I go to a bar enough so that the bartender knows me and I don't get a buyback I stop going to that bar.

                                                                                                                  1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                    Giving away alcohol is illegal in MA. This doesn't stop it from happening, of course, but it's not encouraged by owners like it may be in other places.

                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                      I think this is the case in NY State as well. The law, as far as I know, never enforced but it is the law.

                                                                                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                        Well... There sure are a lot of law breakers in nyc. The liquor lobby sure has a lot of power!

                                                                                                                        1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                          I know that offering all you can drink for one price is illegal and that law is regularly broken. It doesn't mean it's not the law.

                                                                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC


                                                                                                                            This is probably only true for public consumption and not for private affairs, e.g. weddings.

                                                                                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                                              Yes, private events are exempted.

                                                                                                                          2. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                            i believe that law was pushed through, not surprisingly, under the oppressive giulliani regime

                                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                                              Liquor Laws are written by the New York State Legislators, not by the Mayor of New York City.

                                                                                                                      2. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                        I really don't think that's "too broad a statement." You're telling me in TEN YEARS, the guy gives 20-25% tip on drinks AND pool and they can't give you ONE lousy free drink? I don't care if there's a federal law that bans free drinks...if the owner can't hook me up with SOMETHING in a decade, he's not getting my business.

                                                                                                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                          Alanbarnes is right. While I can't speak for the states, it just occurred to me that despite the robust drinking habits that got me many a buyback in NYC and DC, I've not had one in the UK at all. (No tipping either, though.)
                                                                                                                          Maybe I've not made a decent enough local, but it just occurred to me.

                                                                                                                          1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                            The assumption that the norm in one area should be the norm everywhere is what epitomizes the Ugly American.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                              Where's the Ugly American? Is it a good bar? Do they give buybacks?

                                                                                                                              1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                Jay and the Ugly Americans sang a few hits back in the day I think... ;-D>

                                                                                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                  I think I heard of them... Wasn't their biggest hit "the epitome of normalcy"? I think it was number 45 on the charts in the UK and the US.

                                                                                                                            2. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                              If you go some place for ten years the owner DID hook you up with something; a place you enjoyed enough to go to continually for ten years.

                                                                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                I was trying to think of an example that would happen on a regular basis where 'free' alcohol, or prix fixe would come into play (besides a catered event like a wedding where one person is picking up the tab). I am sure we have all been to a brunch that includes unlimited bloody marys or mimosas.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                    Ah sorry. I (obviously) live in Dalals where the laws are bizarre. One side of a street might be 'dry' and the other 'wet'. I will count my blessings that I can have unlimited mimosas with my brunch, and the occasional bloody mary buffet (build your own).

                                                                                                                                    1. re: DallasDude

                                                                                                                                      Brunches and New Years Eve are the two examples that would probably be the most common occurances. I think the loop-hole for NYE is that it can be considered a "private event".

                                                                                                                        2. Like you, I'm a regular at a very busy restaurant. Weekly I have my favorite lobster club with a split of champagne. Most recently I went with my server's recommendation for the champagne that's not my usual. He opened the split, I tasted it, and he picked up on the fact I wasn't thrilled. He simply opened my favorite, took the other away and, of course, I wasn't charged for the one I didn't like. All of this without me saying a word. The cost of the split to the customer is $18. The food is excellent and they're known for stellar customer service and it's why it's packed for lunch, every single day.

                                                                                                                          49 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                            By recommending a different bottle, the onus is on the server, not the guest.

                                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                              I think you've missed the point.
                                                                                                                              What does it matter?
                                                                                                                              The management's main goal is to have people coming back.
                                                                                                                              It's a win/win way to run a restaurant.

                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                Some would have us believe that being "customer unfriendly" is the way to get repeat business (g). I can't quite understand the thinking, but then again I'm just the poor schlub with the money to spend. I think I'll take it and head over to Retired Chef's restaurant.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                  Above and beyond service like Retired Chef describes is just fine if the person performing it is the owner or the manager OR an employee who has been empowered by owner or a manger to spend (apparently) nearly infinite resources and time on high-maintenance customers. In reading that story, I can only imagine what would have happened to an ordinary server who let someone pull that stuff while their other tables stewed. A business that's profitable does not build a lot of spare time into a server's schedule. Fine, if you are the owner, humor someone like that if it makes you happy or if you think there is a chance of a fairy-tale ending. But please, if you are a customer, do not give a server the runaround like the guy in that story.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                    The stories change. It's the restaurants response to those stories that makes or breaks it. Either you look at customers as a friend, or you look at them as a foe. We have seen both attitudes amply displayed here. I'll always take my business back to the restaurant that went the extra mile to display their concept of the idea of their customers as friends.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                      My point is that it's all very well and good to judge restaurants based on their responses to irregular requests, but surely the customer has some responsibility to be reasonable in their expectations and demands.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                                                        I think Retired Chef's main point was, some customers (probably the greater percentage) will be reasonable in both their expectations and demands. Some customers will not. But his restaurants philosophy was to respond to both in the same way. To me, that's the epitome of gracious service and would bring me back to their doorstep, again and again.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                        nice. you just decided that the op's pool hall treats its customers like "foes"-- even though in actuality it treats all of its customers *the same* regardless of regularship or friend of owner status. what if the owner's zero freebies policies came from early experience in the biz with loose bartenders/management who gave away the house and put the business in jeopardy? let's all go over to the pool hall and tell this guy who's been in biz for over a decade how to run his own place. oh wait-- we've already done that on this thread and probably anyone in the area will probably now not go to the establishment because they treat all of their customers like "foes."

                                                                                                                                        there is a big effing difference between treating your customers like friends, treating them like foes. . . and treating them like *customers*. the op had a problem because he was treated like a *customer* when he thought he should have been treated like a *friend*.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                          My comments were related to the scenario as described by Retired Chef in one of his postings above. And all customers in his restaurant were treated as friends whether they were there for the first time or the 100th.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                            a scenario that imo has nothing to do with the op's example. establishments have house policies for different reasons. it's absurd to apply a fast-food establishments policies to fine dining establishments, and vice versa. in this case we're talking about a billiards place-- different rules. there is no cut and dried answer on what policies the owner of any establishment *needs* to have. the op has to either respect his friend's house policies (and the fact that he was not given special treatment in this case), or get in a huff and throw away a 10 year relationship and friendship with the owner of the establishment over a pint of beer.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                              Gracious, accommodating service, whether it's at a pool hall or a 5 star restaurant is the point of my (and Retired Chef's) post.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                i doubt that the op would have become a 10 year regular(!) at a place that didn't offer gracious & accommodating service. the issue is over the op's perception of his party's treatment due to 1 instance of employee enforcement of the (absent) owner's of the establishment's policy. hopefully you're still with me :)

                                                                                                                                                surely, you do not expect the owner of a billiards hall-- which, if run badly, may well attract a bad loitering problem, underage drinkers, and gang activity-- to have the same house policies as either a fast food restaurant, or a fine dining restaurant?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                  I expect that if they had poured his friend another beer and taken the first one off the check it wouldn't have forced them into bankruptcy, and at the same time left our 10 year regular OP feeling a sense of warmth and bonhomie toward the establishment in question. He's not going to quit them over this, (he's already said so) but I imagine that the place will be on "mental probation" in his mind from now on. Who has has the most to lose in this situation (over the wholesale cost of a tap beer)? The "my way or the highway" approach can be taken by places. It just feels like sand on my (and the OP's) eyeballs. And that's not a feeling I'd court.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                    i simply don't think it was up to the employee to make the judgment call. if he called it wrong and went against the owner's policies, it could very well have cost him his job (ten years-- lots of work for unemployed bartenders these days, what). it's unreasonable for any customer to ask him to take that risk.

                                                                                                                                                    it's one thing to ask for a break when the owner is the one waiting on you, it's quite another to ask employees to bend the rules for you because you are "special" for any reason. in my mind, that's stepping over a moral line because you're potentially messing with people's livelihoods.

                                                                                                                                                    whatever any of us say we'd do in the situation, the employee followed the rules of the establishment. if the customer chooses to get bent out of shape about it, that seems to be a separate problem.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                      Of course 1 beer isn't going to force the place into bankruptcy, but I think what's being forgotten is things like this happen more just once. I'm certain the OP's friend is not the first person (nor will he be the last) to order something he doesn't like. It's the summation of all the replacements that puts a dent in an owner's bottom line.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                    "Gracious, accommodating service, whether it's at a pool hall or a 5 star restaurant is the point of my (and Retired Chef's) post.

                                                                                                                                                    Excellent point. If I've failed to make my position clear please include me in this philosophy.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                        The owner's main goal is to make money. While repeat business is important, some customers truly aren't wanted back. We had a regular that used to come in at least twice a week who always sent her food and wine back. We'd eat the cost time and time again until the owners just gave up and asked her not to come back. She was upset, but we couldn't figure out why. If you disliked our food and wine so much, why keep coming back? We don't see her anymore and we're quite happy about that.

                                                                                                                                        Also, I haven't missed the point. It IS on the restaurant if they're recommended the bottle. Otherwise, while it may be gracious for the restaurant to remove unflawed items from the bill, I don't believe they're required to in any way, shape or form. And I'm not the only one- there are threads about this very question on Chowhound, and the verdict is pretty split. I posted one you're already familiar with.


                                                                                                                                        There isn't one definitive answer.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                          "There isn't one definitive answer".

                                                                                                                                          Of course, you are right.
                                                                                                                                          Restaurants vary on how they choose to do their business and there are many reasons why restaurants flourish and others fail. Of course, as you're saying, "it is on the restaurant if they've recommended the bottle". Why, yes it is...so what? In my experience most restaurants, like the one I'm speaking of, don't think twice about doing what they did with me regardless of who made the 'mistake'. They value my business and everyone else who decides to dine there. They're smart business people, they're incredibly successful. I'll always come back and will always know where I stand as a customer. It's a symbiotic relationship where, in most cases, everyone wins.
                                                                                                                                          Retired Chef made the observation that not every customer comes into a restaurant thinking they're going to screw the management and therefore comes in with the attitude to take whatever they can get free of charge. Very good point.
                                                                                                                                          Retired Chef is correct and I'd always, without hesitation, take my business to an establishment with that exact same philosophy that requires its staff, on all levels, to deliver impeccable customer service.
                                                                                                                                          The reverse side shows how the OP feels when he/she has experienced otherwise.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                            (Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to this.)

                                                                                                                                            So, essentially, what you're saying is that it's okay for a customer to treat a restaurant's menu/ wine list like a keno card? You can pick x, y and z this time, but if you don't like them, no worries, you'll just chose something else at the restaurant's expense?

                                                                                                                                            There isn't really a try-before-you-buy policy at restaurants. It's always a gamble. As I stated earlier, a gracious restaurant may make an exception here or there, but for a customer to expect it? Ludicrous.

                                                                                                                                            Also, in the wine world, it's common knowledge that if the establishment recommends a bottle, they're standing behind it and are responsible for your enjoyment of it. If you don't like it, any respectable restaurant will take it back. If the customer chooses the bottle sans help, it's more a buyer beware dealie. You say, "In my experience, most restaurants...don't think twice about doing what they did with me regardless of who made the "mistake"". How do you know what most restaurants' wine return policy is? Do you ask them? Do you return unflawed wine often? If that's the case, you wouldn't be welcome where I work.

                                                                                                                                            As a sidenote, my restaurant has been a packed house for over thirty years. We value our customers and respect them, and they in turn do the same.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                              "...a gracious restaurant may make an exception here or there, but for a customer to expect it? Ludicrous."

                                                                                                                                              I never said the customer 'expects it'. I do know the restaurants I frequent, the spa I frequent, the market I frequent, the car dealership I frequent, the bakery I frequent, the cafe I frequent, the florist I frequent and several other businesses I hire all give me personal, stellar treatment. There isn't one of these establishments that doesn't give back, in one form of another, something that shows their appreciation for my business....
                                                                                                                                              I'm a regular. I've chosen these places because of their excellent, personal service and their excellent reputation.
                                                                                                                                              In answer to your questions about my wine experiences....
                                                                                                                                              The restaurants I go to know my preferences. Your inquiries, "do you ask them?, do you return unflawed wine often?" have never been an issue for me.
                                                                                                                                              In conclusion, I don't believe the OP is overacting, at all. The OP had a history with the establishment, based on several criteria: knowing the owners personally, bringing alot of business to their restaurant in the way of friends and family. To comp the OP would have been a gesture of good will...a very smart and easy business move. The bartender simply comps the OP and makes a note, places it in the cash drawer and turns it into the accountant....it's a tax deduction. The customer is happy and the business loses nothing.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                what one customer sees as "excellent, personal service" can easily be construed by another customer as being very unprofessional and playing favorites. it can even in some cases be seen as discrimination. in addition, if your exclusive spa or your florist give *you* a goodie bag every time you use their services, it means the rates for everyone go up to cover the freebies they giving away to you and the other regulars, while one-time visitors get nothing but the price hike. some folks prefer establishments that treat everyone the same, and don't like frequenting places that fawn over local celebrities and politicians and "friends of the owners." for regular folks it can be annoying to so obviously be treated differently than others who get the deluxe package for whatever reason.

                                                                                                                                                p.s. your statement that a customer comp equals a tax deduction could not be more wrong. don't you think that if that were so, there would be a lot more occupied bar stools in this country? yet you and others on this thread are convinced that you could tell the owner of the establishment how to run his business and are making sweeping statements to that effect. i suspect that if the entitled contributors to this thread were running things at his establishment, that he could kiss his 10 years of success goodbye.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                    Really? So you and soupkitten don't like it if you become a regular at a local restaurant (or whatever business) and the owner shows appreciation for your business loyalty by comping you an appetizer or buying you a drink or a dessert?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                      I am a regular at a number of local places. And I appreciate it when an owner or server goes out of the way to show appreciation for my loyalty.

                                                                                                                                                      But there's a big difference between giving an occasional token of appreciation and dividing customers into castes, where one group is treated like royalty and everybody else receives marginal service. I've seen plenty of the latter and simply don't care for it, even when I'm on the receiving end of the special treatment.

                                                                                                                                                      And while I certainly appreciate the occasional little extra, I never consider it my God-given right. My primary objection isn't to the owners' conduct in giving or withholding comps, it's to the overweening sense of entitlement that permeates so many of the posts above.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                        "But there's a big difference between giving an occasional token of appreciation and dividing customers into castes, where one group is treated like royalty and everybody else receives marginal service. I've seen plenty of the latter and simply don't care for it,..."

                                                                                                                                                        And a place that does that will have my patronage exactly once and never again. Such a short sighted way of providing "customer disservice" will eventually put most places out of business when their "special customers" move on to the next great thing and, those like me, who will never go back and will let them hang themselves with the rope they were given.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                          "And while I certainly appreciate the occasional little extra, I never consider it my God-given right. My primary objection isn't to the owners' conduct in giving or withholding comps, it's to the overweening sense of entitlement that permeates so many of the posts above."

                                                                                                                                                          Methinks someone's making assumptions about the norm in one area being the norm everywhere... I read somewhere that this is what epitomizes the Ugly American.

                                                                                                                                                          In my area (NYC) the majority of bars give buybacks after three of four drinks. Here, there are about fifty million bars/restaurants/pool halls or whatever where I could go on any given day and owners/bartenders know this and want to develop repeat business.

                                                                                                                                                          It's not about "entitlement" it's about competition and out-competing all of the other seven hundred million bars for business and more importantly repeat good drinking customers.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                            I'm headed to NYC in early March.... is it 50 Mio or 7 mio bars/restaurants? I'm hoping for the latter -- much more manageable in one w/end.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                              Don't worry... Just relax, breathe and pick your spots. You'll be fine!

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                              If I buy three drinks in a bar and get a buy-back, I'll be more likely to give the place my repeat business. If I get charged for the fourth drink, I'm not going to start bitching and moaning. But then again, I'm not a New Yorker.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                i'm a new yorker. i never expect a buy back. if i know the bartender or im there every week for over a year maybe ill see a few.....

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                  That's weird... I get buybacks more often than not. We must either go to different types of places or I'm just more congenial than you. I do like to make friends with the bartenders, waitstaff etc... though.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                                    i wasn't clear - not that i never get them - i never expect them

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                                when i was a kid there was a place that would give out a smurfs glass with every dinner. there is a bar in sheboygan where it's ten cent taps during badgers games. there is a nail salon in salt lake city that gives double sky miles on tuesdays when you pay with a credit card.

                                                                                                                                                                obviously, this means that we as customers have the right to smurfs glasses, ten cent taps, and double sky miles whenever we happen to visit any establishment, anywhere in the world. plus the normal goodie bag. i stopped going to my mechanic because of the sky mile issue. if he doesn't give out double sky miles he should give us something extra to make up for it. there is a new restaurant in town that i want to try but i hear they don't give out smurfs glasses or do buybacks or give out goodie bags, so i'm pretty sure i'll never go there.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                  "...obviously, this means that we as customers have the right to smurfs glasses, ten cent taps, and double sky miles whenever we happen to visit any establishment, anywhere in the world..."

                                                                                                                                                                  If you are going to set up straw men they are going to be easy to knock down. Most of what this thread has revolved around is the concept of a local business doing something more for their regular local customers to keep them coming back. When Alan says something to the effect of having a dislike for a place that plays favorites and gives short shrift to those they don't know I say "Of course that would chafe my behind."

                                                                                                                                                                  But if I go somewhere and get good, efficient, friendly service - while the regular customer gets a free drink or an appetizer sent over on the house I have no problem with it and don't expect it for my table.

                                                                                                                                                                  Let's say you have a family of mom and dad and 2 or 3 kids. The kids are really into collecting smurf glasses and they have a local business that gives them out to their regular customers. Where do you suppose that mom and dad are going to choose for spending their money (all other factors being close to equal)?

                                                                                                                                                                  There is nothing wrong with this. It's customer service 101 and marketing 102. But to flip around and say that those who like and take their business to these sorts of establishments now expect the same treatment everywhere they go is just setting up that straw man argument and then knocking him down and saying "See, you expect this and it's not right." Most of the posters / hounds posting here seem to have a grasp of the concept of being a regular somewhere and getting a thank you from the place of business. Not because they expect it, but because they appreciate it when it happens and it keeps them coming back.

                                                                                                                                                                  A two way street. What a concept!

                                                                                                                                                              3. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                "It's the overweening sense of entitlement that permeates so many of the posts above"....

                                                                                                                                                                If you're directing that comment my way, you couldn't be further from the truth. I am a regular at places (I've mentioned them and there are others) that appreciate my business. I have never, once, expected anything from them yet they show their appreciation in many ways.
                                                                                                                                                                The way it works is this....
                                                                                                                                                                They treat me good, I'm a loyal happy customer that tells the next person and that person tells the next person and so on.
                                                                                                                                                                Sorry you don't like it but I do.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                  "If you're directing that comment my way, you couldn't be further from the truth. I am a regular at places (I've mentioned them and there are others) that appreciate my business. I have never, once, expected anything from them yet they show their appreciation in many ways."

                                                                                                                                                                  Agreed. I really don't understand why there's so much jumping to conclusions from posters to remain unnamed about other posters and their relationships with restaurants/bars. The business about caste systems and regular folks, I think is a bit telling though.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                  "where one group is treated like royalty and everybody else receives marginal service".

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree. I wouldn't consider going back to a place like that either.

                                                                                                                                                            3. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                              "p.s. your statement that a customer comp equals a tax deduction could not be more wrong"....

                                                                                                                                                              Well, sorry, but you're wrong.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                Nothing like the power of positive thinking. Any time you lose money on a transaction it reduces your income, and therefore your tax liability. If you lose money on enough transactions, your income - and the resultant tax liability - are reduced to zero. No income taxes at all - wouldn't that be great???

                                                                                                                                                                So if giving away a beer is good from a tax perspective, having a party dine and dash on a large tab is even better. And an armed robber sticking up the place after hours and stealing the night's cash receipts? Jackpot!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                  Now you're just being silly. The point is that doing something for a customer that is positive from a marketing perspective is also a tax deduction, not that getting robbed in one way or another is good for your bottom line.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                                    "The point is that doing something for a customer that is positive from a marketing perspective is also a tax deduction".....

                                                                                                                                                                    Thank you. Well said.
                                                                                                                                                                    What I said and I will continue to say is that the restaurant/bar the OP frequents, stays in business in spite of itself.
                                                                                                                                                                    I don't know of one restaurant/bar in my area that doesn't comp its regular, good spending/frequent customers in one form or another, at one time or another.
                                                                                                                                                                    It's just plain and simple Business 101.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                    "And an armed robber sticking up the place after hours and stealing the night's cash receipts? Jackpot!"

                                                                                                                                                                    That would probably be covered by insurance, so hopefully the restaurant wouldn't be hurt financially.

                                                                                                                                                                    But really, Alan can the other side of the coin work for restaurants too? Where gracious customer service brings them more business and contributes to a healthier bottom line? I just read where Nordstrom's sales were way up. And they have a reputation for being one of the most liberal of companies when it comes to accepting returns and bending over backward for their customers. I don't expect any small bar or restaurant to ever give away so much food it would drive them out of business. Whatever the balance of this question it probably has to fall more in the middle between never comping anything and comping everything...

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                      I agree with you completely. But it's the decision of the business owner - not the customer - as to where to strike that balance between largesse and frugality.

                                                                                                                                                                      It's been more than 40 years since my dad slammed the tip of his LLBean fishing rod in the car door, snapping off the last inch or so. He sent it back with a note asking if it could be repaired or if he could buy a new tip section. The company declined, instead sending him a new rod at no charge. He not only became a loyal LLBean customer, he also sang the praises of the company to anybody who'd listen for the rest of his life. The loyalty and the free advertising the company received as a result of its decision far exceeded the value of the fishing rod.

                                                                                                                                                                      I admire a company that goes out of its way to accommodate customers. But that doesn't mean a customer has any right to expect such accommodation. And there are far too many customers who do. If you doubt me, just peruse this board for a while.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                        "It's been more than 40 years since my dad slammed the tip of his LLBean fishing rod in the car door, snapping off the last inch or so. He sent it back with a note asking if it could be repaired or if he could buy a new tip section. The company declined, instead sending him a new rod at no charge. He not only became a loyal LLBean customer, he also sang the praises of the company to anybody who'd listen for the rest of his life. The loyalty and the free advertising the company received as a result of its decision far exceeded the value of the fishing rod."

                                                                                                                                                                        And if they didn't replace the rod, he probably would have bought another rod from a different company next time and if that one broke and they replaced it, he would have been loyal to them for sixty million years.

                                                                                                                                                                        I don't get your general issue. You seem to be assuming that folks expect x and y and z, rather than realizing that we're all just like your dad and looking for a business to buy stuff from that respects us and the business that we bring them.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't assume anything. Seriously, browse this board. "The waiter spilled a drop of water on my shoes - the meal should have been free." "My appetizer was cold, so they shouldn't have charged me for my entree." And here - any bar that doesn't give away free drinks "sucks."

                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not naming names. If you aren't one of the over-entitled assholes who make life difficult for business owners and makes them less likely to accommodate the rest of us, then I have no beef with you. On the other hand, if the shoe fits...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                            "If you aren't one of the over-entitled assholes who make life difficult for business owners and makes them less likely to accommodate the rest of us, then I have no beef with you. On the other hand, if the shoe fits....

                                                                                                                                                                            Wow. That statement carries quite a punch with appearances of a somewhat loaded agenda. I haven't noticed one poster who feels 'over-entitled' to anything regardless of what the situation is.
                                                                                                                                                                            When I'm given good service I have never heard of ONE other customer feeling compromised and arguing equality.
                                                                                                                                                                            Conversely, when I see anyone being given service that is above and beyond, and I realize the person is a good customer with a history with the business, I think nothing of it.
                                                                                                                                                                            It's good business.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                                                            "....rather than realizing that we're all just like your dad and looking for a business to buy stuff from that respects us and the business that we bring them."

                                                                                                                                                                            There apparently are people who believe that any person who receives any type of thank you, complimentary drink or appetizer, 15 minutes no extra cost massage, bottle of wine gift, etc., as a gift for being a loyal, kind, generous customer are 'expecting' it.
                                                                                                                                                                            There is not anything you can say that changes their mind.
                                                                                                                                                                            They want to believe it's the customer, when they receive extra attention, that's feeling superior and entitled, rather than the business that's running it intelligently, efficiently and productively.
                                                                                                                                                                            I say let 'em feel that way....there's always going to be someone with that chip on the shoulder.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                  If I have history with a business, they should do whatever I want, even if it's obviously against their policy? The OP knew the owners and still never received even one free drink. Doesn't that tell you about their alcohol policies? Also, comping drinks has nothing to do with tax deductions.

                                                                                                                                                    2. I generally use the customers attitude as a basis for my decision. If the customer explains in a calm quiet voice the situation and is not telling me what I will be doing about it I replace the food with something else and apologize. If customer is speaking with a raised voice and letting me know how horrible it was then I would explain that though he-she might not like our recipe that it how we make it. I did though for the first time in 27 years have to ask a customer not to patronize our establishment any longer due to her being unhappy and requesting a new item and loudly voicing her displeasure. She is an airport employee and the funny thing is this happened TWICE A WEEK THE PAST 6 MONTHS. Not a big deal to replace item every now and then, it does not happen often enough to worry about. But every situation is different.

                                                                                                                                                      1. This is somehow such a HUGE debaucle in the restaurant world but the bottom line is when you go somewhere and order something it's not like buying a shirt or a pair of shoes where you try them on, they don't fit, you take them back unharmed, reusable, *for re-sale. Food is obviously not a test drive or a pair of shoes that can be re-sold to the world...therefore why should the company have to take the hit because you ordered something you didn't like? If you're a faithful customer to this establishment, you should understand that more than the regular joe... I would think.

                                                                                                                                                        1. No one is ENTITLED to return/exchange food or beverages just because he doesn't like it. Only if there is something seriously wrong with it - and don't be tacky and lie about it. Just because some establishments will do it doesn't mean it should be expected. It's the customers job to read the menu carefully and ask questions so the server can make sure you get something you enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                          1. This thread made me reflect on the reaction of the first or second time customer overhearing the scenario that the OP would have wanted to happen. Lets just say I'm out for a drink with a friend, and just by coincidence, he too isn't happy with his beer selection, returns it, pays for replacement..........same scenario happens at the next table over, and they get theirs comped. I wonder if the thought that would go through his head is something along the lines of "gee, I sure hope that'll happen to me some day when I've been coming here for years" or "wow this place sure plays favorites".

                                                                                                                                                            It was just a thought that while a place may owe a lot to repeat customers, they could be alienating others in the process. Particularly if they're obvious about it, which they very well could be in a bar setting.

                                                                                                                                                            And I sort of don't get the "it's just a beer" comment within the thread. If I order a premium scotch, for eg, and I don't like it... can I send that back too ?

                                                                                                                                                            1. Maybe the pub had a "shrink" problem and installed something like one of these::